As we crowd the malls and shopping centers in search of the perfect gifts for loved ones, safety should never be too far out of mind. Overall, malls of are quite safe, but incidents can and do happen, and it’s best to have plan developed before heading out to catch sales, eat Cinnabuns and visit department-store santas, especially if you’re in a group that includes children.
To start, make sure everyone is carrying a cell phone. Its usefulness as a safety tool is unparalleled as it can be used to report suspicious people or packages, provide photos of children that stray and quickly gather a group if separated. At the same time, however, every group should have a predetermined gathering point in case of dead batteries, lost phones or if someone doesn’t own (yikes) a mobile device. The location can be a favorite restaurant or store, or entrance nearest the conveyances that brought you to the melee. It might even be beneficial to list multiple locations in the event of danger. These can be listed as location one and location two and texted to all parties, or simply as the main location if nothing is happening and alternate location in case of danger.
Second, all children should carry something, be it a card, chain, dog tags, etc., that lists name and at least two contact numbers in case of becoming lost. I recommend having at least one number for someone not in attendance on the shopping trip. This really does help police and security quickly return “our precious,” severely limiting the amount time that the heart chokes off oxygen intake. You should also discuss with your children that if they do become lost to find a police or security officer to help. You can also point out the information counters that many shopping centers situate conveniently for the benefit of customers.
Finally, everyone should have at least a basic idea of what to do in case of an extreme situation. Remind them that in most cases it’s best to hide in the back of stores, locked backrooms if possible, and wait for the police to handle the problem. Few citizens can actually provide help and the main job is to stay safe. Also, talk to kids, especially younger kids, about what to do if someone tries to steal them away. With witnesses everywhere, they should hit, kick and bite, making a point to scream out that “this is not my” mommy or daddy. Sure, most of us notice screaming kids wherever we go, but are you sure it’s not just a kid throwing a fit? Throwing in that phrase eliminates doubt.
Remember, situations can happen quickly, and there are numerous factors that can determine success, but a quote attributed to Louis Pasteur sums it up nicely. “Chance favors the prepared mind.”