Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bangalore malls tighten security to lure back customers

Bangalore malls tighten security to lure back customers
Bangalore, PTI:
Many of the prominent malls have reviewed security measures while others have sought to invest in equipment that could help prevent untoward incidents and deal with any eventuality.

The last week's serial blasts, which affected business in some of the leading city malls, have prompted managements of the shopping-cum-entertainment complexes here to take additional measures and invest in hi-tech equipment, to scale up security and to lure back customers.

The city has recently witnessed mushrooming of malls with some being dedicated to middle-class consumers while others targeting up-market sections and still others the luxury brand segment.

With the malls witnessing stiff competition, many of the prominent ones have reviewed security measures while others have sought to invest in equipment that could help prevent untoward incidents and deal with any eventuality.

The security measures adopted vary from employing the services of trained officials (those with armed forces background and commandos) to impart training to their staff towards putting security cordons in place.

Physical checks, intensified patrolling, use of sniffer dogs, electronic detector systems and round-the-clock monitoring have become the norm of the day at these malls that attract huge numbers of people especially during the evening.

The number of people doubled on weekends and jumped up significantly on festivals or special days like the Valentine's Day, Friendship Day, Mother's, Father's Day or during theme-based festivals or discount weeks, organised regularly.

The importance of security at the malls was highlighted when two bombs exploded in the nearby locality of a popular mall located in the city. Rumours of explosions being triggered at one or two of the popular malls also did the rounds, contributing to panic and chaos on July 25.
While most of the malls tried not to spread the panic in the aftermath of the blasts on Friday, others tried to reassure customers and retailers running stores on their premises that the malls had been checked and declared safe.

"We asked retailers not to close shops", an official of Forum said.

Alarmed after the Friday blasts, Col (retd) Kuriakose, an ex-armed force personnel working with the Bangalore Central Mall, recalling an incident, said, "We found that one of the parked vehicles had something smelling of petrol. We immediately traced the owner, who informed us that his quilt had just been returned after dry cleaning! But we were taking no chances".

At Garuda Mall, which registers over 25,000 visitors on an average on weekdays and over 75,000 on weekends, the outside boundary was immediately sealed and the entire premises checked to detect presence of any explosive material.

Forum Mall, one of the popular malls that attract nearly 80,000 visitors on special occasions and around 65,000 on weekends and over 35,000 on weekdays, has gone for a special 'bomb blanket', which will be used to defuse an unexploded explosive device.

Bangalore Central Mall is planning to invest in a vapour detector which could help sniff out any harmful chemicals and prevent them from entering the premises. "It is an expensive device, but we plan to have it soon," Kuriakose said.

Sniffer dogs have been pressed into service to prevent any suspicious objects lying around. "At Bangalore Central, we have the sniffer dogs doing the rounds of the mall twice in a day," he said.

At Forum, sniffer dogs were pressed into service on Saturday and Sunday after the blasts and would be deployed again on a regular basis, the official added.

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