How safe are shopping malls?

As cooler temperatures spread across the United States our thoughts turn to fall and for US retailers the upcoming holiday season. But two deadly attacks in six days and the shooting today in Houston have many wondering just how safe are shopping malls?

On September 17th Dahir Ahmed Adan stabbed 10 shoppers at the Crossroads Center in St Cloud, Minnesota. Adan was armed with a knife and injured 20 before being killed by an off duty police officer. Less than a week later an armed gunman killed 5 and injured one other in a shopping mall in Burlington, Washington 35 miles north of Seattle. Three days later 9 people were shot at a Southwest Houston shopping center before police shot and killed the alleged gunman.

The attack on innocent shoppers in Washington is the worst mass shooting at a mall area since the 2007 attack at the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Nebraska which killed 8 and wounded 5. The worst shopping mall mass shooting in the world occurred in September 2013 in Nairobi, Kenya when 67 people died and over 175 were injured.

Shopping malls have long been recognized as soft targets for both terrorists and others wanting to make a statement based on body count. Large crowds of unsuspecting victims, minimal security and numerous access points for escape combine to form a very vulnerable target area for those determined to wreak havoc on innocent civilians.

So what should you do if you find yourself in the unimaginable situation of a mass shooting at a shopping mall? ESCAPE. Grab your loved ones and exit away from the shooter as quickly as possible and stay away. If you are trapped in an area or pinned down by gunfire seek cover, anything that will protect you from bullets. If cover such as a concrete bench, large table or vending machine is not available then conceal yourself and family behind anything which will keep you out of the shooters vision. If he can’t see you it is unlikely he can shoot you. Stay down, making as small of a target as possible and continue to assess your situation looking for opportunities to safely exit the location. If you have an opportunity remember to run from cover to cover or concealment to concealment making yourself as small of a target as possible by crawling or running low to the ground. Remember, unless you are a trained law enforcement officer engage the shooter only as a last resort!

Shopping malls are traditionally safe havens visited by millions of people each year but as you are out shopping remember to stay alert to your surroundings, learn the ESCAPE Model and be prepared whenever you and your family are in a public place.

 

John Matthews is a highly decorated, thirty-year law enforcement veteran, analyst for both CNN and FOX News and the author of Mass Shootings: Six Steps for SurvivalPolice Perspective: Life on the BeatSchool Safety 101 and the co-author of The Eyeball Killer,a first-hand account of his capture of Dallas’ only serial killer.