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Why two-way radio systems can help protect retailers from terrorist attack

Retail businesses can be better prepared and act proactively to mitigate against the risk of terrorism by deploying a unified communications strategy and taking advantage of the instant communications and security solutions provided by two-way radio systems

Shopping centres and retail outlets are crowded, busy places. They are designed to be open and welcoming to attract customers. Security protection measures tend to be limited therefore and this makes them a ‘soft’ target for terrorists looking to create an impact.

Security managers need to balance the desire to provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere with the need to provide strong protective measures to mitigate against any terrorist attack and to minimise the damage should one occur.

Retailers are already obliged to carry out security measures to ensure that core standards and statutory duties have been met under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and fire regulations. Failure to do so might lead to prosecution in the wake of a terrorist attack if it can be shown the retailer was negligent in meeting its obligations.

Retailers need to carry out risk assessments and implement risk mitigation plans covering people, physical assets, IT systems and supply chain processes. They should provide awareness training and equipment, such as radios, for staff. Staff need to be instructed in how to carry out searches and deal with evacuation procedures and fire safety strategies.

Retailers can deploy intruder detection sensors, fire alarms, CCTV and external lighting, along with a reliable voice communication system. Ideally, all these protective measures will be integrated together to work in an effective and coordinated manner.

One way of doing this is to implement a unified communications platform, such as Hytera’s SmartOne solution, which can combine alarms, CCTV and other data feeds with a private Digital Mobile Radio (DMR) system. The platform can also integrate PABX/PSTN telephony, Wi-Fi and public and private 4G LTE mobile networks.

A Hytera SmartOne solution may only be appropriate for large shopping malls with a large number of radio subscribers and numerous data feeds. However, Hytera’s smaller Smart Dispatch and DWS (Dispatch WorkStation) dispatching systems also enable voice and data transmissions to be integrated into control rooms with information displayed on a single screen.

CCTV and body worn cameras issued to security staff combined with video analytics such as facial recognition, unusual behaviour detection and the like can help by identifying known terrorists or by picking up anomalous behaviours in real time.

But a robust, reliable voice communications system is essential to raise awareness, provide timely warnings to staff and to coordinate a response should an incident occur. A private Hytera DMR network allows the retail store to tailor the signal coverage and capacity to its exact needs, including hard to reach basements, machinery rooms and external areas.

High levels of redundancy and security can be built in to ensure availability. The great advantage of two-way radio networks is that they support group calling, so callers can efficiently communicate with specific groups of staff simultaneously with just one call or data message.

It may be unwise to rely on mobile phone networks as coverage can be patchy inside buildings, especially if they are built using modern materials, which are very good at reflecting radio waves. Mobile networks can also get overloaded or even switched off in an emergency situation, so having a private DMR network with adequate capacity built in is preferable.

Hytera has a wide range of DMR hand portable terminals suitable for use in the retail sector. Smaller retail outlets may only want a few radios and can choose licence free entry-level radios such as the BD305LF, BD505LF and the compact PD355LF or PD365LF. The equivalent PD365 and PD375 licensed radios are popular as they are compact and light.

These can be used by shop floor assistants, stockroom and goods delivery area staff and contractors such as cleaners and IT personnel. Facilities management staff and security guards might require a more sophisticated device such as the PD985 or PD485, capable of supporting Man Down tilt alerts, Lone Worker monitoring, GPS-based location services and Bluetooth for connectivity to indoor location beacons.

Managers, floor supervisors and ‘front of house’ security staff might want to use something more discreet and stylish such as the ultra-thin, lightweight Hytera X1p radios. Whatever radio is chosen, if staff spot trouble or a potential suspect device the radio’s instant push-to-talk capability means they can swiftly alert security guards, colleagues and managers over the radio network.

If security guards are issued with body worn cameras (Hytera has four options available) these can be paired with Hytera radios and double up as both a remote speaker microphone and a video camera. Video footage can even be streamed live over Wi-Fi or LTE if paired with Hytera’s Multi-mode Advanced PTC760 radio, which supports both DMR, LTE, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

As explained, mobile phones are not the most reliable communication devices, but if a strong and consistent 4G signal is available throughout the retail centre, Hytera now offers a further option in the shape of its Push-to-Talk over Cellular (PoC) range of devices. PoC is certainly a cost-efficient option smaller retail outlets with only a few staff may wish to consider.

 

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