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The Mall of America.

In 1990, Melvin Simon and Associates and Triple Five Corporation broke ground for the nation's largest enclosed shopping and entertainment complex, Mall of America. Located in Bloomington, MN, a suburb of Minneapolis, the 4.2 million-sq.-ft. facility contains 400 retail stores, 30 restaurants, 14 theaters, eight nightclubs, a two-story miniature golf course, and a seven-acre amusement park called Knott's Camp Snoopy, which has 26 rides and attractions.

The complex employs 4,000 people and provides parking for 12,500 vehicles. Eventually, Mall of America is expected to attract more than 40 million visitors a year, including 30,000 visitors who arrive by tour buses. The mall has a complete 10,000-sq.-ft., 42-bay transit station that serves as a transit hub for five regional transit services.

Before the members of our security team from Melvin Simon and Associates began planning for security at the Mall complex, we wanted to learn more about amusement park operations and how security should function at such a large facility. A management team visited Knott's Berry Farm in California early in the security planning stage since Knott's would be managing the Mall of America's amusement park, Camp Snoopy.

In early 1990, we also contacted the Bloomington police department for assistance. Under the leadership of the chief of police, the department formed a team of command and line-level officers that began identifying potential problems, concerns, and questions regarding coordination with the Mall's in-house security department.

A team of Bloomington officers accompanied me to the West Edmonton Mall in Canada for an in-depth review of its operations. Our agenda included tours of the property, working with a security shift, and a review of incidents, as well as meetings with the mall's management and the local police superintendent to coordinate efforts and establish a liaison.

Parking deck security was a major concern. Two homicides had recently taken place in parking decks in Minneapolis, and we wanted to do everything possible to minimize the possibility of such an occurrence at Mall of America. Since the city had the approval authority for our parking deck security plan, the police chief and his staff played an active part in selecting the type and quantity of equipment we were planning to use.

We toured a number of parking decks throughout the city, which proved to be informative. Originally, we had considered installing scream alarms in our parking decks. We found that the scream alarms at the locations we visited were either not functioning properly or were adjusted to discount the noise level of screeching tires during business hours, which meant that even loud screams would not trigger them. At one location we were unable to activate the system even though we were yelling directly under the monitor. Such glitches in the system made scream alarms seem unreliable in this environment.

When we interviewed the site security directors, we were informed that a high false alarm rate occurs due to doors being slammed and tires squealing. Since our parking decks would have constant traffic during business hours, we decided this equipment would not be beneficial and might provide a false sense of security for customers.

After several months of discussions, we agreed our basic plan would include four pan/tilt and zoom cameras on each level of the deck. In addition, we installed seven emergency push-button phones on each level.

The emergency phones were installed at all stairwells and near pedestrian walkways. Each phone was equipped with two push buttons to activate either information (a customer service representative) or security. The system is capable of receiving multiple, simultaneous calls, and the phone location is annunciated at both receiving points in the safety center. Security is immediately dispatched to any activated phone.

The plan also included a vehicle patrol in each parking deck during business hours. Cameras were installed to provide coverage of speed ramps, dock and transit areas, and areas through which cash from Camp Snoopy would be transported. Each of the 15 pedestrian bridges leading from the parking decks to the interior of the complex was covered by a CCTV camera and an emergency phone.

Both entry and hold-up alarm systems were installed in the money handling room. Additional cameras were also installed in this location. In total, the final plan called for 98 cameras and 125 emergency phones.

We were also involved in writing a disaster and emergency plan that would meet the approval of the city's Office of Emergency Management. The first step was to visit Knott's again, this time to review its plans for emergencies, which covered everything from ride evacuation to major crowd concerns.

We considered the number of people who would be at our complex and the potential for severe weather. Since the amusement park was completely surrounded by the mall and a situation in the mall could require an evacuation of the park, it was necessary to provide evacuation routes that led down to the service level and outside. During an evacuation, these nine exits would need to be staffed.

We needed to arrange for temporary shelter in case an evacuation was required during severe weather. Engineers and architects were consulted to determine if suitable shelter areas could be available in the event of tornadoes.

In April, the first draft of the plan was completed. The plan included shelter areas in the mall and locations for temporary shelters nearby. With the cooperation of Camp Snoopy management, emergency exit assignments were made part of the job descriptions of Camp Snoopy employees who worked at rides and attractions nearest to these exits.

An additional 32 primary and secondary evacuation posts were identified and shown on a site plan, and personnel were assigned to these locations.

The mall was divided into quads in the event the incident could be contained in a small area and not require a total evacuation. Team leaders and alternates were identified to coordinate and lead various functions. Team members were assigned, and tasks were defined. Identification vests were ordered that would allow responding public safety agencies to recognize team leaders immediately.

Revisions to the plan were necessary because of construction changes, logistic concerns, and city requirements. The city coordinated with the Metropolitan Transit Commission to design a plan that would provide the needed vehicles to transport customers in the event of an evacuation.

Last-minute construction prevented a full-scale mock emergency exercise before the grand opening. However, the mall's general manager wanted to test the plan. A mock scenario was developed involving a gas leak and fire.

The staff was required to respond to situations involving fire, injured customers, evacuation and crowd control, tenant concerns, and the media. This was the first in an ongoing series of exercises and drills, many of them involving local public safety agencies.

Our next concern was staffing and training. Minnesota state statutes regulate the hiring of private security officers and the colors of security uniforms. We carefully researched those laws, conducted meetings with local and state officials, and sent proposals to local vendors.

A search was conducted for a security director. Consideration was given to the uniqueness of shopping center security, potential problems associated with the grand opening events, management ability to deal with a large staff, and the ability to work with local public safety agencies.

A former local police chief who was retired from the Minneapolis police department was selected as the director. A veteran of Melvin Simon and Associates with experience at several grand openings and familiar with several major properties accepted the position of manager.

As we analyzed our training needs, it became evident that our standard training program, normally 24 hours of classroom instruction, would have to be extended to properly train future officers. Our on-site human resources department was requiring time for extended blocks of instruction dealing with diversity training and customer service issues. All officers needed to be familiar with Camp Snoopy's daily operations, and a core group, including supervisors, needed to be thoroughly trained in park operations.

During our previous discussions with Camp Snoopy, the issue of retail security came up. Retail crimes are normally not part of mall security's responsibilities. Mall of America security officers, however, are responsible for acting on shoplifting, hot credit cards, and other crimes associated with retail. Not only were we faced with training issues, we also had to write a site-specific policy dealing with these concerns.

A series of protocols was designed and mutually agreed to by the Mall of America and the Bloomington police and fire departments. These protocols, in effect a contract, detailed procedures to be followed whenever it was necessary to contact public safety agencies for law enforcement, fire runs, or emergency medical service responses.

The police department serves as first responders for Bloomington. All squads are equipped with emergency medical equipment. A call would require an officer to carry several pounds of equipment into the center. Considering the distance to some locations in the complex, the need to carry equipment could result in a long response time.

Mall of America decided to purchase a golf-cart type emergency vehicle equipped with a portable stretcher and equipment identical to that carried by the police department. This would allow an officer to respond directly to the scene. We decided that the entire staff, not only security, would be trained in first aid and CPR.

We still needed time for our basic programs dealing with shopping center security, legal issues, and corporate policies. We also had to impress on our officers the amount of worldwide media attention this project would receive. More than 2,000 official media passes would be issued for the grand opening alone.

Once our training needs were identified, we sought and received the assistance of instructors both from within Melvin Simon and Associates and from the City of Bloomington's legal department. The police department agreed to assist us in our training program.

We conducted a five-day formal program for the entire security staff. Upon completion of the formal classroom training, dispatchers began hands-on training in the safety center. All supervisors and a core group of officers were assigned to Camp Snoopy management for three days of additional training. The security department began on-the-job-training with 10 days left until the grand opening.

From day one, access to the site was tightly controlled by allowing entry at only a few select locations. Each person authorized on the site was issued a numbered, color-coded ID badge. Only vehicles that were part of the construction process were allowed access to the site, and they were controlled by numbered permits.

With construction now focusing on floor coverings, we were concerned with official tours, which were becoming disruptive. During late 1991 and mid-1992, more than 10,000 people representing local civic groups, political leaders, media, and the shopping center industry were given preopening tours of the center.

To meet construction deadlines and prepare the center for the opening, all tours were halted except for special groups. One morning a week was alloted for tours. This allowed construction of the facility to proceed with minimum interruptions.

As tenant construction was nearing completion, stores had to hire staff, receive merchandise, and stock their stores. With traffic jams expected at the dock and 5,000 people now walking through construction areas, the need for additional security was evident.

A firm in Deerfield, IL, had been providing site security services during construction. The company was given the authority to subcontract with other security firms as our needs increased and additional services were required.

In addition to our in-house staff, we were using more than 200 contract security officers a day. These officers provided services at our VIP rooms, work and storage rooms, off-site parking locations, dock and transit areas, and entry gates.

A shopping mall grand opening is a stage production. It can be a logistical and staffing nightmare.

As with each opening, Melvin Simon and Associates used a group of supervisors experienced in grand openings for Mall of America. With minor exceptions, all of the selected supervisors had worked on the planning of a grand opening and had spent considerable time in the shopping center industry. They played a key role not only during the opening but also during the final days of the preopening crunch.

Our 12 grand opening team members remained on-site for at least 20 days, coached new security officers, refereed disputes between construction and tenants moving through the common area, and spent many hours on traffic control functions throughout the area.

THREE WEEKS PRIOR TO THE GRAND OPENing, security meetings were scheduled daily at 7:00 am and 3:00 pm. Team leaders reported on the progress of their tasks and had an opportunity to air concerns. We required contract security managers and parking management supervisors to be present. New assignments received from senior management were passed on to the responsible team leaders.

An additional benefit of the scheduled meetings was that they gave individual members of the team a chance to exchange information. This communication minimized the time a person spent searching for someone in the complex. Since time was critical at this point, the meetings for Mall of America were held on-site.

The room where the meetings were held, dubbed the war room, served as command center and operated 24 hours a day as we neared the opening. Since the entire staff was working long hours, a complete cafeteria was installed in the room.

With our grand opening team on site, we continued to formalize our traffic control plans. We knew we were going to have a lot of people, but we did not know how many. Our plan called for hiring a local traffic deck management company to help us load the parking decks. At the base of each deck and on all interior roads, mall security officers would be directing traffic to open parking areas.

We contracted with the Bloomington police department to provide traffic direction at entrances to the mall, local intersections, and several locations away from the site. Four state patrol units, under contract, were available for directing traffic at major highways nearby.

Using suggestions from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and city engineers, we leased 12 changeable message boards similar to those used at roadway construction sites. Clear, readable messages were designed to alert the drivers to congestion, suggest alternate routes, and provide additional parking locations. Arrangements were made to have a technician and vehicle available to change messages or move signs if needed.

We decided that we needed a traffic command center to control and coordinate all elements of this plan. A section of the war room was secured for this purpose. The command post was staffed by Bloomington police officers, state patrol officers, state department of transportation personnel, a city traffic engineer, and corporate security.

Since traffic concerns were beginning to make headlines, we informed the media about our traffic committee, invited them to our meetings, and allowed them to film our command post. When the media offered to air traffic updates if we could furnish timely information, a phone was installed for incoming media calls only.

Four grand opening team members were dedicated to on-site parking areas. Additional police officers were contracted as reserves and stationed on-site, available to move to any location when needed. Our goal was to keep traffic moving. If we needed to close a street or a traffic aisle, we wanted to direct people to another location with available parking. We ordered 60 traffic posts with a variety of changeable signs and rented 50 14-ft. barricades.

Since we were planning for massive traffic problems and attempting to anticipate any emergency situation, the police department placed its SWAT and bomb disposal units in locations not accessible to the public. An ambulance and full crew of paramedics were also on-site.

With 36 hours to go, we felt we were ready, but we were apprehensive. Local weekend newspaper headlines read, "Parking Demand Could Produce Gridlock at Mall," "Parking May Be a Problem," and an editorial cartoon showed a large ribbon made up of cars bumper to bumper and the caption read, "The one ribbon that won't be cut on opening day."

A preopening gala for 15,000 people to benefit local charities was scheduled for the day before the grand opening. In addition, a VIP function was to take place at one of the restaurants, a casual event was to be held in the area of the parking deck, and an invitation-only party was to take place in the fourth floor entertainment area.

Security was also made aware of the need to secure parking for 300 media representatives and approximately 20 satellite up-link trucks.

This gala event allowed us an opportunity to test the elements of our plan. As our guests left, a midnight critique was held with personnel to fine-tune any issues of concern.

We learned that customers were already arriving for the opening and planning to sleep in their cars or have tailgate parties. Additional security was going to be needed at the fourth floor entertainment area and for directing traffic. Some off-site parking areas were still under construction and paving was to continue during the night.

We had adequate numbers of communication devices, (more than 160 radios and pagers and 40 cellular phones), but long delays were encountered because both repeater systems often reached capacity. We were also informed that our private line for media traffic reports had been published by the local paper, which invited the public to call us.

We addressed the issues as quickly as possible, and the team went to work placing barricades and signs for traffic control, VIP, and media parking. A final site tour was made at about 2:00 am. Afterward, the team members were released and instructed to return no later than 6:00 am.

As our team arrived on opening day, radio equipment was issued; highway warning signs were turned on; and briefings were held concerning the day's events for 50 Mall of America officers, 250 contract security officers and ushers, parking deck management personnel, and 40 law enforcement officers.

Police officers familiar with local rush hour traffic patterns were positioned on high-rise buildings overlooking the highway entrance and exit ramps. Security grand opening team members went to vantage points on both the east and west parking ramps. Security and police officers were stationed in the transit area for traffic and crowd control.

By 8:00 am, traffic was beginning to enter the decks and our plan to load the decks from top to bottom was working well. A tour of the entrance doors showed that crowds of about 200 were present at each location. We had a contingency plan ready to open early but needed every possible minute.

We continued to monitor the growing crowds at the doors as they were beginning to stand in the interior streets creating the potential for accidents and impeding the flow of traffic. All surface parking was now full and the traffic was filling the decks. It appeared that there was heavier than normal traffic on the nearby highways. At about 9:30 am, the doors were opened to the public one-half hour earlier than scheduled.

As the availability of on-site parking continued to diminish, we prepared to go to alternate locations. Accurate, timely information was being received, evaluated, and distributed regarding traffic moving toward the mall. The number of public calls being received on the private media line was another gauge we used to judge traffic conditions; we learned that heavy traffic would continue for several hours after the calls stopped coming.

Shortly before noon, we reached our parking capacity. We began to direct traffic to alternate locations. Each person at the traffic command post quickly instituted his or her portion of the plan.

Mall security and Bloomington police closed all street entrances to the mall. Officers, using signs and barricades, began directing motorists toward off-site locations. Signs on portable message boards provided parking information. State patrol officers moved into position to assist at interchanges if needed. And local radio stations began announcing additional parking locations to the public.

As we listened to the confirmation reports coming into the traffic command center, we realized our plan had worked. Within three minutes, entrances had closed, signs were up, traffic continued to flow with a minimum of interruption, shuttle buses were moving people to the center, and motorists were receiving accurate, up-to-the-minute traffic reports.

To avoid confusion, we decided to operate parking decks in either an open or closed mode, meaning parking would only be reopened when 200 to 300 spaces became available rather than letting vehicles in one at a time as spaces became available. Customers appreciated this, especially when they realized they were being redirected to a location where parking and transportation were readily available.

Proof that the plan worked was evident by the bored members of the media who had been allowed to have live coverage of the traffic command center. There was just nothing exciting to report. It was a relief to read the headline, "Fears of Gridlock Near Mall Aren't Borne Out."

As we neared the end of opening day, we prepared for the last event, an indoor fireworks show to be held in the amusement park. Although the event was not advertised in an effort to comply with maximum occupancy codes, customers were aware of it.

Near 9:00 pm all rides and attractions ceased operation. The show included numerous firing locations throughout and above the park. Guests could remain in the park but needed to be cleared from sensitive areas, including the main firing position.

Security was stationed around areas containing the actual pyrotechnics and at walkways on the three mall levels surrounding the park. For fire prevention purposes, 15 off-duty Bloomington fire fighters were positioned at strategic locations.

As the show concluded, our final task, assisting our guests in a safe and expedient departure, was soon completed.

At the postopening security party, a recap of the day's security incidents indicated all had gone extremely well--only one minor highway traffic accident; two lost purses; a few minor calls requiring police assistance; six medical emergencies, with only one person transported to a hospital for an allergic reaction; 15 lost children who were all reunited with their parents; and no shoplifting reports.

Our attendance for the day: 150,000 visitors, including more than 6,000 people arriving at the transit station by bus. According to the local newspaper, the Star Tribune, on opening day, Camp Snoopy gave 20,000 rides by 1:00 pm. By 5:00 pm, one restaurant had sold 2,000 individual slices of pizza, one major department store sold 1,110 pairs of women's shoes, and 500 strollers were checked out from guest services.

We were successful at Mall of America because we took the time to learn about each others' responsibilities. The Bloomington police department took the time to study the issues, learn the shopping center business, and travel and observe our operations at other centers.

We learned their operations and became familiar with their individual officers. Conflicts were met head-on, options were discussed, and negotiations took place. We took the time to meet socially and got to know each other.

As we approached opening day and other players joined the team, meeting agendas included comments and concerns from everyone. Task assignments were distributed to everyone so we were all aware of each others' missions.

Everyone was ready to provide assistance where needed regardless of who was assigned the job. Changes were not implemented until everyone was made aware of them. All this interaction allowed us to develop a great deal of confidence and trust in each other.

The Mall of America project is one that will not soon be forgotten by those who took part in it. It exemplifies what instructors and authors have been saying for years--cooperation between security and law enforcement can lead to success.

Thomas W. Cernock, CPO (certified protection officer), is corporate security and safety for Melvin Simon & Associates Inc. in Indianapolis, IN. He is a member of ASIS.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Retail Security; security system in Bloomington, Minnesota shopping mall
Author:Cernock, Thomas W.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1993
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