The mall culture has taken the world by storm; they are ever growing, expanding in size and grandeur especially in the Middle East region. But behind these luxuries and specialty services, there’s a dedicated team of security, a comprehensive and detailed surveillance system that is running continuously for the protection of visitor for close scrutiny and constant vigilance. For every mall, the security department holds the utmost importance for the retailers and the building developers which has to be efficient and proactive every second. Their services have to be expended 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In fast growing metropolises like ours, no one wants to shop or spend time in an environment that is perceived to be unsafe or unsecure.
The security centre maintains a high level of visibility through all interior and exterior areas of the mall. A security officer is available at all times, in strategic points, to assist guests and merchants with questions or concerns. The main areas covered by this department are: assistance with lost and found items; assistance in locating lost vehicles; assistance in vehicle failure; escorting guests; assistance in locating lost loved ones; locating stores or services in and around the mall; controlling mischief makers, aggressive behaviour and trespassers; emergency response to accidents or fatalities.
A challenging task
They’re best known for their manned guarding services, World Security is a team of over 2,500 security personnel securing 140 plus locations across the UAE. Their diverse clientele portfolio includes hospitality, retail, industrial, commercial and financial sectors with individually unique requirements, all served with equal expertise.
World Security provides security to five malls in the UAE and CEO Mahmood Mohammed Amin vouches that mall security is no cake walk, “The sheer size of the properties and massive footfall make malls one of the most challenging environments, when it comes to security. Security in malls is, at best, a combination of the human factor and technology in perfect synchronization. The main objective is to ensure that the premises, starting from the parking lots and (most importantly) the patrons are safe at all times. The security guards, concierge staff, video surveillance staff and the emergency response team work together to secure some of the largest shopping malls in the UAE.”
Amin explains, “The efficiency of any security system is measured by ‘what does not happen’ rather than by ‘what does’. It starts with a thorough assessment of the site to be secured, the recruitment, training and deployment of the right security personnel, hawkish supervision, performance assessments and KPI reviews.
Amin firmly beleives that traning is the key in this field, “All our security staff undergo the Department of Protective Systems (DPS) training or the Private Security Business Department (PSBD) training. In addition, we also provide training in first aid, fire fighting, emergency response and evacuation, customer service etc,. In our many years, securing malls, we have had countless incidents where we have apprehended wrong – doers and also prevented crimes and accidents.
We always deal with incidents in accordance with the security protocol which is pre-established with the client and in line with the governing laws.” The services offered to clients include asset protection, event security, cash and valuables in transit, engineering security solutions and maritime security. World Security is possibly the only security company in the region to have been awarded the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award (2013), the Dubai Quality Appreciation Award (2013) and the Tatweej Award (quality driven organization). They have also been recognized as the Security Company of the Year for three years in a row (2011, 2012 and 2013) by the Facilities Management Middle East Awards. Add to these the various certifications we have obtained relating to Occupational Health and Safety, Environment Management and Quality, and it is easy to understand why we are ranked amongst the premier security companies in the country.
The Transguard Group, an Emirates Group company, was established in 2001 and is renowned as one of the leading Security and FM service provider in the region. Transguard currently has 22,000 personnel providing services to over 250 different customers, ranging from the Emirates Group, Emaar Hospitality, Dubai Airports, RTA, Meydan, Dnata, The Address Hotels, DAFZA, Majid Al Futtaim, Al Fahim Group, Abu Dhabi Investment Council, Dubai Marina Mall, Armani Hotel and Atlantis.
“Transguard’s security team of over 3,500 personnel includes a senior management team with international security experience, leading highly trained and qualified operational units. The team’s operations cover many markets including aviation, hospitality, residential, retail, industrial, leisure, commercial office and finance sectors.” says David Marshall, Senior Manager of Transguard.
Currently, they provide fully managed security services for Deira City Centre and City Walk (Jumeirah). Their prime objective is to deliver a high level of customer service and interaction. “Our staff must be able to communicate effectively and professionally and must have in-depth knowledge of the mall, its shops and other services, plus be able to provide accurate answers to our client’s customers.” explains Marshall “Clearly, in the event of an emergency or other serious incidents, our prime role is to protect and save the lives of all visitors and staff to the mall and to provide support to the emergency services.”
Transguard has a complete security strategy for malls which include site-based risk assessments, training and comprehensive Standard Operating Procedures, regular client meetings and detailed reporting. The Transguard Training Academy delivers a series of courses including pre-DPS training, customer service, English language communications, UAE cultural awareness, first aid training and fire fighting. Staff has to attend and pass the mandatory DPS training and examination by the Transguard IMS team.
According to Marshall, the typical issues in the malls include petty thefts, large groups of tourists or teenagers, lost children, disgruntled customers and medical emergencies that are covered in their comprehensive Security SOPs and training.
Incidents in malls
Incidents at malls could be as minor as something traffic related (at the parking lots or entry and exit points) and could go right up to a point that would require emergency response or evacuation. There is that careful balance between making people feel safe and the infringement on civil liberties. There is no 100% guarantee that nothing will happen. Security personnel are well trained to conduct themselves for aiding in protection without frightening the public. Mall security officers/guards are probably inconspicuous to the general public as they patrol the premises, but they are always on their toes for any emergency or impending danger.
Abdul Mannan, Purchase Manager at Foodlands and a resident of Abu Dhabi for the past 33 years, is very impressed by the quick and effective response of the security guards at malls. “I have always seen security personnel roaming around in malls, but never gave much thought to their role in protecting our safety, especially those of young kids. Once we were shopping with a few friends in Abu Dhabi Mall. A 6 year old boy was playing near the escalator and his belt got caught in the conveyor belt. Now the general tendency of parents in this situation is to panic and cry out. But luckily the security guards came, stopped the escalator and retrieved the boy, who was being dragged up by the escalator. This incident really made me realize the importance of a good and timely security system which is luckily implemented in most of the malls in this part of the world.”
An inefficient security system can also create mishaps and even deter shoppers from returning to the mall. Correen Savaille who works as a freelance/SEO Content Writer, narrates the following incident, “At a popular shopping mall, we had parked our car and gone shopping. On returning, we saw the bonnet of our car had been badly scratched and lots of drawings were made on it. It was very prominent. We immediately noticed that there were two security cameras pointing towards the direction in which our car was parked. We decided to report it to the mall management/security so that we could file a police report and claim insurance for the damage. We were directed to five different people and had to narrate the sequence of events each time. Next day, again we met the security officer who took down the details and photographs of the car. We were assured that they would get back to us within five working days, however, we never heard anything on that front”
Managing the security system is one of the most vital aspects for the smooth functioning of any mall. It also adds to the popularity and acceptance of the mall as people will not return if they encounter a bad experience of any kind. Security management is a deep and vast process. It requires great scrutiny and prompt action in an emergency. Mall managements aim to build and maintain a strong relationship with the different departments of emergency services. Through regular liaison with the client and other services such as the Police force and the Ambulance Service, they ensure that they are able to provide timely and effective assistance in case of serious incidents or fatalities.