The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced a key feature of our company culture that we’ve long understood, but which became even more obvious in the face of an unprecedented and highly challenging situation: Wincon Security is driven in every way by an outstanding group of professionals. Our people are dedicated to customer service excellence and it shows in everything they do.

As I noted in our last blog , throughout the COVID-19 crisis our employees have gone above and beyond to not only do their jobs, but to take added steps to ensure the health and safety of both our clients and their colleagues in the field. We’ve witnessed countless examples of our employees going out of their way to help Wincon Security customers create a welcoming environment across their workplaces, retail outlets, manufacturing facilities—wherever they happen to be serving. After all, we believe it’s our job to not only protect people, property and assets, but to do so in a way that reflects positively on our clients’ brands. Whether that’s in a supermarket or a super-tall condominium complex, we take that responsibility to heart.

That’s why we were delighted to receive extremely positive customer service feedback about Karen Willis, one of our fantastic security professionals. Karen exemplifies the very best qualities that our team has to offer: dedication, professionalism, excellence in her work and a selfless commitment to putting a smile on the faces of the people we serve.

In this case, the client is a Markham-based property management company with an extensive portfolio of commercial buildings across the city. Karen leads the security team at one of the client’s flagship office complexes—which has been operating at a drastically reduced capacity since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s worth noting that while the province-wide focus has rightly been on mitigating the public health impact of the coronavirus pandemic, an often overlooked consequence of social distancing and stay-at-home measures is the risk to unoccupied properties. An unstaffed building is a vandal or burglar’s dream target. In other words, unoccupied properties are more vulnerable now than ever.

As our site supervisor, Karen has been responsible for coordinating security coverage for the office facility, while managing our on-site team. She was also tasked with liaising directly with the property management firm’s leadership team, keeping them abreast of potential issues or emerging security vulnerabilities as their workforce maintained operations from a distance, and then after they began returning to the workplace. As the client noted in a letter of appreciation for Karen’s work:

“[Karen] was awesome and caring to our essential workers who came to work to every day. She went above and beyond to ensure the health and safety of our team members and I am personally grateful for this.

Many times clients only informed vendors when they are not satisfied with the service they are receiving.  Rarely do they make mention when things are above and beyond, so I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the excellent service we are receiving.”

Feedback such as this not only makes us extremely proud of team members like Karen, but reminds us of the importance of our work—especially during one of the most difficult periods in recent memory.

We believe that security professionals should not only fulfill their duties, but do so with a high degree of energy and engagement. With anxieties on the rise and people genuinely afraid to enter their workplaces or residences, if their first encounter is with a warm and caring security team member who can brighten their day while ensuring their safety and protection, then we believe we’ve achieved our goal as a security company.

So, on that note, we extend our gratitude to Karen Willis for her outstanding work and dedication to customer service. Now, with COVID-19 cases flaring across the Greater Toronto Area once again, we still have a great deal of work to do. I’m very confident that together—especially with employees such as Karen leading the charge—we can navigate any challenge we face and succeed as we adapt to this fast-changing business environment.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

An emergency can happen anywhere, anytime.

A fire, flood, natural disaster, an incident involving a disgruntled employee threatening violence. Preparing for an emergency is critical to ensuring the safety and security of employees or residents across your properties. But if that’s the case, why are so few commercial property owners prepared to handle just such an event?

In our experience, fewer than 10 percent of commercial property owners or condominium corporations take proactive steps to develop a comprehensive emergency preparedness and disaster response plan (EPDRP). Those that do rarely communicate the plan or conduct drills to ensure that, in the case of an emergency, the action plan is executed properly. To say this is an oversight would be a huge understatement.

It’s critical for organizations to maintain an easily deployed EPDRP to avoid any unnecessary loss of life in the event of an emergency, as well as to mitigate the threat of litigation or penalties for not taking the necessary, reasonable steps to be prepared. Now, you may be wondering—particularly if this is your first time thinking about the topic—how to design an EPDRP. It’s a good question and one that we’re asked whenever we engage a new client.

With that in mind, here are seven steps for designing an emergency action plan that makes sense for your commercial property and assets:

Wincon Security personnel are fully trained to manage on-site emergencies, even when a formal EPDRP hasn’t been drafted.

Assess the risk—This is the critical first step we recommend when developing any EPDRP. Every property is different, and so are the individuals who either work or live there. To fully understand the risk, you’ll first need to understand what could happen in an emergency situation, even unlikely ones. If your building is in a known flood plain or a tornado-prone area, for example, your plan should reflect those potential risks. If yours is a commercial property, assess the risk from the kinds of activities that are conducted on the premises. If you produce chemicals, for example, your risk levels will be far greater than those at a warehouse facility. In addition, do a headcount to determine how many individuals live or work on site. If you’re a condominium corporation responsible for the well-being of thousands of tenants in an ultra-high-rise building (a scenario I discussed in my last post), the complexity of designing an emergency evacuation action plan will be far greater than in a building of fewer than 10 stories.

Ensure full legislative and insurance compliance—Depending on the location of your property, there may be a set of provincially-mandated emergency preparedness rules and regulations that need to be followed in order to ensure full compliance with local legislation and requirements set out by your insurer. Work with your lawyer, HR team and stakeholders such as local fire or police departments to understand your obligations and ensure that your EPDRP not only complies but even exceeds those minimum requirements. The last thing you need in the event of a catastrophic emergency is to face litigation or legislative penalties because you didn’t take the necessary steps to obey relevant laws pertaining to emergency preparedness and evacuation procedures.

Consult with your security firm and appropriate first responders—Again, police, fire, and paramedics are a great resource to contact when developing an EPDRP. Whether preparing plans designed to respond to a potentially horrific incident such as a live-shooter scenario at one of your properties, or taking steps to ensure speedy evacuation in the event of a major fire, first responders are obliged to provide information pertaining to legislative requirements and are (at least in my experience) eager to help mitigate risk for property owners, while minimizing the threat of loss of life in an emergency situation.

Of course, your security firm will be another important resource to help develop an EPDRP. Any reputable firm should even be able to offer a templated plan, then assist in customizing it to suit your specific needs.

emergency action plan security response in toronto
We often work with clients to prepare a custom emergency action plan just for them.

Train all security staff—This is a critical step. In our case, all Wincon Security personnel are fully trained to manage on-site emergencies, even in cases where a formal EPDRP hasn’t been drafted (we typically work with clients to prepare these plans as part of our onboarding process). Your security team members will usually be your very first responders and will likely be the ones making a call to police, fire or paramedics in the event of an emergency—while also meeting first responders and answering questions when they first arrive on site. Security personnel should be fully trained to handle any emergency incident that could reasonably occur on your property. Remember, every building is different, and its occupant population is unique. An EPDRP must be customized to suit all stakeholders’ needs.

Have a plan to stabilize the situation—So, you have an emergency, your security team helps evacuate the premises and now you have several hundred residents or dozens of employees waiting outside the property for first responders to arrive. Now what? Any comprehensive EPDRP should also have a stabilization plan that includes details on where to shelter accident victims until help arrives on the scene, for example, or a relocation spot in the event of a natural disaster that threatens your property. Simply clearing the building isn’t good enough.

Communicate the plan—Many companies go through the motions of creating an EPDRP, only to let it gather literal or proverbial dust on a shelf or in a hard drive. The only effective plan is the one that your security team, management, staff, and other key stakeholders fully understand. Include an EPDRP briefing in your employee onboarding process, then provide a refresher on the plan at least once a year. We even recommend giving everyone from security staff to rank-and-file employees a brief, basic quiz to ensure they understand key points such as how to exit the building from their workstation.

Practice—Remember those annoying fire drills you used to do in school? Well, it turns out they were a pretty useful tool—and they still are. Be prepared to practice emergency procedures such as having employees or residents evacuate your building, and execute steps laid out in your EPDRP. Drills should be conducted at least twice a year—and at random times—to make sure your people know how to respond if, or when, disaster strikes.

Why you need to prepare a return-to-work security plan now

As lockdown measures are slowly eased across Ontario and the rest of Canada, organizations are preparing to return to the new COVID-19 workplace normal. But nothing is simple when it comes to navigating the uncharted waters of social distancing and industry-wide lockdowns–especially when it comes to developing a return-to-work security plan.

While a return to business may still be weeks away for organizations in some parts of the province, no one can afford to be idle. As a business owner/leader, you need to start planning today to ensure that your workplace is as safe and secure as possible once your employees return to the fold—and that you comply with all relevant government health and safety rules and regulations.

“It will happen in phases, it will be very complex and it will look different for every organization.”

Bill Knightly, Cushman and Wakefield’s Chief Operating Officer of Global Occupier Services

Security plays a key role

Of course, safety and security planning is about much more than ensuring the availability of sanitizers and protective equipment, ramped-up hygiene practices, or establishing social distancing rules and protocols. Those are, of course, essential foundational elements. But there are many security-related components that need to be addressed in a comprehensive and strategic return-to-work plan, many of which will take time and resources to implement.

Cybersecurity, access control, monitoring employee movements and activities, and secure collaboration practices, are among many items that need to be integrated into a well-architected security plan. The good news is that your security provider can play an important role in helping develop and execute a fully integrated strategy—one that addresses the new (and in some cases, rapidly evolving) demands around health and safety compliance, risk mitigation and technology.

A return-to-work security plan should cover everything from basic policies around distancing rules and staffing requirements (some organizations may resort to staggered hours, for example, or a combined office/work-from-home model to minimize personal contact), to more complex technological initiatives around health monitoring and building access and control.

Cybersecurity training
Analyze cybersecurity vulnerabilities and requirements in your action plan.

Conduct a security infrastructure audit

An integral part of the initial planning stages is a thorough review of infrastructure equipment. Planners need to examine what needs to be improved or updated. Are repairs required due to the protracted pandemic shutdown? This is an especially important checklist item for facilities that have been fully closed for a long period of time.

Organizations will also have to familiarize themselves and their employees with the plethora of new safety protocols that are being introduced, including those established by public health authorities and/or the building managers, or your company itself. With that, extensive retraining for both security personnel and other staff will be needed before doors re-open for business. This will need to be refreshed as new guidelines evolve in the months to come.

Bear in mind that security personnel, in particular, may be required to perform additional services, from temperature checks and entrance/exit screening, to more frequent patrolling and social distancing enforcement.

Analyze cybersecurity vulnerabilities and requirements

With the rapid transition to a work-from-home business model, organizations should also be making time to review their cybersecurity protocols. During the recent, rapid escalation in remote workers accessing cloud-based services from multiple devices, organizations had little time to assess their network security in an in-depth way. Now that you have a bit of breathing space, it’s time to develop or enhance your current digital security strategy as part of your return-to-work plan. This should include a rapid redeployment backup plan in the event of a future shutdown.

A safe and secure workplace will likely involve new technology investments. As you plan, consider the role security solutions can play in reducing touching of surfaces; tracking and tracing movements to quickly isolate and address potential outbreak situations; or responding to social distancing infractions (e.g., alerts when employees enter a restricted area).

There are a number of technology enablers that can be integrated into existing security systems to meet the demands of a post-lockdown work environment and ensure that only authorized employees or visitors can enter your premises. Examples of tools being implemented right now across some organizations include swipe pads on doors, touchless registration, “smart” barriers at entrances and exits, biometric scanners, remote locking systems and pressure sensors, and mobile two-factor authentication.

Additional video surveillance systems, along with thermal scanners and face recognition software can help identify suspected infections while tracking the contact and movements of anyone within range of a potentially infected person.

All of this needs to be supported by HR policies that clearly outline restricted areas, who has access, and policies around travel and sick leave—among others. Work with your HR team and potentially even a qualified labour and employment lawyer, to draft effective policies customized to the needs of your workplace and employee culture.

Return to work
The key to action planning is planning early and often as the situation evolves.

Getting your workplace ready to reopen

Global real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield has developed a document entitled Recovery Readiness: a How-To Guide For Reopening Your Workplace. It’s a handy starting point that outlines six guiding principles on how businesses can ensure a safe and efficient transition to workplace readiness.

Here is a distilled version of the principles:

  • Prepare the Building—Implement cleaning plans, pre-return inspections, and HVAC and mechanicals checks
  • Prepare the Workforce—Create policies for deciding who returns, shift/schedule management and employee communications
  • Control Access—Enforce protocols for safety and health checks, building reception, shipping/receiving, elevators and visitor policies
  • Create a Social Distancing Plan—Follow guidelines for decreasing density, schedule management and office traffic patterns
  • Reduce Touch Points and Increase Cleaning—Implement open doors, clean-desk policy, food plans and regular cleaning of common areas
  • Communicate for Confidence—Recognize the fear employees may feel in returning to the workplace and work with them to alleviate their anxiety

Plan early and be flexible

There’s no question there will be a great deal of uncertainty as organizations plan their return-to-work strategies.

“It will happen in phases, it will be very complex and it will look different for every organization,” Bill Knightly, Cushman and Wakefield’s Chief Operating Officer of Global Occupier Services, noted in a recent webinar. “We know progress is unlikely to be linear … We know the rules of the game are likely to change as we’ve seen inconsistent messaging from health authorities and governments around the world.”

That being said, a safety and security planning professional can help alleviate the uncertainty and tailor a fully integrated security plan to meet the specific needs of an organization and its workforce. The key is planning early and often as the situation evolves.

DOES YOUR TORONTO BUSINESS NEED EMERGENCY PLANNING?


FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM TO LEARN ABOUT OUR SERVICE OPTIONS

Winston Stewart, founder
Wincon Security 

Odds are that when most of us look for space in a commercial office tower or a unit in a condominium, little thought goes to the functionality of the building’s elevators. In fact, there’s a good chance that we don’t even think about these fast-moving pieces of infrastructure unless we have a specific, pre-existing interest in lift operations.

It may be time to start paying attention.

As more high-rise buildings are constructed across the Greater Toronto Area—some soaring to dizzying heights of 80 stories or more—as well as in major urban centres across the country, operational challenges are becoming a more pressing concern for owners and managers of commercial and residential properties. Specifically, a flurry of recent media headlines has focused on residents left stranded when an apartment or condominium building’s entire elevator bank goes out of operation at once. Others have pointed to elevator issues in office towers where, in some cases, tenants have been unable to access their offices despite the significant bottom-line business consequences.

Few infrastructure-related issues generate more angst, arguments and animosity than elevator functionality.

A condo challenge for mobility-impaired tenants

Other, more damaging, headlines highlight the plight of vulnerable groups of residents such as the disabled and seniors, who wind up stranded in their apartments when lifts are taken out of operation. Not only is this a massive inconvenience, it puts lives at risk when individuals with mobility or cognitive issues are unable to exit buildings in the event of a major emergency such as a fire. In other cases, such as a medical emergency, accessing those same individuals can cost precious minutes and quickly become a matter of life and death. For property owners and managers, this kind of news is not only bad for a property’s brand—negatively impacting tenant attraction and retention, and potentially even rental prices—but also represents a major liability threat.

The obvious solution is to work with a reputable elevator supplier and install only the best possible equipment, then be sure to maintain it on a regular schedule; maintenance must also be coordinated to ensure that all of a building’s elevators aren’t out of service at the same time. But far less obvious is the need to look at elevator operation as a security issue, thereby underscoring its importance.

Wincon security guard pressing buttons in Toronto elevator
Commercial and condo elevator security should not be overlooked.

As we see in so many residential and commercial engagements, few infrastructure-related issues generate more angst, arguments, and animosity than those related to elevator functionality. We’ve literally seen fistfights break out over access to lifts when one or more are down, particularly when an elevator is put on service for moving purposes. These problems tend to be exacerbated in older buildings that have only two elevators—newer builds tend to have at least three elevators, two for passengers and one for both passenger and service use.

Looking at elevator performance through a security lens

Our recommendation is to work with your security team—whether outsourced or in-house—to develop a strategy to proactively manage elevator challenges before they arise. For example, if you know that an elevator is due for maintenance, work with your elevator service provider to schedule that servicing well before it turns into a crisis need. Collaborate with both building maintenance and security to determine times that are best suited to conducting maintenance, such as when traffic levels aren’t at their peak and when tenants aren’t attempting to move items into or out of the building. Then be prepared to revise that plan to address ongoing changes to everything from the building’s tenant composition to operational circumstances.

With more lifts than ever being installed in Toronto, don’t treat this as an afterthought.

Next, train your guards to understand those procedures and how to implement them at a moment’s notice. That should include arming them with effective communications tools—everything from lobby signage and tenant email addresses, to talking points—designed to keep key stakeholders informed and up-to-date on the status of elevator issues and, most importantly, a timeline explaining when they’ll likely be resolved. One of the most important aspects of that training is enhancing guards’ focus on customer service. Security staff will need to understand how to defuse tenant tensions by showing empathy, while also clearly explaining the plan to address the issue at hand.

Security training is essential

Last, but definitely not least, guards should be trained in the basic operation of necessary control panels and have direct access to your elevator maintenance service provider. All too often, repairs are delayed because managers or guards simply don’t know who to call. That’s an inexcusable oversight that’s easily remedied by preparing an emergency contact list (stored digitally and in hard copy format at a concierge desk or security office) with email addresses and phone numbers for mission-critical service providers.

At a time when sustainable urban planning guidelines are calling for our cities to be built up rather than out, and with more lifts being installed now than at any time in Toronto’s history, treating this key piece of infrastructure as an afterthought is no longer an option. For commercial and residential property owners and managers, the smooth elevator operation stakes are just too high to ignore.

CONSULT WITH US ABOUT YOUR ELEVATOR & SECURITY NEEDS

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Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Retail theft is not only pervasive but can be extremely difficult to control. Just ask the LCBO, Ontario’s liquor retailer, which is in the midst of a crime spree-related crisis plaguing key outlets across the Greater Toronto Area—a problem that could, at least in part, be of its own making.

When the Toronto Star first reported on the phenomenon of brazen daylight thefts at LCBO locations, many of us in the retail security industry shrugged. The incidents were no surprise given the lack of in-store security at most of the organization’s stores. According to statistics unearthed by the Star, LCBO outlets have been targeted more than 9,000 times since 2014. That’s a staggeringly high number, but the data are even more harrowing, according to the Star’s reporting:

… the most recent data in the Star’s possession shows LCBOs accounted for nearly half of shoplifting incidents, with liquor heists happening more than three times as often as they did in 2014.

“In 2014, police data shows, LCBO outlets accounted for just over a tenth of the shoplifting incidents at the top 100 most frequently targeted addresses of shoplifting incidents in Toronto. By 2017, it was a third. And halfway through 2018, the most recent data in the Star’s possession shows LCBOs accounted for nearly half of shoplifting incidents, with liquor heists happening more than three times as often as they did in 2014.”

The problem has become so bad that school principals have reportedly complained to police that, in some cases, their minor students are shoplifting liquor ‘with impunity.’ What’s to blame for this dramatic increase in theft?

First, the LCBO has a strict no-intervention policy in place regarding in-store pilfering. Staff members are forbidden from intervening when a robbery occurs. This has resulted in bizarre (and in the case of some stores, almost daily) examples of LCBO workers literally being forced to stand by and watch as thieves walk into their stores with duffel bags or backpacks, which they promptly fill with merchandise, before making an exit. Some are so bold as to take their time and leave the targeted store at their leisure.

Aside from the cost to the provincial treasury of losing millions of dollars in merchandise each year to preventable theft, the costs are much greater. LCBO employees report regularly being threatened by thieves—in some cases with needles or knives—and being forced to deal with smashed bottles left in the wake of these brazen robberies. Demoralized and frightened, these staffers have taken to whistleblowing through the media to make their voices heard. How long, they wonder, before a customer or employee gets seriously hurt?

The bigger challenge is a certain apathy at the C-suite level across the LCBO, not to mention on the part of the Toronto Police Service, whose experimentation with no-response retail theft policies sends a clear message to criminals: LCBO stores are open for illicit business. With some products such as rare scotches priced at several hundred (or thousands) dollars, liquor stores are prime, easy targets. LCBO leadership has only recently announced its intention to add a stronger retail security presence at some GTA stores. Hopefully, the move has the desired operational impact.

LCBO shoplifting spree - alcohol on store shelves
Staff are forbidden from intervening when a robbery occurs, increasing the need for retail security.

To be clear, ‘No touch/No chase’ policies are not exclusive to the LCBO. They have been embraced by risk- and liability-weary organizations for years, and for good reason. Staff are not trained police or retail security professionals. They risk personal injury—or worse—in making ill-advised, if admirable, attempts to stop a theft in progress. These policies, in other words, exist for a reason.

But it’s incumbent upon upper management at retail organizations such as the LCBO to take action and ensure their stores are protected at all times. That often means taking a holistic, integrated approach, introducing everything from the latest in high-definition digital cameras with facial-recognition software to spot known malfeasants before they can pilfer goods, to having a security presence on-site at all times in higher-risk areas—and those aren’t limited to economically-disadvantaged communities. The LCBO data shows that shoplifting is rampant even in more prosperous neighbourhoods.

Having experienced, professional guards on-site sends a message to would-be shoplifters that their activities won’t be tolerated. And yes, deterrence does work. Will it necessarily stop attempted robberies altogether? Obviously not, but criminals will think twice before trying to lift a rare bottle of Glenlivet. More so if they know that police will arrive on scene if theft is in progress or has just occurred.

Ignoring brick-and-mortar Toronto retail security needs are common in the digital era when an increasing percentage of retailers’ budgets are being directed to preventing fast-growing challenges such as cyber theft and fraud. But as long as business is being conducted in the offline world, organizations need to be prepared to protect their property and their people.

Addressing liquor store shoplifting requires the right mix of retail security tactics

Being a retail employee shouldn’t come with constant fears over one’s personal safety and security. But that’s the reality for provincial liquor store employees in parts of Manitoba, in particular those employed at outlets in higher-risk neighbourhoods of Winnipeg.

In recent months the provincially-run liquor stores have seen a rash of brazen robberies in broad daylight. Now, the incidents have escalated with three employees facing unprovoked assaults in recent weeks, and one receiving acute medical attention in hospital as a result. Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has closed one store in response and has taken various other measures in an effort to deter theft.

The incidents mirror those of the past two years across a handful of LCBO outlets in Toronto. In both cases, liquor boards have instructed employees not to take action to prevent shoplifting. That’s created bizarre scenes where employees and customers are literally left to stand and watch as duffel bag-toting thieves walk into a store, take their fill, and leave without resistance. The union representing liquor store employees in Ontario has criticized the LCBO’s retail security strategy and staff training, as well as the retailer’s claim that shoplifting costs the organization less than $6 million a year in pilfered items—a figure the union says is grossly underestimated.

“This situation is out of control, not just in our liquor marts, but also in private retail stores.”

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Gov. & General Employees Union

To be clear, the workplace policy preventing store employees from intervening is the right one. There have been far too many examples—as in the Winnipeg case—of employees being threatened, injured, or having unknown liquids thrown in their direction. Taking a chance with people’s lives or safety simply to reduce the odds of having a few bottles of vodka shoplifted isn’t worth the risk.

In response, business leaders have called for action to address the issue.

“This situation is out of control, not just in our liquor marts, but also in private retail stores,” Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees union, said in a written statement, as reported in the National Post

“We need an urgent summit of law enforcement, addictions and social services, public and private retailers, unions, and the provincial government.”

Various other crime-prevention methods have been floated, including requiring customers to fill out forms requesting products that would then be retrieved from a storeroom, a la the Consumers Distributing stores of our youth. That idea was quickly rejected, likely by executives who understand that experiential retail security in Toronto is the future, not one that mirrors a Soviet-era supermarket shopping experience circa the Cold War. The cost of completely reconfiguring store designs to allow for controlled distribution would also be cost-prohibitive.

So, why the uptick in liquor store crime? While poverty and addiction in certain regions is undoubtedly a major contributing factor, basic ease of execution is what attracts petty criminals such as the ones who boldly fill bags with easily traded merchandise, which in many cases is flipped to fund various personal addictions. Surveillance cameras are always a useful crime-prevention tool, but in this case—and, again, with the level of crime in question—they tend to have little impact because they only catch thieves after the fact. Many of the individuals in question have nothing to lose and little fear of going to jail.

Wine bottles at LCBO retail security toronto
Retail security isn’t a one-time endeavour.

The best approach is to have a strong, in-store security guard presence—and, in particularly risk-prone neighbourhoods, potentially even off-duty police officers—to send a clear message to thieves that they will be apprehended. These guards need to be properly trained in citizens’ arrest tactics to catch and hold thieves until police can make it to the scene.

Some Manitoba stores have also implemented bottle locks, which can work. The problem is that individuals who want to crack these theft-prevention devices will always find a way. Still, that extra step may cause them to think twice and try stealing something else instead. Or it could merely create a time-consuming inconvenience. Either way, the locks are not 100 percent effective.

Preventing robbers from entering stores in the first place is one of the most effective strategies. While requesting identification at store entrances can create a negative experience for law-abiding customers, it does send a clear message to would-be thieves that their behaviour will not be tolerated. Managing the optics and other logistical challenges such as long line-ups during the peak holiday season or during long weekends, however, can be daunting. It’s by no means the perfect solution.

Another option is to keep high-value liquor under lock and key, requiring staff assistance for a purchase to be made. While this helps protect luxury brands, it does little to deter the smash-and-grab of low- to mid-range bottles.

Overall, the key to preventing liquor store retail theft is to customize and combine tactics, while maintaining a careful balance between employee safety, customer experience, and store performance, and profitability. That means tapping the latest technology and using tried-and-true retail security methods such as a live guard presence, as well as entrance controls when appropriate, to deter criminals before they can act. It also takes perseverance, sustained investment, and an acknowledgment that security isn’t a one-time endeavour. Thieves are clever and need to understand that an organization is serious about security before they’ll move on to another target.

Otherwise, situations such as the one in Manitoba will continue, putting employee safety at risk.

DOES YOUR TORONTO BUSINESS NEED RETAIL SECURITY?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US TO LEARN ABOUT YOUR RETAIL SECURITY OPTIONS.

Winston Stewart, President & CEO Wincon Security

Remember when having your own office was a sign of business success? Sometimes it still is, but nowadays you’re just as likely to find a CEO sitting in the middle of an open-concept environment surrounded by employees, as you would be seeing her hold court in a corner office. Indeed, it’s no surprise that in our sharing economy, sharing space in co-working environments is all the rage.

Specifically, the rise in popularity in recent years of so-called co-working offices has changed the way we think about and use commercial office space. Companies such as WeWork have generated multi-billion-dollar valuations creating mainly open-concept spaces for smaller companies to set up shop.

The benefit is that co-working offices allow companies to occupy smaller footprints—sometimes as little as a single desk—then expand as needed, and often without a long-term lease creating unnecessary overhead. At a time when more workers are telecommuting (working from home or a satellite office) and organizations are seeking efficiencies to bolster their bottom-lines, co-working spaces have become the go-to option for many small and medium-sized businesses.

Many commercial property owners have come to embrace the co-working trend, but there’s one consideration that some of them overlook (but definitely shouldn’t): security.

There is no substitute for a well-trained guard patrolling a space, on the look-out for potential problems.

Security risks abound in co-working spaces

Put simply, the idea of open offices full of workers from a plethora of different companies who come and go as they please sends up proverbial red flags for any security professional—us included. When an office property is occupied by a single tenant, it’s far easier to limit access, track individuals’ movements and install the necessary security equipment to keep the building and its occupants safe.

It’s definitely possible to set up security monitoring and other necessary equipment in and around co-working spaces, but ensuring that security protocols are followed can be a major challenge. Access control is one of the most daunting ongoing problems that owners and managers of these properties encounter. Not because the various tenants necessarily pose a security risk, but because each one could be welcoming visitors into the building each day for meetings; or they could be receiving courier packages, which necessitates opening doors to strangers; or they might even be careless at times, and leave keys (or key fobs) lying around—sometimes even allowing individuals to follow them into the building—thereby creating opportunities for thieves or vandals to gain access and take what they please.

Theft is another major risk. With that many individuals roaming through a building on any given day, property tends to go missing. This can happen in the offices of large corporations that occupy multiple floors of an office building, let alone open-concept spaces with multiple tenants, each essentially responsible for their own security.

Wincon Security guards standing next to mobile patrol vehicle outside building
The presence of a guard and mobile patrol can deter a lot of small crime.

How to protect a co-working space

As an integrated solution provider, we’re all about promoting the use of the latest and greatest technology to secure commercial properties. Co-working spaces are no different.

Landlords should invest in important security infrastructure starting with digital lock systems that use key fobs or cards assigned to individuals, along with software that tracks and stores important data such as building entry and exit times. Many property owners are now tapping mobile phone-based fob systems. Any of these tools can work, so long as their use is mandatory, and the systems are installed on absolutely every entry point into the building.

Another important consideration is digital cameras and adequate lighting. The former helps to not only document who is entering and exiting the building, but also what they’re doing within its confines. Remember, with multiple professionals or companies sharing a space, there is no mutual code of conduct or HR policy for them to follow. They essentially dictate their own behaviour while in the office, and while it’s almost always perfectly acceptable, we’ve seen incidents where individuals don’t act according to accepted norms, in rare cases even pilfering property as they please.

As outlined in a past Wincon blog, adequate lighting inside and outside any commercial space is another important way to ensure safety and mitigate risk. It’s vitally important around a property with potentially dozens of tenants entering and exiting at all hours—especially if your property is accessible 24 hours a day, which is the case with many co-working facilities.

One more proactive tool for helping to protect a co-working space is to build safeguards into lease agreements. Setting out a code of conduct and the landlord’s right to evict anyone who breaches conduct standards or security protocols won’t completely mitigate risk, but it will certainly help. So, too, will educating tenants by sending out reminders that security is a shared responsibility. Locking doors at the end of the night, locking away valuables in provided storage lockers or closets (assuming you have them, and you probably should) or taking them home at the end of the day, and being sure to protect key fobs or entry pad passwords—are all simple measures that can dramatically reduce security risks.

Last point: one of the most effective tools at your disposal is to hire a reputable security firm to patrol or at the very least provide monitoring services for your property. As outlined in previous blogs, the word ‘reputable’ is key here. There simply is no substitute for a well-trained guard patrolling a space and staying on the lookout for potential problems.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

Residential and commercial property developers are some of Canada’s most visionary entrepreneurs, taking incredible financial risks to build our cities and towns, filling them with homes to raise our families, and constructing the buildings needed to grow our businesses. But they don’t always think security first.

When constructing a new residential or commercial development, for example, their focus tends to be on getting their buildings or homes built. Makes perfect sense. But when their crews go home at night, many of these properties are left under-protected.  There are many instances when we’ve been called in to patrol a development after the property has been subject to some form of crime, be it theft or vandalism. It’s only then that we realize that the developer entrusted the protection of their multi-million-dollar investment to a single construction security guard.

Skipping the construction security plan is common

That’s right. There are times when a lone guard is tasked with protecting an entire complex or building, despite the fact that it may cover a sprawling swath of land, and in most cases isn’t yet equipped with the necessary security technology to facilitate easier monitoring. To call this a major security oversight would be an understatement.

Don’t increase your legal liability and risk by skipping your construction security plan.

That said, it’s not always practical to hire an entire security team to monitor development under construction. Margins are tight in the construction phase and developers are inherently budget-conscious in their dealings. As a business owner, I understand their frugal philosophy. But it’s important to note that hiring a few guards is far cheaper than the cost of managing property damage, theft, or vandalism. That’s why it’s important for development firms to be sure to take security into account when formulating their construction security plan budgets. Doing so will help ensure that a vital consideration—security—is covered off while avoiding surprise expenses that can negatively impact a project’s success.

Another important point to consider is site access. You may have enough guards on-site, but are entry and exit points controlled? Even the most diligent guards will be forced to turn their backs and patrol different areas throughout their shift—they can’t be everywhere at once. If your development has open access points, you only invite added risk. Now, it’s often not feasible to fence in large housing projects. But by installing effective LED lighting, budgeting for ample security coverage and even installing high-definition cameras as a matter of practice from the start of a project, you can help secure peace of mind and deter would-be criminals.

Commercial property security starts with site access control

Of course, security for new developments isn’t only a nighttime consideration. Any reputable security firm should be able to work with your organization to develop a 360-degree security strategy that assesses all potential threats and vulnerabilities and takes steps to mitigate risk at all points of the day or night. During working hours, for example, it’s wise to document any trade, administrative employee, or development firm representative who enters or exits the property, including the time they arrived and departed, their contact details, and the reason for the visit. Understanding exactly who’s stepping foot on the property will not only provide greater access control but will also ensure accountability—by helping to determine who was on-site and when—if an incident occurs.

New condo development security - protect your construction site
Develop a 360-degree security plan to mitigate your construction risk.

The risks of allowing unauthorized visitors aren’t restricted to potential property theft or damage, of course. Poor property access control also invites dramatically increased insurance liability. If an unauthorized visitor is injured while on your property and your organization is deemed to have been negligent in securing the site, you could be on the hook for a substantial payout to people who shouldn’t have been there in the first place—not to mention hefty legal fees. While incidents such as these are thankfully relatively uncommon, when they do occur, they can be financially crippling for a cost-averse developer.

Round-the-clock condominium security is crucial

That’s particularly true in the case of high-rise condominiums or office towers. There have been incidents of individuals taking cranes for a joy ride, for example. Spoiler alert: bad things happen when cranes are used in inappropriate ways by untrained operators. And let’s not forget about the Internet-driven phenomenon whereby people climb to the top of extremely tall structures and film themselves doing flips or hanging off girders for the benefit of their online followers. Again, there have been examples of people falling to their deaths when trying such stunts.

You simply don’t need to attract increased legal liability and risk by failing to secure a construction site. That’s why it’s so important to hire an experienced security firm with the resources to provide a construction security plan, round-the-clock coverage for your development, whatever its size or scope.

Real estate markets might fluctuate and economies can be volatile, but by controlling security risk, you can at least keep the lid on otherwise manageable costs and focus on what you do best—building exciting new residential and commercial communities.

Construction Security Plans for Commercial Interiors

When most organizations, developers, or property owners set out to construct a commercial office, manufacturing facility, or retail building, they think of the interior space first. Several questions inevitably come to mind: How will my products be featured? What’s the best way to position staff inside my office to maximize productivity? What’s the most efficient use of space to ensure peak production efficiency?

In some rare cases—as in industries where the consideration is mandated through legislation, or to mitigate legal or insurance risk—construction security plans makes that roster of important considerations. The unfortunate reality is that it usually falls to the bottom of that priority list if it makes the cut at all. That’s a major oversight that can wind up contributing to unnecessary risk of theft, vandalism, damage—including from weather conditions and, in worst-case scenarios, natural disasters—and a host of other issues that can negatively impact an organization’s bottom line. The good news: none of this needs to happen.

Instead, organizations can build construction security plans into their commercial property designs from the earliest stages. That requires both the wherewithal to insist that architects and designers take security into consideration, as well as to continue placing a priority on security once the building is ready for occupancy. How?

By controlling security risk you can control costs and focus on construction.

We’ve identified several key considerations to help mitigate future security risks when designing your very own purpose-built commercial facility:

Technology—Newly built properties should incorporate the latest tech such as high-definition cameras, enhanced biometrics, card access systems, cutting-edge security software, and other advanced technologies. Working it into the design process early on can help eliminate future costs for installation, wiring, and other security-related retrofits down the road.

Windows and doors—Sounds obvious, right? You would think so, but there are many instances where organizations cut back on expenditures for key features such as tamper-proof windows and doors because their construction costs run over budget at the midway point of the project. Opting for cheaper, but less secure doors or windows make sense at the time. Less so after a break-in that puts sensitive electronics, important information, or individuals’ lives at risk. Be sure to invest in heavy, fire-resistant steel doors and shatter-resistant windows and alarm all of them to keep your property safe.

Building access—Whenever possible, it makes sense to filter all of a commercial property’s visitors through a single access point, typically a lobby with card access systems, high-definition cameras, and a security presence. Pay a visit to most downtown office towers and you can see this system at work. At other properties such as manufacturing facilities, there might be multiple access points such as loading docks. Make sure that your building designs include the installation of card access systems and cameras to guard those entryways, as well.

A construction security plan will assess all your access points for risk.

The outside—Again, it’s easy to focus on the interior of a building in the design phase. But property owners should also think about important elements such as perimeter fencing, those aforementioned outdoor cameras to monitor key areas such as doorways and loading docks, as well as lighting for doorways, pathways, and parking lots. Entryways should be designed to be visible from a distance, not tucked behind walls that make it easy for would-be intruders to hide, or surreptitiously follow individuals onto the premises. Landscaping should be attractive but neatly trimmed to avoid foliage growing over cameras or obstructing sightlines (this happens more than you might think). Having a few trees around a property is acceptable, but opt for shorter shrubs or flowerbeds that deliver curb appeal, yet eliminate the opportunity for individuals to hide in plain sight. In addition, consider drainage when building any property. As recent incidents of flooding around the Greater Toronto Area remind us, torrential downpours can cause structural damage, impede operations and even put lives at risk. Ensure your building isn’t situated in a flood-prone area and be sure the site includes ample drainage to help eliminate water-related risk.

Consult with experts—This list of considerations is by no means exhaustive. There are probably 100 security-related points (or more) to consider when putting together designs for your new commercial building. That’s why it makes sense to consult with a security firm—with expertise in proactive security planning and design—from the start of the process.

It’s just another important way to help eliminate security-related headaches (and preventable costs) in the future.

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Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security