21st September 2013 will be remembered by many as a day when one of the finest shopping malls in Kenya was hit by terrorists killing many and injuring hundreds. As a real estate consultant, i ask myself this question, “ How can a property manager “terror proof” a shopping mall?”
Lesson from Israel
Donald Story in an article titled, “How should malls address terrorism” draws some examples from Israel. He says, “Israeli shopping centers are protected by a series of concentric perimeters. Motorized patrols survey the exterior area, including parking lots, outside the mall property, supplemented by some foot patrols; and each vehicle that enters the property is subjected to a search.
At pedestrian entrances, each person is also subject to search by officers equipped with explosive detection technology. Bomb detection dogs are now being introduced as well.
The interior is patrolled by both uniformed and plainclothes officers. Surprisingly, the length of time required to enter the property or to gain access to the internal area of malls is minimal, and customers and employees do not find the few moments of extra time an inconvenience.
All security officers are armed. Given the compulsory military service in Israel, the populace is trained in weapons handling and military discipline so recruitment of security officers with military training is simpler than it is in Kenya. Additional security training is continually provided to the officers.”
Lessons from an oil exploration site
These lessons from Israel are not far fetched as one would want to imagine. I am currently doing some work in an oil exploration site in Northern Kenya. We live in a camp on a parcel of land approximately 10 acres. It’s very well fenced off and we have round the clock armed police patrol in this remote site. Here the slogan “Safety First” has been replaced by a tougher slogan, “Safety only”. There are companies that have specialized in providing security in oil exploration sites both onshore and offshore. These companies are headed by former British military personnel. We have one of these companies offering security in our camp. These military officers train the local administration police on combat skills that improve the skills the officers were taught in Kiganjo. They also conduct random fire and security drills so that in case of an attack, God forbid, we would know what to do. I don’t wish to reveal more details just in case someone gets ideas on how to hit us but am sure you get my point.
If such care is taken to protect a handful of exploration personnel how much more should we do to protect the many thousands that frequent the shopping malls, churches and Mosques in Kenya? I have a few suggestions:
- Security officers should be trained on how to recognize certain behavior profiles and intercept potential terrorists. They should also embrace the use of explosive detectors when screening the cars and the people.
- Have a “safe haven” in each mall, one inside and another outside. A “safe haven” is a bullet proof zone that people can run to in case of gun fire.
- Have a buffer zone. An area round the mall, maybe 10 meters wide, where vehicles are not allowed to drive past. This will reduce the likelihood of a serious attack in case of a car bomb.
- Secure the basement parking so that the vehicles driving into the basement are thoroughly checked before they are driven in.
- Conduct fire and security drills from time to time to monitor the level of preparedness of the people working in the malls and the patrons as well.
- Deliveries should be restricted to time periods when personnel are available to verify documentation. Contractors and their material should be similarly checked.
- Clearly label all the emergency exit points in the building and lock them with a breakable door.
I have a dream, that one day all these measures will be implemented in Kenya.
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