Black Friday calls for increased vigilance in parking lots

Retail security experts discuss best practices, lessons learned

Security officers can also provide that key physical presence that can help safeguard parking areas.

"As far as parking lots go, visibility is the key. Using overhead flashers, revolving lights... and in some of the major shopping centers they're turning to portable guard towers," Bradley said. "The more visibility and the more perception that there is security in those lots, the shopping public feels safer."

Murphy said that retailers should also consider having their guards utilize Segways or similar modes of transportation rather than vehicles.

"They sit up above the roofline of the cars so you can see more of what's going on and I really like that," he said. "They are very fast, they're very agile, you can get around a parking very easily, instead of a vehicle that's a subcompact car with a flashing light on top where at best (the guard) may only be able to see in front of them."

Murphy added that it's also important for retailers or property management companies to clearly explain the job responsibilities of guards and what is expected of them.

"We don't want you sitting in your car on the perimeter of a parking lot for an eight-hour day, we want you mobile and visible," he said. "The responsibility falls to the person hiring them that they're duties are very clear."

Working with law enforcement

Baillie said that retailers need to share their crowd control plans with law enforcement officials who can also provide advice on how the situation could be better handled.

"They can evaluate your plan and maybe suggest a way to do it better or additional security measures," he said. "The biggest thing is just being in communication with police to make sure that they know that you have a security plan and how you intend to execute it."

Murphy agreed.

"I think this is critical and every effort should be made to meet with local officers to discuss plans during these types of events, Murphy said. " At best it is controlled chaos and there are simply not enough staff to manage the high volume of people who have their eye on that limited quantity Xbox."

It's also important, according to Floreno, to establish relationships with local law enforcement officials well in advance of holding any kind of special event.

"I think it goes back, not just to Black Friday, but an operational process within the security department in how they do business," he said. "A long time ago when I first got in the industry, one of my managers told me the key to success was you don't make a friend the day you need them. When it comes to an event like Black Friday where you need a little more help or maybe you need some increased patrols around your store or parking lot, reaching out to those people you have a good relationship with is real important. But the fact is that it is somebody you have a relationship with makes it easier for you to get the support you need."

Law enforcement can also help stores with potential traffic concerns that may arise with a special door buster sale, according to LaRocca.

"Parking lots can get very full and you need to have some place to divert traffic and have some way to manage the large number of vehicles coming into the parking lot," he said.

Open air lots vs. parking decks

The type of parking lot a retail organization has to secure can also present different challenges.

While lighting and surveillance cameras would obviously be recommended for both applications, how they're utilized can be different. The presence of stairwells and elevators in parking decks can also pose their own unique risks.

"Enclosed parking venues really pose more a problem," Baillie said. "It really requires a different frame of mind than an open air parking area. It actually requires more people and parking garages should really be using cameras with somebody observing them and able to report when they have seen an incident developing."

Murphy said that security managers may want to consider the use of emergency communication kiosks in parking garages.