A full shopping mall

Situational awareness and responsiveness are critical to safety in public spaces

Because home is the place people are at greatest risk to fire, much of our collective efforts and focus understandably focus on fire prevention and safety at home. However, the deadly crowd surge that occurred at the Astroworld festival in Houston, TX last month was a grave reminder of potential safety risks in public spaces – and the importance of better educating people about how they can protect themselves when they’re out and about.

Situational awareness is a critical element of personal safety no matter where you go. Whether you’re shopping at the mall, dining at a restaurant, attending a concert, or going to the movies, making sure the building features the proper safety provisions and measures, along with knowing how to get out of it quickly and safely in the event of an emergency, can make a life-saving difference.

In addition, sounding alarms must be taken seriously and responded to immediately. Unfortunately, when alarms sound in public spaces, people often assume that it’s a false alarm, in part because they may not initially see visible signs of dangers. In reality, by the time smoke, fire or other threats are more clear, particularly in larger buildings like a mall or hotel, it may well be too late to escape safely.

Similarly, tragic fire incidents have repeatedly shown that people over-estimate their safety in public spaces and are slow to respond. In the instance of the Station nightclub fire, people first assumed the fire was part of the show; it took a few minutes for many to realize the gravity of the situation, which contributed to the fire’s staggering death toll.

While the pandemic continues to impact all of us, a lot of people will be out and about shopping and attending holiday events and activities in public spaces.Our Safety in Places of Public Assembly offers a wealth of tips and recommendations to help people stay safe as they venture out into the world this holiday season and beyond – make sure to share this resource with your communities!

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Susan McKelvey
Communications Manager

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