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Friday, Aug 19, 2022
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PUBLIC—Large Companies, Retailers Prepared for Emergencies

When you’ve been through earthquakes, riots, fires and a Y2K scare, how much more can you prepare? The monstrous attack on the World Trade Center struck fear in the hearts of everyone, and those who manage public spaces malls and stores or large corporations charged with the workday welfare of thousands are no exception. But most say the procedures in place for other disasters will hold them in good stead no matter what the threat. They are not planning any additional security measures, though some are revisiting their procedures to make sure they are up to date. “Certainly, we’re taking a close look at making sure our security is adequate to protect our people and maintain a safe place for them to work,” said John K. Mitchell, a spokesman for Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power. “This means implementing very carefully procedures that are already in place.” Indeed, what many officials learned following the World Trade Center disaster was that the security measures already in place served them well. Panorama Mall, one of several local shopping centers that did not open for business on the day of the attack, was able to use its telephone contact records to advise all the mall’s tenants of its decision to close on very short notice, said Louise Marquez, general manager of the mall. “I really believe that we have emergency procedures that are well thought out,” said Marquez, general manager for the Macerich Co. property. “We’ve established some real secure procedures relative to any emergency anytime, and they don’t necessarily have to be revisited.” The decision to close the Panorama Mall, along with all the Macerich centers, was made not because of security reasons, but as a gesture of respect to the tragedy that had taken place, said Marquez. Westfield’s Shoppingtown at Topanga and neighboring Promenade at Woodland Hills also closed. Officials declined to comment, but a security guard stationed at the Topanga mall said he had been placed on a 12-hour shift because of the events in New York. At The Commons at Calabasas, one of three Caruso Affiliated Holdings centers in the San Fernando and Conejo valleys, local law enforcement maintained a strong presence following the attack in New York, the result of a longstanding relationship the mall has cultivated, said Shirlee Kingsley, vice president and general manager for the Commons as well as The Promenade at Westlake Village and The Encino Marketplace. Health Net Inc., which oversees its operating divisions from its Woodland Hills headquarters, also found its disaster contingency plans effective, said Lisa Haines, a spokeswoman for the company. Health Net was able to quickly run a check to make sure none of its employees were on any of the hijacked planes and account for New York employees who worked well north of the site of the disaster but were evacuated nonetheless. Still, Haines said, the attack on the trade center encouraged her to revisit her communications programs, and she did identify areas that needed updating. “One thing I needed to update is who is the current Web developer,” said Haines. “Who do I need to call to get stuff on the Web site?” Health Net maintains an 800 number for employees who need emergency assistance. But Haines said she wants to be certain that, with far-flung offices, employees could also access emergency information on the company’s Web site. While management of large offices or public spaces is made more daunting in the aftermath of the attack in New York, officials said they felt fairly removed from terrorist threats because of their location in the San Fernando Valley. “I believe most mall companies recognize that we are very large, public gathering places and, because of that, there’s a vulnerability just because of what we are,’ said Marquez. “But when it comes to national terrorism, I don’t see myself as a target. If they want to make a statement, they’re going to hit a building that’s highly recognized as a place of authority.”

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