I don’t visit the local mall very much, mostly because I don’t like to expose myself to that much shopping temptation! The last thing I expect is mall violence.
When I do go, it’s a fun outing. My daughter and I will pop in to Sephora and check out their makeup and perfumes, my son always nags me about going to the sports memorabilia store (I usually give in), and overall, it’s a fun and relaxing time.
In no way am I alert or ready for a terrorist attack.
However, this is exactly what happened in Nairobi, Kenya in 2013, leaving more than 60 people dead. Many of the victims were tortured and there are reports of children’s’ bodies stuffed into refrigerator compartments.
After reading several accounts of the attack when it happened, 2 things leaped out at me.
1. The terrorists had planned this attack with great detail and forethought.
2. I need to be alert and ready for trouble, even on fun outings…no, make that especially on fun outings with my kids.
Regarding point 1, the attack took place on a Saturday, one of the busiest mall days of the week. There was a cooking for kids class going on at the time, and numerous children were killed.
If bad guys of any stripe plan an attack on civilians in a public place, you can be sure it won’t be spontaneous, drunken, “let’s go out and kill some people!” event. It will have been meticulously planned. Research the attack on the Beslan school for a glimpse into the mindset of these terrorists.
Therefore, whether I go to a sports event, a concert, restaurant, or the mall, it just makes sense that I also plan ahead and think about how I might react and escape sudden violence.
When my kids were much younger, I remember feeling like a pack mule heading out for a trail ride. I had a huge purse, a diaper bag, a double stroller, snacks, water bottles, extra clothes, you name it. Keeping track of all that extra stuff kept a part of my brain busy and took some of my attention away from the kids.
Back then all I had was a cell phone, but nowadays, each family member has their own phone and other electronics. We are all individually distracted.
Every single distraction increases the level of vulnerability, not just in the event of a terrorist attack, but the so-called “knock ’em down games“, and being caught unaware in a rapidly developing violent scenario, such as a riot.
The next time you head out on an errand or to an appointment, take a look at what you’re carrying. Most of the time, you can get by with a house and car key, ID, and cash/debit card.
For years I carried around so many items that when I finally took inventory of what I was actually using, I ditched my purse entirely!
If you must carry a purse or a diaper bag, they should be as small as possible. I also recommend that they not be the pricey versions. If I had to run for my life and leave my purse behind, I could leave behind my $26 Target purse, no problem, but a $850 Coach purse? I don’t even want to take the chance that, at the worst possible second, I’d be tempted to pause to grab it. Those seconds could be the difference between life and death, and at that moment, when adrenaline is rushing and my body is in a fight/flight/freeze mode, things need to be as simple minded as possible.
Dress to run in case of mall violence
I used to live in Arizona where the unofficial state footwear is the flip-flop. Comfy, easy to slip on and off, but in no way are they running shoes! If I ever had to run for my life, those flip-flops would be kicked off in a heartbeat.
What makes a lot more sense, is to leave the house dressed and ready to react in any situation, including just chasing down a toddler headed for the escalator!
Comfy shoes, suitable for making a quick getaway, don’t have to look like your grandma’s SAS shoes! But they should have a non-skid sole and be comfortable enough for walking longer distances and running, if necessary.
Average-looking clothes in neutral colors might not send your friends into swoons of envy, but the look might really pay off in helping you blend in with a crowd and by not alerting would-be thieves with expensive name brands and jewelry.
Sometimes our own clothing can be a distraction. Tugging on a shirt, hiking up jeans, dealing with straps that keep falling off shoulders — again, little distractions that add up to lowering our level of awareness.
What about self-defense measures?
A few years back, I took the official Concealed Carry class here in Arizona and got my permit. My firearm of choice is the Glock 26. Easy to shoot, very reliable, easy to conceal.
A firearm is my preference because I am not nearly as sure of my ability to win a physical fight with a stronger and likely younger man as I am of my ability to hit a target with my Glock. Hand to hand combat just isn’t my thing.
If a firearm isn’t for you, consider carrying a Taser, pepper spray, or a knife. (I highly recommend taking a class in knife fighting, if that’s your choice.)
Being in fairly good physical condition, at the minimum, is another form of self-defense. Increased upper body strength and strong legs will help you not only run but grab that baby and those two toddlers as you race toward safety!
What about your family’s mall rat?
If your teen is used to hanging out at the mall, in my view you have 3 choices:
1. Unsupervised mall time comes to an end, immediately, and it’s not just because of the possibility of a terrorist attack. I’m a little conservative with my parenting views and believe that nothing good comes of tweens and teens hanging out in large groups, unsupervised, with lots of time on their hands.
Can I get an “Amen”?
2. Visits to the mall are supervised by one or more parent. Kids might think it’s not possible to have fun with lurking parents around, but when safety’s an issue and kids are under 18, this is the only mall-time option.
3. For older kids, absolutely make them aware of potential dangers and provide self-defense training. They should also learn about the 4 levels of awareness and practice being at Level Yellow when they are out and about with friends. (See pp. 169-176 in my book.)
Helpful resources mentioned in this article:
- Survival Mom: How to Prepare Your Family for Everyday Disasters and Worst Case Scenarios by Lisa Bedford
- Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools by John Giduck
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