A condominium restoration project is challenging at the best of times. Managing the complexity of large-scale capital repairs or upgrades, and accounting for the sheer number of logistical considerations to eventually arrive at a successful outcome, can tax even the most experienced condominium manager.  During the coronavirus pandemic, those already daunting obstacles have become far more difficult to clear—and underscores the important role that a condominium’s security team can play throughout a restoration program.

Damage related to water, fire or mold, or even long-term concrete and other forms of building deterioration, are just some of the many factors that can compel a condo restoration initiative in the first place. Remediating these issues is always expensive. They often arise unexpectedly and create an immediate sense of urgency—noise, dust and dirt, amenity closures and other disruptions including building access limitations can quickly heighten tensions while the project is underway. Careful planning can help mitigate those and many other issues that can compromise residents’ lifestyle experience and enjoyment.

The current complication, of course, is that the constant flow of tradespeople onto and off of a property can create COVID-19 exposure risks that must be minimized in order to protect an entire condominium community. The question is, how? Here are several ways that condominium property managers can utilize their security personnel to make a property restoration as comfortable and efficient as possible for all parties involved:

Take a team approach

The first step is understanding that it takes a team to manage a restoration project during a pandemic. Your general restoration contractor and their various trades and sub-trades will comprise the bulk of that group, but it’s essential to also include your security firm in the process. They’ll be on the frontlines managing, monitoring and ensuring that only authorized individuals can access the property—but also working with residents to address their concerns. In other words, they’re not simply security guards, they’re your frontline community managers. If an unforeseen situation relating to the restoration suddenly emerges—a trade accidently cuts a gas or water line, for example—they’ll likely be the first ones on the scene and to alert first responders and/or the restoration contractor. If a resident complains about noise or has questions about how the job is progressing, they’ll likely be the first ones asked to listen or pass along information on the condominium manager’s behalf.

Remember that this isn’t merely a building, it’s home to scores of people. Providing outstanding customer service is an expectation at any time, but a restoration project is an opportunity to demonstrate that as a condominium manager, you take clients’ happiness to heart. Security staff can be instrumental in driving that message home and reinforcing it through their day-to-day interaction with residents.

Leverage your guards’ diverse skills

Security personnel are the bridge between the parties affected by the restoration (e.g., residents) and those involved in its rollout (e.g., the trades). Your guards should have a full list of all tradespeople involved in the project from start to finish, if only to be able to verify their identity as needed. They should have a full schedule of work slated for various stages of the project. They should also be present when briefings are delivered to the condominium board. While their job is to ensure the safety and security of the property and the people occupying it, it’s also to help foster the right atmosphere and understand how the project is progressing—particularly important in luxury condos where a premium is placed on the resident experience.

As part of that process—and beyond having a general awareness of the project implementation plan—guards will need to conduct regular contact tracing in case an outbreak occurs. Having that information at the ready and being able to deliver it to public health officials and both your management team and the condominium board could mean the difference between containing COVID-19’s spread across a community, or seeing it rage out of control and impacting both resident health and the restoration project’s successful completion.

Give them what they need

It’s essential that security personnel have the necessary tools to do their job as guards and community liaison experts during a condominium restoration. That means providing them with adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure their safety. It’s the best way to keep your security team healthy and on the job. PPE should be kept in a central location and made available to staff at the start of every shift.

It’s also important that they have access to efficient and effective contact tracing software that’s both user-friendly and robust enough to collect and manage the information of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of residents. Having a way to handle the reams of data they’ll be acquiring will help manage or prevent COVID-19 outbreaks if they occur, while managing inflow and outflow of trades people and reducing the risk of potential security breaches.

Think a step ahead

No matter the reason for your restoration project—and even though we’re in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic—take the time to think about your property’s long-term security requirements. If the restoration is particularly extensive, such as in the case of major flood of fire damage, you may find an opportunity to implement new security technology infrastructure (think biometrics or ultra-HD surveillance cameras), or perhaps even designing security-friendly spaces to accept the flood of food deliveries and e-commerce packages currently inundating so many condo lobbies. That volume is only poised to grow in the years ahead as more of us shop and dine online. Work with your security provider to not only manage your community and provide the best resident experience possible throughout the restoration, but to also look ahead and develop a comprehensive strategy that projects your property’s security requirements five to 10 years into the future.

In the end, proactive thinking will save money and position your condominium as an even more desirable place to live.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO, Wincon Security

 

Nearly a year ago, our world changed. Few of us knew much, if anything, about the COVID-19 virus that would soon transform our social interactions, our economy and our lives. But we soon got a crash course in epidemiology and terms such as ‘social distancing’ as the federal and provincial governments acted quickly to lockdown our communities and introduce sweeping health and safety measures. Through it all, Wincon Security guards and supervisors were on the coronavirus pandemic frontlines.

Our employees responded with professionalism, hard work and a dedication to excellence that was beyond exceptional—it was a true embodiment of our focus on providing the very best customer service experience our industry has to offer. To a person, our team exemplified our ‘Built on Service. Driven by Culture’ company mantra. My gratitude goes out to all of our employees for their ongoing support and efforts to continue improving our client experience. But in the midst of a tumultuous year, the work of two of our staff truly stood out.

I’m pleased to introduce our 2020 employees of the year: Supervisor Darrell Chen and security guard Robert Bruce.

You may notice a change from previous years when we acknowledged only one employee. This year we decided that it was important to ensure that a member of our leadership team also got the nod for their outstanding work.

In Darrell’s case, his management of a seven-person security team throughout the pandemic at GE’s Markham facility was nothing short of remarkable. Not that we’d expect anything different. Over his four-year career with Wincon, Darrell’s communication skills, leadership and problem-solving abilities have set the standard for others to follow. COVID may have put Darrell to the test, but he stepped up and responded to every challenge.

Wincon Darrell Chen 1

“Over the past year, we had to find different ways to provide safety and security,” he says. “We had to train additional guards, work with the EHS and occupational safety committees at GE, reinforce masking policies and work to develop methods to efficiently screen employees and delivery people every day. Our team is always great at communication and has a positive attitude, so by being proactive and planning for different workplace situations, we were able to make a tough situation as seamless as possible for our client.”

By keeping up the spirits of his team and showing appreciation for their work, Darrell reminded us all that it’s possible to turn a challenging situation into one for growth and development.

Wincon Robert Bruce 1

Our 2020 Guard of the Year Robert Bruce showed the same willingness to step up and adapt, but in a very different setting over the past year. As a guard at some of Etobicoke’s larger condominium towers, Robert had a front row seat as the move to remote work took centre stage during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. Suddenly, thousands of residents were working—and both caring for and teaching their children—from home. Access to everything from building amenities to the neighbourhood grocery store were instantly restricted.

Even as tensions ran high, Robert met residents with his trademark smile and pleasant demeanour, and was able to make their day a little bit brighter simply by doing his job well. Efficiency was key.

“At a certain point we had to start screening people for COVID-19 when they entered the building, but due to the volume of residents coming in and out—not to mention parcel or food delivery people and visitors—we needed to process people as quickly as we could,” Robert recalls. “Adjusting to that was a challenge.”

Wincon Robert Bruce 2

That meant going to extraordinary lengths such as conducting temperature checks and even calling residents to pick up food deliveries in the lobby as part of the condo’s coronavirus protocols. Through it all, Robert’s ability to anticipate both the condo property manager and residents’ needs, and to address potential issues before they arose, proved the difference.

On behalf of the entire leadership team here at Wincon, I’d like to congratulate Darrell and Robert for this achievement and thank them for their exemplary work. And while I’ve said it before, it’s worth reiterating that our entire team has gone above and beyond throughout the COVID-19 crisis. If I had to choose a word to sum up my feelings about our performance as a company, it would be: proud.

Proud that we’ve confronted one of the most difficult challenges of our generation and managed to succeed. Proud that we’ve actually improved our service offering in the face of some very big obstacles. And proud that our clients and industry partners were able to rely on us to meet their needs, no matter the circumstances.

As we progress further into 2021, I only have one more thing to add: Let’s keep up the great work together!

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

Are we living in the most secure era ever? That depends on your definition of the word and the context, but there’s no doubt that today’s security technology has made many of our public and private spaces far safer than in the past. From ultra HD surveillance cameras with facial recognition technology to ultra-secure biometrics, the tools that organizations have at their disposal to prevent or respond to unwelcome or emergency incidents are truly unprecedented. So much so that privacy concerns are now running up against security innovations, fueling legal and social tensions along the way.

Case in point: there is a fast-growing movement across Canada to limit the use of some advanced tools, specifically surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software. Last month the Canadian Civil Liberties Association issued a call  for a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in a wide range of settings. While stakeholders from law enforcement officials to business and commercial property owners would make an argument for the tech’s utility, social advocates counter that the privacy trade-off is far too great at this point. Better to stall a widespread rollout until a proper legal and regulatory framework can be built to control its use.

That comes on the heels of a new Ernst and Young report  indicating that COVID-19 seems to have changed Canadians’ expectations of data privacy. Fully 63 per cent of survey respondents said knowing how their data was collected and stored was of prime importance, along with control over what data is being shared (57 per cent), their trust in the organization sharing their data (51 per cent) and knowing how their data is managed, shared and used (45 per cent).

“The pandemic has ushered in significant changes that may have altered consumers’ attitudes toward data privacy, but they are unwavering about the importance of security,” the report’s authors note.

Security vs. privacy

In residential settings, those expectations are reaching new heights. Rental tenants and condominium owners alike are growing increasingly concerned that their movements are being monitored on a daily basis. In some cases, they are. Surveillance systems have long kept track of the movement of people and packages across residential environments, but new technology has delivered exponential enhancements in monitoring capabilities. In the vast majority of cases, however, their deployment is intended strictly to deter crime or inappropriate behaviour. The reality is that most commercial and residential property management firms–who are dealing with a raft of new challenges related to COVID-19–lack the staff (let alone the desire) to leverage that data in ways that would be of any reasonable concern to residents.

It’s simply available as a tool to review traffic flow in case of an incident, or to piece together timelines in the event of an accident. Reviewing an incident using surveillance footage is usually a key tool in preventing a similar occurrence from happening in future. The real question that residential stakeholders need to answer is whether privacy trumps protection in residential settings.

With license-plate recognizing cameras collecting data in parking lots and garages, and biometrics recording even more sensitive information every time residents enter a building, do new technologies cross an ethical—and even legal—line? Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, some residential communities in Canada have gone as far as to implement contact tracing and temperature monitoring (sometimes using high-tech cameras) to protect their residents and mitigate risk of an outbreak on their premises.

The urgent circumstances of the emergency aside, will we eventually regard these health and safety measures as a step too far?

Balancing privacy and protection 

The obvious solution involves implementing an effective security strategy that balances the right to privacy with the need for protection. That means customizing tactics to suit the needs of the residential community in question, be it housed in an ultra-tall downtown tower or a densely-packed rental building. Property managers are best advised to develop a series of privacy protocols that outline how personal data will be collected, stored, managed and eventually expunged. Access to that data must be tightly controlled. And that not only means limiting the personnel who can review it, but determining how it will be stored (e.g., on a local server or in the cloud). What cybersecurity tools will be used to mitigate the risk of a breach?

The best way to ease residents’ concerns over how their data is used is to build trust and remain transparent. By communicating on a regular basis—in some cases perhaps even developing a committee comprised of management and residents that’s tasked with setting guidelines to handle that data—reviewing and revising policies as needed and then erasing that data at predetermined intervals, most residents will be comfortable with having their personal details collected and stored.

Work with your security provider or a specialized data-management consultant to start and manage this process. Handling sensitive data is best left to the experts. Rest assured, your residents will appreciate the time and attention to detail in managing their personal information.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

Of the many new business challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has created for organizations, commercial and residential security—specifically across condominium complexes—has been near the top of the list. Property managers and their security teams have been forced to work overtime to develop, implement and maintain new COVID-19 health and safety measures, develop new parcel-management protocols, manage strict building access and usage rules, and generally cope with the uncertainties of new government lockdown and social-distancing restrictions.

Condominium property managers have carried much of this new burden as they deal with a plethora of related issues. They’ve not only had to provide updated training to their in-house or outsourced security teams while investing (often hefty) sums for enhanced cleaning across their properties, they’ve faced budgetary challenges due to increased hydro and HVAC usage and mechanical wear-and-tear with more residents working from home and placing greater demand on systems and resources. Condominium boards have struggled to find a balance that allows them to keep condo fee increases under control, while balancing their books and still delivering the level of service that residents expect.

These unforeseen COVID-19 side effects are weighing heavily on condo managers, but are being managed. It’s another, seemingly benign issue, that’s creating headaches that are sure to get worse in the years ahead: online shopping (particularly over the holidays) that’s producing a flood of parcel deliveries.

Statistics Canada predicted in November that online spending was poised to break last year’s record $305 billion in e-commerce sales. As a recent CTV News article notes:

“A separate online survey of 600 adults from Google Canada in late October also suggested that 70 per cent of respondents were looking online, not in-store, for holiday gifts.”

Many of those packages are ending up in condominium lobbies—and many condos are ill- or completely un-equipped to cope with this influx of items. It’s not an overstatement to say that in some buildings, lobbies are turning into de facto mini-warehouses due to the sheer volume of packages being delivered. Some property managers are grappling with whether (or how) to disinfect items that enter their premises due to potential coronavirus transmission risks.

Merely accepting and storing the parcels is challenging enough, but who catalogues them? How are they secured to ensure they aren’t stolen by a resident or thief who manages to access the lobby? How are they released or distributed to residents? Is that the job of your security team? These are just a few of the pressing questions weighing on condo managers right now.

As the COVID-19 crisis carries on and retail restrictions remain in place, Canadians are going to continue that great e-retail migration. In other words, the problem won’t simply disappear as the coronavirus eventually subsides. Property managers will need to adapt further as online shopping gains added momentum in the years ahead.

That could mean making capital investments in dedicated parcel storage rooms or lobby lockers, if those spaces or amenities don’t already exist. When many buildings were constructed, there was no thought put to online shopping—e-commerce was the stuff of science fiction only a few decades ago, after all. That could necessitate collaboration between managers and their condo boards to allocate the necessary funds to build out secure storage spaces that can be locked and monitored. Another alternative that many condos have explored is working with companies such as ParcelPort, which provides outdoor (sometimes temperature-controlled) lockers to receive and store parcels. When a delivery is made, a notification goes out via text or email to the resident reminding them to pick up their item.

There are many options, but property managers need to carefully consider several other factors to ensure that this year’s flood of holiday parcels doesn’t create an unnecessary burden for them or their teams:

What level of service will you provide?—Many condominiums, particularly those that offer luxury amenities, will need to determine whether they’ll embrace full white-glove concierge parcel-management service if they haven’t already, or opt for a self-serve parcel pick-up model. For example, will building concierge or security staff deliver packages to a resident’s door? Or simply manage packages by minding them at the lobby desk? How does that level of service reflect on the condo’s brand and ability to attract/retain buyers or tenants? An enhanced concierge experience could be a resident-friendly value proposition, albeit a pricey one.

Is your security team up to the task?—Wincon guards are trained with customer service—and the finer points of delivering a true concierge experience—in mind, but not all security firms provide that same level of training. In-house security staff, may not have that expertise either. Assess the situation to determine whether your guards are trained to accept, catalogue, manage and distribute parcels—and if not, be prepared to offer that important training.

What about food?—Parcels are one thing, but with restaurants closed in many areas, an increasing number of residents are using meal delivery services. Residents want their dishes hot and ready to eat without delay. Do you have processes in place to maintain building security, while also ensuring residents receive their meals in a timely fashion, all so their foodie-friendly expectations are met?

Who accepts liability?—The issue of lost or stolen parcels creates significant risk for condominium property managers. They can face costly liability if they accept packages that don’t make it to their rightful buyers. If those happen to be items such as fancy jewellery or expensive electronics, for example, the problem of lost or stolen goods could get very expensive very quickly. This means that, in effect, building security teams will now be required to develop and implement what amounts to loss-prevention strategies, or potentially ask residents to sign waivers that shield property management from liability. Carrying extra liability insurance may also be necessary. Work with your lawyer to design and implement a strategy that’s customized to the needs of the property and its residents.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

It goes without saying that 2020 is a year that many of us will be glad to forget, just as we look forward to a socially-distanced and happy holiday with loved ones. Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has challenged everyone from individual Canadians and healthcare professionals to business owners and bureaucrats in ways that we couldn’t have imagined as recently as early March. But the many struggles of the COVID-19 crisis have also reaffirmed our strength and resilience as a country. In the face of adversity, we adapted and managed, even as we continue to mourn the many lives lost and the scores of businesses brought down by the ensuing economic disruption.

The security industry has not been immune to the pandemic’s harsh economic impact. Companies large and small have reeled as affected sectors such as hospitality, travel and retail were forced into shutdown mode or were suddenly required to scale back business in ways that immediately lessened the need for security coverage. But I’m proud to say that through it all, Wincon Security has managed to not only navigate these stormy waters, but thrive.

The reason, of course, is because we’ve built incredible partnerships with our many clients. Their loyalty and support has been pivotal to Wincon’s success for more than 26 years, and in hard times, they’ve remained by our side. We’re grateful for the opportunity to protect their people, property and assets, and we can’t wait to see how we can find new ways to meet their security needs in the years ahead. The push to constantly improve is a core value, one that we embrace and also consider a responsibility that we simply won’t take for granted—it will continue to drive us to deliver even better service to our customers long after this pandemic has passed.

Case in point: We made significant investments to upgrade our technology infrastructure this year, while also working to enhance our employee training and development programs. We believe that delivering effective security solutions is about far more than doing the basics. In most cases, our security personnel are not only frontline representatives of Wincon Security, but also of our clients’ brands—be they retailers, commercial property managers, or any company in between. Their work on-site can significantly impact that brand experience, which is why we constantly strive for new ways to enhance our team’s customer service skills with real-world, situational training.

Of course, helping our customers succeed means staying at the forefront of new technology reshaping our industry. We’ve continued to research the latest in security software and hardware from facial-recognition cameras to advanced biometric systems that could have applications across both commercial and residential properties. That work is ongoing as we enhance our organizational commitment to research and development, which includes enhancing our own back-end technology infrastructure—a critical investment that enabled much of our administrative staff to work remotely during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, none of our success would be possible were it not for the tireless dedication, professionalism and hard work of our team members. At the pandemic’s peak, they put themselves in higher-risk public settings to ensure that our clients’ properties and people were kept safe and secure. They neither complained nor refused the challenge. Instead, they made it to work each and every day with an attitude that exemplified the very best that Wincon Security has to offer.

To better protect them, we recently implemented a new Whistleblower Program that provides a mechanism to report everything from sexual harassment to any form of unwelcome behaviour experienced while on the job. We’re committed to providing a safe, welcoming and fruitful workplace experience—and we’ll do whatever it takes to make sure that our company culture isn’t negatively impacted by unacceptable behaviour. Our whistleblower directive to employees is simple: If you see something, say something.

So, as we look back on 2020 and raise a glass with the promise of a better 2021 ahead, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish you and your family a happy holiday and a healthy New Year. While rising COVID-19 case counts remind us that difficult months still lie ahead, vaccines give us hope that a return to normal is on the horizon. This year proved that we can make it to the finish line—safely, securely, together.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

When we adopted our new company motto last year, we wanted to highlight the value we place not only on providing the very best service to our customers, but also the workplace experience that we offer to our employees.

In that sense, Built on service. Driven by culture is far more than a tagline. It’s a philosophy that guides all of our decisions here at Wincon Security. By hiring the very best people and building an inclusive and diverse workforce that’s encouraged to innovate and raise their voices when things are going right—and in those rare instances when they may be going wrong—we’ve managed to build a positive and highly engaged workplace culture. It’s one that we work hard each day to protect and improve.

But every company has its challenges, and we’re not immune to ours, either. As we’ve grown, not all of our hires have been the right fit. Some haven’t lived up to the core values that we simply refuse to compromise as an organization. That’s why we’ve had to make tough decisions at times, parting ways with individuals who didn’t always live up to those standards, or who failed to treat our employees with the respect and appreciation they deserve.

We’re prepared to take steps to ensure that our staff feel comfortable and safe on the job, all so they can achieve their full workplace potential in a dynamic, fun and supportive environment.

On that note, we’re pleased to announce the launch of the Wincon Whistleblower Program. The initiative is intended to provide employees with an outlet to express concerns or report specific incidents of harassment, abuse or mistreatment while on the job. Staff can email us using the address whistleblower@wincon-security.com to voice their concerns.

Our message to employees is best summed up with a play on an old adage: if you see (or experience) something you shouldn’t, say something. We’re about ensuring fairness, ethical and moral behaviour in our work environment, and if any lines have been crossed, we want to know. Emails to the account will be handled anonymously, so staff needn’t feel intimidated to come forward. It’s important to note that we’re committed to addressing employee concerns in a timely way. Allegations will be investigated and matters will be escalated through the appropriate channels, as necessary. To ensure transparency and accountability, the findings of any workplace investigation will be reported to all parties involved in the matter.

Because the vast majority of our employees work at client sites most of the time, the Whistleblower Program is designed to provide an outlet to highlight negative or unwelcome interactions they may have with any of the stakeholders they encounter during the course of their work day—including clients, colleagues, third-party contractors or other suppliers.

If, for any reason, staff don’t want to approach their supervisor with serious issues, the Whistleblower Program is their outlet to voice concerns. It’s not intended to be used as a tool to raise questions or concerns about day-to-day operational issues such as scheduling. Those matters should still be discussed and addressed with the employee’s direct supervisor.

Importantly, we believe our whistleblower initiative will not only set the conditions to create an even safer workplace environment here at Wincon, but we also believe it will enhance our service offering and create a far better experience for our customers. The happier, more engaged and satisfied our employees can be in their work, the better they’ll perform. I think we can all agree that this exciting new program also enhances our business by ensuring that our values are not only upheld, but that they continue to be aligned with those of our clients.

Because nothing is more important to us as a company than protecting people, property and assets, while also defending our company culture. It’s a responsibility that we take seriously and actively embrace.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

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

 

When the COVID-19 outbreak took hold in March, it was difficult to imagine the size and scope of the challenge that lay ahead. Industries ground to a halt as social-distancing measures forced the closure of everything from offices to recreational facilities. Businesses and their employees faced unprecedented uncertainty. Security firms such as ours weren’t spared from the widespread economic impact.

While some clients needed less of our time, many sectors called on us to do more—much more—to help them weather the coronavirus storm. Business leaders quickly realized the degree to which they needed trained security professionals to help them manage everything from store line-ups to protecting shuttered office buildings. Perhaps most importantly, those that needed additional help from Wincon Security came to understand that we could not only protect their people, property and assets, but we were also well-positioned to become an extension of their brand. Because our people are well-trained and committed to providing industry-leading service, they could rely on us to positively reflect their company values and uphold their service standards.

Specifically, they could rely on you—our employees—to make the very best of a very challenging COVID-19 situation.

By no means are we out of COVID-19 crisis mode as a second wave of the outbreak looms large. We’re likely to face more difficulties in the weeks and months ahead before we can put this pandemic behind us. But I know that because of your dedication and commitment to excellence, our company will emerge from this stronger than ever. The past six months have only proved what I already knew about each and every one of you: You care. You’re passionate about servicing our clients. You want to make your communities better by helping to make them safer. You want to help our company grow and achieve even greater success together.

Through it all, you not only showed up for work every day, but you demonstrated unbelievable engagement and professionalism. Our competitors faced widespread labour shortages, but all of you ensured that we were able to meet client demand for our services. And you did it with a smile from behind our Wincon-branded face masks. At times that meant exposing yourselves to the general public to do your jobs. But you did it without complaining because that’s what was needed.

As a business owner, I couldn’t be more proud of your hard work and commitment to becoming better at your jobs every day. You’ve proven once again that Wincon is a partner to our clients—be they on the commercial property, retail, condominium or residential sides.

Along the way we’ve taken efforts to ensure your safety in the workplace, whether it’s in the office or at client sites. That’s meant investing in personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitizers, increased cleaning of everything from our headquarters to patrol vehicles and even purchasing those aforementioned reusable Wincon masks. Rest assured, we’ll continue making the necessary investments to keep you safe and healthy on the job. Nothing is more important to us than your well-being, as well as that of our customers and partners. We hope the new workplace normal—however it continues to evolve—alleviates the need for such stringent health and safety measures, but that day could still be a long way off.

In the meantime, our strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to service our clients as the COVID-19 pandemic carries on. Many of you have shared ideas to help us find new efficiencies and service-delivery methods as we’ve worked to achieve that goal. We invite you to continue making suggestions and thinking about ways to make Wincon an even better security provider.

As a company built on service and driven by culture, we have the tools we need to make it through this pandemic. Let’s continue working together to achieve our goals and prove once again that there is no emergency situation that our team can’t handle.

Winston Stewart

President and CEO

The current emergency situation has evolved rapidly in Canada and around the world with the declaration of the coronavirus pandemic and ever-escalating measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Our team has been closely monitoring these developments and has enacted Wincon Security’s emergency preparedness and disaster response plan accordingly. Our focus at this point is ensuring the health safety of our clients, the occupants of the retail, industrial, educational and residential facilities we protect and, of course, our employees.

These are extraordinary circumstances and we’re responding with workplace policy and procedure updates in real time. We’re in the people business and are fully prepared to meet the challenges that lie ahead. This pandemic is testing the resolve of individuals and organizations across our economy with the introduction of everything from social distancing measures to outright closures. To do our part, we’re monitoring and implementing the advice of local, provincial and federal health agencies and ensuring we go a step above and beyond to protect the people at the heart of Wincon Security.

With that in mind, we’ve implemented the following policy changes effective immediately. We are:

  • Permitting administrative staff to work remotely or from home where possible
  • Enhancing hygiene procedures across our workplace and at client sites
  • Adjusting resourcing at some facilities and shifting our guards to sites where a physical presence is required, or utilizing technology such as advanced camera systems to monitor facilities where a physical presence may no longer be necessary (e.g., office buildings whose tenants are temporarily working from home)
  • Cancelling all in-person client meetings for the time being and stopping all non-essential business travel
  • Conducting client meetings using teleconferencing platforms until further notice

As first responders entrusted with protecting the people and assets across your commercial or residential properties, we take great pride in providing high-quality customer service, no matter the situation. This one is turning out to be one of the most challenging that we’ve experienced in our organization’s 25 years of operation.

Our focus is on helping you navigate the hurdles that lie ahead in as efficient and seamless way as possible. We’ll be providing insights in the days and weeks ahead to help you manage and implement everything from data security procedures for employees forced to work from home, to tactics designed to help ensure social distancing and to restrict access to your facilities until the pandemic wanes and life can return to normal.

We believe the key to success at this point is to remain calm and educate employees, tenants and other stakeholders of their role in maintaining health and safety across your properties. This is likely going to be a protracted event that will cause considerable disruption in the coming months. Count on Wincon to be there with you every step of the way.

In the meantime, if you have questions or require assistance, please feel free to contact me directly at winston@wincon-security.com.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

It’s not easy being royalty. Just ask the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. When Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced in January that they’d be stepping back from their royal duties, working towards financial independence and moving to Canada—yes, Canada—the world recoiled at the upheaval shaking the usually staid House of Windsor.

With the royals in crisis over Harry’s snubbing of his monarchical calling—this despite the fact that he’s currently sixth in the line of succession and has no real chance of becoming king—the Queen struck a deal with her grandson that saw him lose several peerages and official titles in return for a life of (relative) freedom in B.C. Then came the next question: who would pay for the Sussexes’ security?

That’s a delicate topic and a political minefield that the British and Canadian governments have been attempting to tiptoe through without causing public uproar. Just last week it was announced that the RCMP would cease providing security to the couple in the coming weeks, the assumption being that they, or the British government, would now be picking up the tab.

One question I’ve been asked of late is an interesting one: What, exactly, does it take to protect a prince? And are estimates that Prince Harry’s security could cost in the millions of dollars accurate? While I don’t have any insider knowledge on the topic—and nor should we speculate on the security measures that would be undertaken to protect the Sussexes while in Canada—we can look at the tactics that would be used to protect any VIP or high-net-worth individual whose family could be vulnerable to privacy intrusions or, worse, threats to their safety.

To start that process, a private security firm that specializes in protection for high-profile individuals would be called in to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. Verifiable threats against the family’s safety would be taken with the utmost seriousness. Security specialists would monitor inbound communications by phone or email, as well as social media activity, for hints of potential criminal threats on the horizon. They would then draft that aforementioned security strategy taking into account those potential risks and implementing tactics to proactively mitigate each one.

As part of that risk assessment, a security team would sweep the VIP’s property (once a suitable one was located, of course) to analyze any and all points of vulnerability—including by air, land and water. They would work to lock down any potential access points (the property could potentially be fenced) and highlight weaknesses. A security detail would patrol the grounds as needed.

Any VIP’s home would undoubtedly be equipped with a very high-tech camera system. This would likely include facial recognition software and would be monitored 24/7 by a security detail stationed somewhere on the property or very nearby. Non-celebrity VIPs might rely on remote monitoring instead. Every window in the home would be equipped with glass break sensors and could even be retrofitted with bullet-proof glass. In the case of the Royals, RCMP or British authorities would determine the necessity of the latter feature based on their initial security assessment.

Inside the home, officials would work to make security measures as inconspicuous and unobtrusive as possible. One common feature of luxury homes for the very wealthy or famous are panic rooms—a space where VIPs can take shelter in the event of a home invasion. The trend nowadays is moving away from dedicated panic rooms to a specific functional room in the house, such as a master bedroom, that can be locked down in an emergency. Whatever the proscribed solution, most VIP families would likely have a reinforced space with full communications—and possibly even a dedicated air supply—that could serve as a mini-fortress in the event of a threat such as a home invasion, an attack or a kidnapping attempt. The likelihood of any of those scenarios playing out is slim, but security officials don’t take chances with the safety of their high-profile charges.

Because very wealthy people tend to jet set and home-hop on a regular basis, they often have only a relatively short list of property options limited to homes with suitable security infrastructure.

A last point on the cost to protect a VIP couple, especially one as high-profile as Harry and Meghan: Initial estimates that the Sussexes’ annual security expenses are in the high six figures are likely understated. If the couple are engaged in public events while in Canada, the cost for their protection could easily climb to more than $1 million per year. Simply having round-the-clock protection involving multiple security professionals can be extraordinarily expensive, let alone the cost to secure venues at official engagements.

Living the high-net-worth or celebrity life isn’t cheap, especially when you’re two of the most famous faces on the planet. Who foots the bill for Harry and Meghan’s security while in Canada remains uncertain, but let’s all hope the Queen is picking up part of the tab—this one could get expensive.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security