By Danielle Myers
In today’s fast-paced world, retail malls strive to create safe and welcoming environments for both their employees and shoppers. Ensuring the security of everyone within the mall premises, including the parking lots, is paramount.
Mall security professionals are entrusted with the responsibility to patrol the premises, monitor surveillance equipment, and eliminate potential threats. However, even the most proficient security teams can benefit from added situational awareness technology with innovative solutions to address safety and security concerns. In recent years, this technology has evolved significantly, providing customizable features that cater to the unique needs of each mall, ultimately creating a safer and more secure environment.
The Mall Of America: Situational Awareness Technology
Situational awareness technology has revolutionized the way retail malls approach safety and security. By leveraging advanced technological solutions, mall security professionals can improve their ability to monitor, respond to, and prevent security incidents effectively. This technology offers a comprehensive range of benefits empowering security teams to stay one step ahead of potential threats, and essentially eliminating blind spots.
Cutting-edge technologies, such as the ones used in destination shopping centers, enable real-time monitoring and analysis of various systems, including surveillance cameras, access control systems, fire panels, and alarm systems. Integrating these disparate systems into a unified platform gives security teams a holistic view of the shopping center’s security landscape. This unified approach enhances their ability to detect and respond to potential threats promptly, ensuring a proactive approach to maintaining safety.
To illustrate the impact of situational awareness technology, let us consider the Mall of America®. At 5.6 million square feet, the Mall of America is North America’s largest shopping and entertainment facility. It includes up to 520 retail stores and restaurants, a 7-acre indoor theme park, and an aquarium. More than 32 million people visit the Minneapolis facility every year.
This iconic mall faces significant safety and security challenges due to its sheer size and the massive number of visitors it attracts. To address these issues, the Mall of America recently implemented situational awareness technology that seamlessly integrated surveillance cameras, access control systems, emergency response protocols, and mass notification tools. This intelligent system provides security personnel with real-time visibility into potential security breaches, unauthorized access attempts, and other suspicious activities while also monitoring for mundane incidents that can occur in any facility, such as water, fire, or electrical issues.
By streamlining the monitoring process and automating response protocols, the mall’s security and facility maintenance team can identify and neutralize threats of any level more efficiently, mitigating potential risks and enhancing the overall safety of the mall. Before installing these technologies, when a crisis occurred, the mall had a time-consuming multi-step process where precious minutes were wasted. With these innovative integrated systems, all important parties are notified immediately, and mass notifications can be sent to patrons and employees within the same system. In this example, this iconic shopping center can turn its digital signage into a communication tool giving patrons and employees directives for safety in any situation.
The implementation of situational awareness technology also allows the Mall of America to optimize its resources. By leveraging real-time data, security personnel and maintenance can deploy their resources strategically, focusing on areas where potential risks are higher. This effective allocation of resources improves response times and ensures maximum efficiency in addressing security incidents.
Additionally, situational awareness technologies can improve communications between stores within a shopping center. When an emergency of any level occurs, many malls still rely on simply calling individual stores to notify them, or even worse, the tenants are not notified at all because of outdated information or a simple lack of ability and manpower. Using modern portal technologies integrated with the same situational awareness technologies being discussed, antiquated phone trees are eliminated, and mass notification becomes instantaneous between mall personnel and the stores within the shopping center.
Mall of America Implements Security Dashboard
Nick Evert, Security Dispatch & Special Projects Manager for Mall of America® and his team worked with Status Solutions to integrate its disparate systems into one cohesive and efficient solution. Building upon Status’ flagship technology SARA, the team created a color-coded dashboard that allows security to manage any event and run practice drills. The dashboard also allows the automation of door locks and integration of PA announcements and digital signage throughout the interior and exterior areas, including garages, to ensure everyone is aware of what’s happening. Most importantly, the interface is continually customizable as the needs of Mall of America® grow and evolve.
“None of our systems were tied together,” explained Evert. “In the event of an emergency, we need to communicate through multiple channels, including phone calls, PA announcements, emails, and texts. However, it was time-consuming and involved multiple people triggering all these systems through individual transcribing.
“It was a heavy lift, but the Status Solutions team figured it out,” Evert continued. “The technology is intuitive and reliable, which plays a critical role in our overall security strategy to keep everyone who walks through our doors safe. It’s been an incredible partnership, and I’m grateful we have Status Solutions to call whenever we need assistance or want to expand our situational awareness.”
Responding To Security Threats In Real-Time
With approximately 116,000 shopping centers and malls across the U.S. facing unique situational awareness concerns, the need for innovative solutions is more significant than ever. As safety threats evolve, malls must effectively adapt their security measures to counter these challenges. Implementing customized, efficient, and automated situational awareness technology is crucial to maintaining the safety of malls and shopping centers, regardless of their size.
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Situational awareness technology equips security teams and facility maintenance teams with the necessary tools to proactively monitor, detect, and respond to potential incidents in real-time. By harnessing the power of this technology, malls can create an environment that instills confidence in employees and shoppers, ultimately fostering a sense of security and well-being.
The benefits of situational awareness technology extend beyond monitoring and incident response. These solutions provide valuable data and analytics that can be used to identify patterns, improve security protocols, and prevent future incidents. The ongoing advancements in situational awareness technology and mass notification promise a future where malls can stay ahead of emerging threats and create even safer environments for their patrons and employees.
Danielle Myers is the general manager and lead evangelist at Status Solutions. She has experience in several markets, including education, senior living, health care, manufacturing, hospitality, and government. Danielle is a graduate of The Ohio State University and an expert on middleware integration technologies for situational and environmental awareness.