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Walmart wrestles with how to respond to active shooters

Walmart wrestles with how to respond to active shooters

August 7th, 2019 in Business

FILE - In this July 30, 2019, file photo Walmart employees gather in a nearby parking lot after a shooting at the store in Southaven, Miss. The discounter has dealt with thousands of violent crimes at its stores across the country, including one that took place less than a week ago at a store in Mississippi where a disgruntled worker killed two co -workers and wounded a police officer. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Like most retailers, Walmart is accustomed to the everyday dealings of shoplifters. Now, it’s confronting a bigger threat: active shooters.

Three days after a man opened fire at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, and left at least 22 dead, the nation’s largest retailer is faced with how to make its workers and customers feel safe.

The discounter has long dealt with violent crimes at its stores across the country, including one that took place less than a week ago in Mississippi where a disgruntled employee killed two co-workers and wounded a police officer. In early November 2017, three customers were killed at a Walmart in Colorado in a random shooting by a lone gunman.

The El Paso store shooting, however, was the deadliest in the company’s history, Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove confirmed. No workers were killed but two are recovering from injuries.

“No retailer is immune to a violent act,” Hargrove said. “That’s why we take training so seriously.”

Robert Moraca, vice president for loss prevention at the National Retail Federation, said he’s fielded lots of calls from retailers around the country over the weekend, many of whom just wanted to go over their security protocols.

“We naturally have a heightened security awareness,” he said. He noted most retailers have active shooting training programs for workers so there’s not “a lot of knee jerk reactions.”

Walmart launched computer-based active shooter training in 2015 for all its employees and then in 2017, it made its workers take it on a quarterly instead of annual basis. Last month, Walmart started incorporating virtual reality technology in its active shooter training.

The training focuses on three pillars: avoid the danger, keep your distance and lastly, defend.

In store locations with high crime, Walmart has off-duty policemen who patrol the parking lots. It also uses a wide variety of technology including towers that have surveillance cameras in its parking lots, Hargrove said.

But most of its efforts are focused on curbing shoplifting, including putting more unarmed greeters at the door. Hargrove noted like with any catastrophic event, Walmart is reviewing its protocols.