West Edmonton Mall tests emergency lockdown procedures
Published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 4:39PM MST Last Updated Wednesday, February 27, 2013 6:23PM MST
For anyone inside West Edmonton Mall first thing Wednesday morning, it was an unusual morning – the mall was put under lockdown for a few minutes, preparing customers and employees to handle any emergency.
It was the first test of the shopping centre’s new emergency plan – it involved employees of stores in the mall inviting guests into their stores, and locking them inside.
“The drill we held this morning is called a lockdown drill,” Gary McCartney with West Edmonton Mall said. “The drill is practice for our tenants, employees and guests to know how to act automatically in the event of an emergency that requires them to take shelter, rather than evacuate.”
It was the first of two drills planned for Wednesday – the first took place shortly after stores in the mall opened, just after 10 a.m.
The second drill is planned for just before 9 p.m., when stores close.
“Doing that enables them to train their morning staff, and their afternoon staff,” McCartney said. “We’re going to continue to do these drills, every two or three months.”
McCartney said repeating such drills every so often allowed tenants and employees to practice, and accounted for staff turnover.
“To create that automatic response, when we’re doing a drill, so that in the unlikely event of a real event happening, they will be prepared and act automatically to protect themselves and our guests.”
The drills put into practice new systems only recently installed in the mall, including a new public address system and an e-mail notifying tenants of the lockdown taking place.
However, the new technology ran into a few snags during Wednesday morning’s drill.
“I know they had done some testing with [the PA system], and it worked fine,” EPS Sgt. Kelly Rosenau, with the EPS School Resource Unit said. “Unfortunately during the drill we could not hear it on the second level where we were standing, but in spite of that, we still saw tenants locking themselves down, pulling people in.”
Rosenau said the lockdowns are an important safety measure, even if they’re almost unheard of for places the size of West Edmonton Mall.
“This is something new for a place this size, especially here in Edmonton and even for a lot of customers, they have no idea what a lockdown is,” Rosenau said.
Regardless of the problems the system encountered, McCartney said the exercise was a successful first step in preparing anyone who works in the mall, for just about anything.
“In the unlikely event of a real event happening, they will be prepared and act automatically to protect themselves and our guests.”
With files from Kim Taylor