Improving communications and managing risk
Better risk management through improved communications a trip to a shopping mall is always a great experience, but the public do not see the behind-the-scenes hard work that centre management and staff put in to make it a secure one too. When the 530,000 square feet Chapelfield Shopping Centre opened in Norwich in late-2005, its forward-looking management identified a need for a system that would help them to manage risk.
Steve Bunce, Chapelfield General Manager, explains: “We have to know how to deal with issues as diverse as terrorist threats, fires, lost children, anti-social behaviour, and organised criminal gangs. We could see that in all these situations better and more effective two-way communication between centre management, tenants, and security staff would help us to assure public safety.”
Designed by retail for retail
When Chapelfield opened, the cabling infrastructure and an InterTel IP-based telephony system had already been pre-installed by Active Communication Company Limited (ACCL). However, a retail risk management application had not been selected at that point. “There were a couple of systems available but we felt that they were point solutions with limited flexibility for the future,” recalls Steve Bunce.
The issue was not lost on ACCL, a company that specialises in creating infrastructure for discrete industry sectors such as retail. Wayne Connors, Managing Director of ACCL, takes up the story: “We had recognised that there was a glaring gap in the market and were consulting with our retail customers about their need for support systems to meet today’s risk management challenges.”
Capital Shopping Centres (CSC), a wholly owned subsidiary of Liberty International, is the leading company in the UK specialising in the ownership, management, and development of shopping centres. The company has a £6.4 billion portfolio of thirteen high quality shopping centres, totalling over 12.6 million square feet, including Chapelfield. The schemes have won recognition at national and international levels, including awards from The British and International Councils of Shopping Centres. The opportunity to get in on the ground floor of such an exciting development was too good to miss. Steve Bunce says: “CSC managers including myself provided input into the market assessment conducted by ACCL, which led to the development of the Tenant Active System.”
Flexible end user devices
Providing an integrated suite of modular IP shopping centre applications, the Tenant Active System (TAS) can be added to as requirements grow. The immediate need at Chapelfield was for an emergency contact system between centre management and retail units, which would provide the ability to securely notify stores of both the nature of emergency situations and the action required. The power of TAS is that such applications can be built using the existing telephone system as a platform (an InterTel product in the case of Chapelfield) with, where appropriate, normal screen- based IP telephones operating as terminal devices.
These devices emit an audible and visual alarm to alert stores, where staff has to acknowledge receipt of the message. Messages are automatically re-sent in the event of delivery failure or lack of acknowledgement. This system can also be used for broadcasting general information regarding operational issues such as maintenance schedules and can be targeted at zoned groups of tenants if necessary.
Conversely, if there is an emergency situation in a store, the tenant can press a panic button on the TAS device to alert centre management. This automatically triggers recording of the ambient sounds in the store for evidentiary purposes as well as providing immediate voice communication. This can reduce the security response time by as much as 60 seconds, which could prove critical.
Greater efficiency and accountability
TAS allows centre management to manage emergency situations effectively while conserving resources. “Before we had TAS we had to send staff to each individual unit to deliver messages. Now we can communicate with the entire shopping centre or with individual units in a zone as appropriate,” says Steve Bunce. “The system gives us much greater staff efficiencies plus an audit trail for all messages.”
At the time, Chapelfield was the largest TAS deployment and involved some out-of-hours working. Christine Beveridge, Chapelfield Operations Manager, says: “The implementation project went very smoothly. As you would expect, there were some minor problems but they were always resolved quickly and effectively, which is a reflection of the quality of the ACCL team.”