Mall’s “lock down” test disturbing



“Sometimes chaos is the very thing that deliberately shakes up our neatly ordered world’s in order to get us out of the neatly ordered ruts that have kept us stuck.” ― Craig D. Lounsbrough

N E R V O U S L Y  W A I T I N G  F O R  T H E  A L L  C L E A R 

This week’s word prompt on Susan and my alternate site Weekly Prompts is ANTICIPATION.

Sometimes when you anticipate one kind of result in life reality steps  in and throws a monkey wrench into the works and you then begin to wonder what the hell really happened. That was part of my experience yesterday as a large shopping mall conducted its periodic security lock down test.

Yesterday morning a few minutes after 11 a.m. as I was preparing to pay for my purchases at a drug store located in one of the city’s larger malls I overheard a female employee whispering to the cashier that the mall would soon be in “total lock down”. The look on her face indicated to me that she did not look forward to this event.

I asked them both what was going to happen and when was it scheduled to take place. The woman told me it “could happen anytime” and the doors of the mall and all the shops located inside it would be locked and no one would be permitted to leave the building.

I did not want to be a part of this scenario so I paid for my items and walked quickly to the entrance door I had used. Despite my quicker pace the alarm sounded within two minutes of my leaving the drug store.

A general warning alarm sounded throughout the mall and a male voice on the public address system (PA)  issued the following three directives: (1) take shelter in a store nearest you; (2) do what the store employees inside the shop advise you to do ; and (3) wait for the “all clear”announcement .

Since I had been warned in advance about pending test I had seated myself on a nearby ledge and awaited further instructions and information. The “take shelter” warning caught my attention and myself and two other female shoppers entered a telephone service boutique.

There were three employees in the store: two female and one male. A female stood patiently at the door with keys in her hand. The male employee had a cellphone in his right hand and was texting someone possibly the security administration office.

A female staffer sitting behind a desk was on the computer following some type of directions on the screen. It was a cozy but unsettling waiting area.

The female eventually locked the glass door and asked everyone to walk to the rear of the sore. The voice on the PA system repeated his “take immediate shelter” message every thirty seconds and the warning siren played in the background.

The second female in the shop asked if she could leave and get a wheel chair for her mother who was somewhere else in the mall. She was allowed to do this without incident.

As I looked through the glass partition I noticed that many visitors to the mall were not taking shelter and walked about the area in a haphazard pattern. They did not seek shelter and complained aloud about the siren and the voice on the microphone.

The atmosphere in the small shop was somber and the silence itself forced me to ask some questions and find out what was going on and how often this type of “security testing” took place.

The manager at the time told me this was a quarterly security test of the system and was usually unannounced. He also admitted that this was not his “regular outlet” and was also surprise by the security test.

As the siren sounded and the male voice on the intercom system repeated the same messages over and over people still floundered about the mall unsure as to what action to take. It was disturbing to realize that these misguided souls would become real life victims should a serious incident occur.

I think that the store manager and the female on the computer were communicating with the security staff and that my many questions regarding this “practice exercise” upset him a little.

At the five minute mark the siren stopped , the voice over the intercom announced the all clear notification and the doors of all the mall shops were unlocked and opened again for business. A phone call tot he shop by security informed the staff that the test was over.

I did not notice any security staff in the hallways directing shoppers to take cover and the locked shop doors might have acted as a barrier to more folks taking refuge to safer areas.

This was not the “first” such test. As mentioned earlier the shop manager told me that the tests were conducted on a quarterly basis.

I wonder how much they learned from past exercise and how much they believe that shoppers amid the noise and chaos would make the right choices and seek “immediate shelter”.

I should mention that the woman who remained in the shop with me told the entire staff ” thank you for detaining me for five minutes”. Obviously she was pissed by the entire situation.

When I left the area I thanked them for keeping me safe.

There must be an element of “panic deafness”that assumes control of a person’s common sense and a “follow the herd at any cost” rational takes control.

What would you do if you fund yourself in such a perilous situation?  – gc


Word Prompt Anticipation


  1. If I thought it was real I would be scared out of my wits, if I’d had advance warning I would have followed instructions. I think it’s an excellent idea to hold these tests and at the very least it teaches us how to behave in an emergency. Thank you for sharing this experience with everyone 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wonder what type of information the mall security team is gathering after these impromptu exercises and how has their security modified their behavior to adjust to crowd mania and panic. Remember this was a test conducted quarterly. Is mall management hoping that the public will smarten up and fall in line? A real puzzle Susan.

      Liked by 1 person

      • We used to have regular fire practice in school. It trained both staff and children how to behave in a fire emergency. In the Mall situation it may well keep staff updated especially if there’s a high turnover, but I don’t suppose it helps the general public because in a real emergency most of the public won’t have been present at the practise sessions, or they’ll behave like some of the ones you observed.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In school we were all regimented to take some type of action when the fire alarm ever rang ( practice or the real thing). In one factory setting the alarms were tested once a month and the alarms continued to sound UNTIL everyone was out of the building.

          In a commercial mall setting the players change daily if not hourly. It would be impossible to realign everyone’s mind set to conform to such a practice. BUT the shop attendants were there to direct shoppers and not force them to take shelter.

          In London during the war when the alarms sounded everyone took shelter until the all clear was issued. These days this heightened awareness to danger would need to be triggered by their cell phones. Oh the price of progress.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I meant when I was teaching in school. I can’t even remember fire practice when I was a child in school. So I suppose we did not have them.

            In school as a staff member we were timed at how quickly we got the children out of the building. Also we were observed to make sure that everyone carried out a designated task.

            Children go walkabout such as toilet or cloakroom, to the library to collect a book etc so some of us had extra tasks.


            • Thank you love for clarifying that. I remember the fire drills because the principal always played a John Phillip Sousa march to keep us regimented and of course in line. Hup two three four. xx


          • Our children also had a line up order so they knew who was in front and who should be behind. We did did this for everything so during a head count the children could tell you who was missing much quicker than you trying to work out why the numbers were down!

            Liked by 1 person

              • Don’t know anything about store safety practice so I found yours very interesting. Must have been scary for you.

                Though am Certain our schools back in our day were not safety conscious. Schools today on the other hand I know about at least here in the UK and they are extremely safety conscious. That said some are better than others. So glad you wrote about this


    • Exactly Lois. She was very quiet during her “forced captivity” in the boutique and only offered her snarky comment when the door was opened and she was free to leave. Some people’s children …

      Liked by 1 person

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