Shooting in Omaha (Part III)

(For previous news check out posts from Wednesday and Thursday.)

Today there is a fresh batch of stories evaluating local mall security.

ABC World News has a report quoting Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

"The joy of holiday time is the ability to get out in public," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday. "And we don't want to sacrifice the freedom of movement entirely, so we want to have the right balance between putting in some prudent security measures but also not so confining the ability to enter our commercial retail establishments that people don't wind up [not] wanting to go to shop."

It also includes the interesting detail that the guards at Westroad had completed ICSC's new security course.

So far, 6,000 mall security officers have completed online security courses, including 10 guards from the Westroads Mall in Omaha.

"Some of the things that, you know, a guard will be taught within the training program is to look for things that are out of the norm -- that you would see, for instance, if somebody were to come into a center and be wearing bulky clothing in summer, or it's just out of character with what other people are wearing. Or acting in a particular manner or being nervous," said Malachy Kavanagh, vice president of the International Council of Shopping Centers.

The Staten Island Advance's piece is interesting in that unlike a lot of pieces--in which local mall managers or national firms refused to sketch out plans--there is some good detail on what the local mall has in place in case of an emergency.

Island merchants said the guide was distributed about four months ago.

Besides shooting incidents, the 19-page booklet spells out procedures for Mall tenants to follow in the event of chemical emergencies, bomb threats, explosions, fires, natural disasters and other emergencies. It also includes instructions on the national security response plan in the event of terrorist activity.


The Staten Island Mall's emergency response guide instructs merchants not to investigate gunshots. Instead, they are told to decide whether to take shelter or escape.

If time allows, they should bring inside customers in nearby common areas and lock the door. They should then move staff and customers to a back room, lock it, stay out of sight and call police, if possible.

"Wait for police to come and get you ... or follow the dispatcher's directions," the guide advises.

The Kansas City Star, makes the case the stronger security measures are not possible.

“It's more than cost prohibitive — it's cost impossible,” said James Dallas, a Philadelphia area security consultant.

That said, such attacks are rare, and those responsible for shopping center security say they work to be as prepared as possible.

“This was not an attack against an individual mall or an attack against an industry,” said Malachy Kavanagh, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York. “It was obviously an emotionally disturbed individual who wanted to make a very public display.”


According to reports out of Omaha on Thursday, security officers noticed the gunman acting strangely but saw no indication he was armed before the shooting started.

As is typical in most American shopping centers, those officers were not armed.

The unarmed security jobs usually are low-paying and require little training or education, security experts say.

“You kind of get what you pay for,” said Chris McGoey, a Los Angeles-based consultant.

Another piece by Florida Today also makes that case.

Chris McGoey, president of McGoey Security Consulting in Los Angeles, said there are no practical measures-- other than installing walk-through metal detectors and inspecting handbags -- to avoid the kind of incident that happened Wednesday in Omaha. The shooting left nine people including the gunman dead and five others wounded.

"There is nothing reasonable you can do unless you want to make a public place like an airport," McGoey said.

AFP also has a good story taken from a national perspective.

More pieces:

Update 1 (2:02 PM). Westroads Mall will re-open on Saturday. The Von Maur, however, will remain closed. Restaurants on the site away from the main mall, such as The Cheesecake Factory and Macaroni Grill — re-opened Thursday. Police have also released a couple of surveillance photos.

Also, SecurityInfoWatch has an interview up with Jonathan Lusher, principal consultant and executive vice president of internal inspection and compliance for IPC International, one of the largest mall security firms.

Does the fact that there is a security staff for the mall and individual security staffs for stores make it more of a challenge to create a unified security response and presence, especially since the staffs have historically been instructed to not rely on the other for communications and back-up?

It is perhaps more difficult if there is some hesitancy on the part of a store to coordinate [with mall security], but far from impossible. It takes some skill to coordinate the differences, but it is routinely accomplished.

In the area of mall and retail security, do you think we are getting better at sharing information among different private security staffs?

I do believe so. I would note that we have not found the information sharing from Federal authorities on terror-related issues to be much improved.

This incident occurred in the midst of a busy holiday shopping season (not unlike the Tacoma, Wash., mall shooting in 2005). Do you expect this incident to impact retail sales in shopping centers?

Generally, we see (anecdotally) that retail is not substantially decreased. We believe shoppers recognize these are isolated incidents that can and do occur in any venue, and are not deterred from living their lives, including shopping!

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