Mock drills at malls expose chinks in police preparedness

Cops stage exercises to see if they can handle crisis like Sydney siege

A series of mock drills organised by Delhi Police in malls, temples and markets on Monday and Tuesday have exposed several shortcomings in reactions of police and public when it comes to dealing with crisis like the ones witnessed in Sydney and Peshawar, said officers overseeing the operations.

Police in different districts of Delhi have been organising mock drills to prepare the force to deal with any such emergencies in the city. 

Malls were primarily selected for the purpose on Monday. On Tuesday, popular buildings like India Habitat Centre and crowded street-side markets like the one in Surajmal Vihar were also included.The drills involved rescuing hostages or handling a bomb blast situation or both. 

“A striking reserve team armed with bullet-proof jackets and sophisticated weapons that can react in five minutes have been formed at most police stations and at the district level,” a senior police officer told Deccan Herald.

But some policemen forgetting to put on their bullet-proof vests before entering a building to rescue mock hostages was the most common mistake encountered by officers overseeing the drills. 

“Those who made the mistake were asked to repeat the drill till they got it right. They were probably relaxed because they knew it was a mock drill, but they have been ordered to take the activity very seriously,” another officer said on condition of anonymity.

Another mistake by policemen involved in storming into the target shop in malls without caring about possible danger at the very entrance. 

Police were also found storming the malls without knowing their layouts. “We have asked the mall owners across our district to send us the building maps,” said the officer.
But what has left officers worried is the response of the public, staff and private authorities at these public places.

“Even the security guards and store owners in one of the malls did not know the building layout, the alternative and emergency exists. The public at the malls did not know that they have to lie low when shooting takes place,” the officer said.

“The store owners need to be trained in the basic safety measures and emergency routes as they would be in immediate contact with the public if there is an emergency,” said the officer. 

Plans to summon the mall owners and their security heads to brief them on the basics of safety measures are afoot. “The security heads of the mall can pass on the training to store owners and other staff,” the officer explained.
Police said in the malls they were primarily focusing on eateries as those are places where large number of people gather. 

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