West Edmonton Mall puts tenants, shoppers through lockdown drill

EDMONTON - Morning shoppers at West Edmonton Mall were summoned to take shelter in the backrooms of stores Wednesday as the shopping centre and police practised a lockdown drill.

An announcement at about 10 a.m. notified patrons of the emergency rehearsal, and police and security officers encouraged them into shops, where staff locked the doors and moved them to secure areas for a few minutes.

At the mall’s Running Room store, an Edmonton Journal reporter was one of several visitors and employees who waited in the shop’s stockroom.

North America’s largest mall launched the first of four such drills a year in March, said Gary McCartney, West Edmonton Mall director of safety and security.

“We ask our tenants to close their doors, seek shelter and usher in our guests in case of an emergency that would cause us to do that,” McCartney said.

The impetus for the drills, he said, was the number of shooting incidents that have occurred in public places in recent years, such as one at a Toronto shopping mall in March that left one dead, and the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn., where 27 died.

“West Edmonton Mall, being progressive, we just felt that it was wise to impart these programs to make sure our tenants, guests and employees are all safe should an incident like that ever happen here.”

The mall purchased and installed emergency-notification software that sends alerts in case of an emergency to tenants’ cellphones and email accounts.

The mall’s public address system would also be used during an emergency.

A seminar was held for tenants to inform them of the procedures.

Edmonton Police Service Sgt. Kelly Rosnau, who participated in the drill, said the mall is being proactive.

“This is an opportunity for them to practise a drill in the case where there was an emergency where people needed to seek safety, such as some of the active shooter things that we’ve seen throughout the world,” he said.

“They’re trying to get the businesses on board and, for the most part, they’ve got high compliance in that part, and it’s also to educate the shoppers that are here.