U.S. Site Visits Confirm Lack of Preparedness
As part of our assessment of the preparedness of U.S. malls in the post-9/11 world (see main article), we visited eight malls in the United States. At each site, we spoke with the mall security director, local police, and
local fire officials.
One of the most striking findings was that, at that time, the malls had not significantly increased their investment in security
after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Only four sites, which received Federal money through the Buffer Zone Protection Program
(BZPP, funds for protecting critical infrastructure), had increased security spending beyond the rate of inflation in the
4 years after 9/11; the other four sites had not. In fact, one mall had dramatically cut its security budget.
Five of the eight malls we visited had conducted risk assessments at the instigation of the State homeland security advisor
or through the BZPP application process. Without undergoing some form of risk assessment, it is difficult for mall managers
to determine what to protect and which strategies to employ.
Most of the malls had prevention tactics in place, such as policies designed to monitor and restrict deliveries. Security
officers were visible throughout the malls and were instructed to observe suspicious dress and patterns of behavior. Seven
of the eight malls had some form of closed-circuit television, although the systems varied in sophistication: Some systems
were monitored closely; others recorded events for review only after an event occurred.
All of the malls that we visited had some form of antiterrorism training for security personnel; however, the programs varied
widely. Most consisted of about 4 hours of classroom training that focused on identifying potential terrorists, spotting suspicious
packages, and responding to an attack. We did not find any programs that evaluated what the staff may have gained from the
All eight malls had written procedures for responding to a threat or emergency. Typical post-threat protocols included limiting
access to critical areas of the mall and increasing security personnel. Other procedures covered evacuations, emergency communications,
and, in the event of an attack, contacting emergency services and providing first aid.
At that time, none of the malls had a plan for coordinating with first responders, and only two conducted drills to rehearse
emergency responses. We also discovered a significant lack of coordination between mall security and the security staffs of
the mall anchor stores. Only one of the eight malls involved tenants in the emergency response plan.
Finally, we did not find any standards for evaluating the adequacy of the malls’ preparedness plans. With no tabletop or live
exercises—and no clear standards for evaluation—it is impossible to say how well staff would respond in a disaster.
NIJ Journal No. 259, March 2008
Date Created: March 17, 2008