Mall emerged from the ashes but no one takes any chances

Thursday, September 21st, 2023 06:40 | By
A potential buyer samples clothes in a shop at Westgate Mall. PD/Bernard Malonza

Ten years have passed since the terrorist attack at Westgate Mall  in Nairobi.

The memory of that fateful day still haunts the survivors, but people are determined to move forward and rebuild their lives.

This was evident when we visited the mall recently. Businesses were going on as usual with some admitting that they had even forgotten about the incident. But one clear thing is the heightened security in the mall.

To ensure the safety of shoppers, the mall management has devised a multi-layered security plan that combines state-of-the-art technology with a comprehensive security plan. They have enlisted both uniformed police officers and plainclothes security personnel to patrol the premises.

They have also installed surveillance cameras that cover every inch of the property, from parking lots to interior spaces. The officers patrol the premises with pride, standing tall as symbols of protection and reassurance to the shoppers.

“There are many officers walking around here with watchful eyes. Their plain clothes attire allows them to blend seamlessly with the shoppers. Knowing that we have officers going around here makes us be at peace as we continue with our work,” says Joel Otieno, who runs a perfume business in the mall.

According to him, the mall’s security procedures are airtight, and the officers are not taking any chances. Security has not only improved inside the mall and at the main entrance but even around the mall. Officers have been placed strategically to ensure that the mall remains a safe haven for shoppers, a place where the community can come together and rebuild their lives.

“The management has done an amazing job in terms of security. There are civilian security officers everywhere. When you get here, you don’t need to worry as your security is guaranteed. According to me, the mall is now safer.”

Regular sweeps

Clinton Oenga, an employee in one of the stores based at the mall says that another area where security has improved is at the delivery point. Unlike before when the delivery process was very fast as you needed not to give all the details of those who will be delivering your goods, today you have to give every detail of those who are doing your delivery.

Before anyone is allowed to access the offloading point, their names, the vehicles they will be using, the occupants, their names and ID numbers must be sent to the management office beforehand. The details are transferred to the security department. Once the vehicle is there, they counter check the information.

 “The check-in process for the delivery people can take between 15 minutes to one hour. This shows how thorough the check is. At the offloading site there are security personnel too to ensure nothing illegal gets in,” says Oenga.

To further bolster security, the mall has introduced highly trained dogs and their handlers conduct regular sweeps to detect explosives and drugs.

Oenga says the presence of the security personnel makes shoppers feel more secure, leading to a notable increase in foot traffic.

Families, previously wary of bringing children to the mall, have returned to enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment.

The heightened security measures have also instilled confidence in retailers. New stores have opened their doors, and existing ones expanded their spaces. The mall once again is becoming a sought-after location for businesses looking to thrive.

“Immediately after the attack most retailers had no choice but to close their doors in the face of uncertainty and declining foot traffic. But today things have changed and retailers are coming back. From the look of things, the mall will be operating at its full capacity soon,” adds Oenga.

But according to a businessman who sought anonymity, there is still one area the management needs to improve on: The detection machine at the main entrance.

According to him, at the checkpoint, people are still able to enter the premises with some metals without detection.

“Such metals are not allowed in the mall. People load them in their socks and the machines are unable to detect them. If a screwdriver can pass without being detected this shows that even other harmful metals can pass without detection,” he concludes.

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