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

A long weekend of shootings that saw 17 people injured in 14 separate incidents over the recent civic holiday sent chills across our city. Even Toronto Police Service Chief Mark Saunders was quick to acknowledge both the unusually high wounded toll, the sheer number of security-related incidents and the brazenness with which the alleged assailants acted.

Residents wonder when it will all end, and how to stay safe in the meantime.

Three suspects have since been arrested in connection with several of the shootings. Saunders told reporters that additional resources would be deployed “in specific places that we think will help deter and reduce the gun violence that’s occurring in the city right now.”

Gun crime on the rise

What we need to keep in perspective—as was the case after the van attack in North York last year that saw 10 people killed when a disturbed young man ran down people at random on Yonge Street—is that Toronto is still a remarkably safe city. Our crime rate is low and the threat of becoming a victim of violent crime is scant.

Still, gun violence has been on the rise in recent years and that requires a certain level of vigilance, particularly in vulnerable or lower-income areas where gangs and other troublesome actors tend to spend most of their time.

According to police statistics, Toronto experienced two and a half times more shootings in 2018 than 2014—a shocking increase that should give us all pause.

New security measures

One of the recent deaths—that of a 16-year-old—came in a Toronto Community Housing (TCH) complex in the city’s north end. According to a CBC report, that prompted a promise for action on the part of the housing agency:

“… TCH chief executive officer Kevin Marshman [promised] to do more to address what some residents have decried as a woeful lack of security at their buildings.

Starting in September, said Marshman, full-time security officers will be stationed in the Jane and Fallstaff community. Also coming, he said, is enhanced lighting around the buildings and cameras on the roadways coming in and out of the complex that can capture licence plates.

Marshman added that TCH also hopes to conduct a community safety audit — a joint effort with police and residents to physically walk around the properties to identify gaps in security and what needs to be done to make things safer.”

While we can all applaud TCH’s commitment to taking action, a bigger question remains unanswered: Why weren’t these measures implemented years ago? Why has it taken a rise in gun crime and the death of a child to empower a public agency to protect its residents?

A trend towards enhanced security 

That question may never be fully answered, but Marshman’s statements are likely indicative of a new trend that we will—and likely should—see emerging across our city: a stronger security presence, particularly in vulnerable communities.

We need more foot patrols to protect private and public spaces, and in many cases that will require the involvement of private security partners given the already stretched resources of the Toronto Police Service. It will likely mean more camera surveillance using artificial intelligence and facial recognition software to recognize bad actors before or after they commit crimes. We need better lighting to protect paths and parks, and greater community cooperation similar to the walk-safe programs that university campuses have implemented and maintained for years with widespread success.

In the wake of the recent spate of violence, many of Canada’s mayors are calling for either an all-out handgun ban or stronger restrictions on handgun ownership—a move that many chiefs of police across the country also support. This would undoubtedly help address the issue, but it may not be enough. As police budgets are cut in many jurisdictions, those crucial eyes and ears on the ground are lost. Again, this is where private security firms and technology can help fill the gap. But employing their services requires an increased budgetary spend and a willingness to stand behind important policy changes.

Will our leaders at the federal, provincial and municipal levels heed the call? Or will they make relatively tiny security commitments that seem meaningful, but fail to create a long-term impact in our communities?

Balancing security with civil liberties will be a challenge 

In the end, we want to keep our city free and comfortable and avoid it taking on the feel of a surveillance state. But we also want to ensure that all Torontonians feel safe to go about their business. Exactly how we accomplish the goal remains to be seen, but we can rest assured that it will take creative, innovative thinking to curb the latest ‘summer of the gun’ and restore a greater sense of safety and security to Canada’s largest city.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

For risk averse commercial property owners, managers and condominium managers—not to mention any company that has employees—unaware of the general duty clause contained in Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), now is the time to get educated.

The principle behind the clause is simple. The Act states that employers must “take every precaution reasonable for the protection of a worker …” The measure is intended to ensure that organizations don’t cut corners to lower costs in areas such as workplace safety, thereby putting individuals at risk of injury—or worse.

But an Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Ontario (Labour) v. Quinton Steel (Wellington) Limited, 2017, greatly broadened that concept, and should give property owners and managers pause. Now, basic compliance with the Act is likely no longer enough to satisfy the general duty test—a development that vastly increases prosecution exposures. It forces employers to analyze risk at all levels and take enhanced precautions that could far exceed legislated minimums.

Workplace liability exposures on the rise

In the Quinton Steel case, an employee died after falling from a two-metre platform. The welder who fell was not required to tie off at that height, nor did OHSA standards deem it necessary to install a guardrail across the platform on which he was working. A lower court dismissed charges against the firm, until an Appeal Court judge overturned that earlier decision.

In his ruling, the Appeal Court judge explained:

“… Prescriptive certainty is not required in the context of regulatory offences such as s. 25(2)(h) [of the OHSA]. That section establishes a standard, rather than a rule, the requirements of which are tailored to suit particular circumstances. Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances in order to protect workers. Reasonableness is a well-known legal concept that is interpreted and applied in a wide variety of legal contexts. Its use in s 25(2)(h) does not give rise to intolerable uncertainty. 

“It may not be possible for all risk to be eliminated from a workplace … but it does not follow that employers need do only as little as is specifically prescribed in the regulations. There may be cases in which more is required – in which additional safety precautions tailored to fit the distinctive nature of a workplace are reasonably required … in order to protect workers.”

In other words, even though the employer didn’t have to use a guard rail or require its employees to tie off at the height from which the welder fell, the judge’s ruling indicates that management should have identified the risks and acted above and beyond those minimal legislative requirements.

This means that as a commercial property owner or manager, anyone working on or around your commercial property is effectively the liability of your organization; their safety in the workplace is of the utmost importance and cannot be ignored. In 2017, the government boosted OHSA non-compliance fines to $100,000 from $25,000 for an individual or unincorporated business, and to $1.5 million from $500,000 for corporations—further underscoring organizations’ impetus to comply.

 Leveraging security expertise to mitigate legal risk

As you read this you may be wondering: why is a security firm working to educate its readers about a relatively obscure, albeit highly significant, legal consideration? Because your organization’s security team—whether staffed by in-house employees or outsourced to a company such as Wincon Security—can be a first line of defense in highlighting potential risk exposures.

The first step in our comprehensive client onboarding process, for example, involves a thorough property risk assessment. It isn’t simply meant to highlight potential security issues such as outdated camera systems or inadequate card access technology. It’s also intended to alert property owners and managers to other challenges that could result in fines or lawsuits. Our guards are not only trained to be on the lookout for potential risk areas during that initial assessment, but throughout the entirety of our client engagements.

 Adequate security training is crucial

In many cases our team will recommend one of our integrated solutions such as HD surveillance cameras, not only to monitor a property, but to also provide a record of events should an incident occur that could lead to litigation. At the same time, our guards prepare daily reports (in addition to specific incident reports) designed to proactively flag risk areas. Let’s say you have contractors renovating your property and our guards see them acting unsafely, perhaps ignoring safety procedures such as tying off at heights, or engaging in any other form of unsafe conduct. They won’t hesitate to bring the issue to a supervisor’s attention, who will then follow our incident response process and put it firmly on your risk-mitigation radar.

Because the courts have made it clear that organizations need to take every reasonable precaution—and then some—to prevent accidents and assume that risks may exist virtually everywhere, our clients need all hands on deck to mitigate the threat of prosecution. A well-trained security team can fulfill that role, but it’s incumbent on property owners to ensure they choose the right firm to protect their interests. Not every security provider has the training processes in place to ensure their people go above and beyond the call of duty.

Take the time to vet several security companies and choose wisely. Doing so could save you time and stress—and enormous amounts of money—fighting a case in court if an accident occurs on the premises of your commercial property, retail outlet or condominium.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

With the holiday season in full swing, there’s a very good chance your team is getting ready to wind down and maybe even let loose. That’s right, it’s the time of year for the unforgettable office party, an opportunity for employers to show their appreciation to staff, to share a few cocktails at or away from the office and enjoy some time mixing and mingling and (hopefully) not spending time reflecting on work-related matters.

But with the yuletide festivities come a great deal of risk for employers.

Now, I’m not trying to call humbug on your holiday party plans. But it’s important for organizations and their HR teams to understand the employment law liability involved in hosting a gathering in the workplace. That risk increases exponentially when alcohol is being served and employees are left to find their own way home from the office party. Of course, some employers assume that organizing a gathering off-site relieves that liability, but that’s unfortunately not the case. Anytime an organization sanctions an event such as this, they’re on the hook until their employees are home safe and sound.

You might think the logical move would be to pull the plug on the party and spend that budget elsewhere. Not so fast. Holiday events are a great team-building tool that can help drive engagement. They’re also an important part of building a strong workplace culture, so it would be foolhardy to cancel such an invaluable opportunity to boost employee morale. The better approach is to think safety and security first when organizing an event, keeping these five tips in mind:

Make your policies clear—The objective here isn’t to be a buzzkill before the party gets started, but to remind employees that even though they’re enjoying the boss’ hospitality while off the clock, they’re still technically bound by the same policies that govern their behaviour while in the workplace. That message should be delivered in a subtle way—a reminder rather than a lecture—but it should be explicitly communicated, either by email, in print or at a team meeting.

Hire security—If your staff party is small, say, fewer than 20 people including spouses, hiring a guard may not be necessary. But it’s wise to have security personnel in attendance at larger gatherings to help address any issues that may arise. That could mean dealing with intoxicated patrons who become a little unruly (which happens all too often) or simply patrolling and watching over items such as gifts or coats. Many business owners and managers are shocked when their events are targeted by thieves who root through jackets or walk away with purses and bags when their employees are busy enjoying themselves. What they don’t realize is that this kind of Grinch-like activity happens all the time, especially at large corporate gatherings that are preyed on by groups of professional criminals. Do yourself a favour and hire a trained and experienced security team to help make your holiday event memorable for all the right reasons.

Choose the right location—Set the conditions for your event’s success from the start by selecting the right venue. Whenever possible, try to pick a spot close to your workplace or close to where the majority of your employees live. This isn’t always feasible—especially for organizations located in the suburbs, whose workforces travel long distances to work—but doing so can be a practical way to encourage staff to leave their cars at home and take transit to work on the day of the event. At the same time, try to avoid choosing a hotspot surrounded by bars or clubs, which only encourages employees (particularly younger team members) to keep the party going well into the night and potentially past the point of intoxication.

Provide transportation—Include cab chits for employees in your party budget, or hire a van or bus to shuttle employees to the venue and home—whichever is the more cost-effective option depending on your team’s specific logistical considerations. One of the greatest sources of liability for employers stems from team members who hop in their cars at the end of an event and drive home, often intoxicated, only to get into an accident. This outcome is entirely avoidable with some proactive planning.

Think like Scrooge—Not when it comes to spending on a great venue, an impressive menu or even staff gifts. But do be stingy when it comes to serving alcohol. Provide a couple of drink tickets to each staff member at the beginning of the night, and switch to a cash bar at some point in the evening. Or, maybe serve wine at dinner and then move to a cash bar afterwards. The point is that open bars can turn into a security nightmare because they encourage outright intoxication. Appoint a senior (and designated sober) staffer to manage drink tickets, if you take that approach, and be sure to offer plenty of food and at least a few non-alcoholic beverage options throughout the event. Want to really limit the booze consumption? Make it a mid-day family affair and invite your employees and their kids.

The objective is to still have fun, say ‘thanks’ for another year of hard work and spoil your employees with a great party. But remember that safety and security should be a top priority. Maintaining that focus will help mitigate the kind of liability and risk that would otherwise drop a lump of coal in your stocking this holiday season.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

In September, Toronto police announced a major change to their burglar alarm response policy. Specifically, they made it clear that they would no longer respond to alarms unless there was verified proof that some form of criminal activity or a threat to an individual was occurring at the time of the notification.

Up to that point, police would always send a car to any commercial or residential property where an alarm was sounded. Better to be safe than sorry, the thinking went. According to their revised guidelines, police will now only respond to an alarm if a threat can be verified by an audio or video device, there are multiple zone activations in effect—which are typical in the case of a break-and-enter with multiple burglars at the crime scene—or they have an eyewitness on the scene calling in the incident. This could include a private security guard.

Toronto police will still attend verifiable alarm calls

Why the change? Police data from 2016 show that 97 per cent of security system-related calls were false alarms. “When a panic alarm button is hit, we will absolutely attend,” a police spokesperson told media “Also, if we get evidence there has been a burglary, we will also attend that call too.” Really? It’s reassuring to know that the police will attend actual crimes. Needless to say, this new policy raises several red flags to those of us in the security field. The most obvious being that some break-ins could foreseeably go unchecked because authorities deem them to be false alarms, or because their slow response allows criminals to come and go without the risk of apprehension.

To help prevent those false alarms, police are advising home owners and commercial property managers to update key holder information, ensure regular alarm system maintenance, change alarm batteries frequently, keep alarms free of dust and debris and educate residents, tenants and employees on system operation protocols.

While the policy change is understandable—having police respond to a plethora of false alarms is, of course, a costly and inefficient use of resources—it discounts the possibility that actual crimes may be in progress, with verification coming only when it’s too late. Criminals, being a clever lot, will undoubtedly use these new rules to their advantage if they know police aren’t going to respond when a standalone alarm is sounded.

Robust security is more important than ever

Most importantly, this underscores the need to maintain 24/7 protection for commercial or residential properties. That means having an active security presence and state-of-the-art monitoring systems—or, at the very least, one of those two crucial components—in place to build out a comprehensive security strategy to protect your assets. With these new rules governing what, exactly, justifies a live police response, investing in adequate security is no longer an option for commercial property or residential property owners, and that includes condominium boards.

As such, most organizations will need to re-evaluate their current alarm systems. Is it enough, or do they now need new cameras? Do those cameras need to be monitored by a security service in order to verify alarm issues? Manufacturers, integrators, monitoring centres and the end users need to answer these questions or risk being left behind by these new requirements.

Expect traditional police duties to be increasingly outsourced

Another notable aspect of development is that it highlights an emerging trend across North America: the outsourcing of police duties to private security providers. An important line in the Toronto Police Service’s policy change was the one noting that eyewitness verification of a security breach would warrant an on-site visit from police. The fact that the eyewitness could be a security guard means that police understand—and perhaps even welcome—the involvement of private security firms.

We can expect to see an even greater willingness on the part of the authorities to accept third-party security help in the years ahead as police budgets are slashed or frozen, and resources are redirected to priority areas. The challenge for commercial property owners is that investigating issues such as potential break-ins or vandalism—although obviously well within the mandate of local police services—often take a back seat to the prevention or investigation of violent crimes or other, more serious offences.

Choosing the right security provider is key

Now, it’s important to remember that not only does your organization need security help to keep its assets and people safe, it needs to partner with the right security provider, one that takes an integrated approach and provides effective training to its staff. The trend of downloading security duties to private companies shines a spotlight on the processes and procedures that security firms develop and follow. How well trained are their staff? What are their employee retention rates? Is their HR department fronted by a proverbial revolving door as people come and go looking for a job rather than a career? The maturity and sophistication of firms across our industry is now under greater scrutiny than ever before.

So, too, are service providers’ embrace of technology. Everything from drones to patrol robots to leading-edge software and video camera systems are the kind of tools that will become increasingly important in the years ahead. Criminals are always getting smarter. They will find ways to circumvent even the most advanced electronics. Is your security provider equipped to keep pace?

In one sense the Toronto Police Service’s alarm response policy change has a silver lining. Over time, a greater reliance on reliable private security providers will help push out the fringe players from our industry whose inadequate services put clients at greater risk. Because when police won’t respond without knowing that a crime is in progress, there’s simply too much at stake to put your commercial or residential property and assets in the hands of an unprofessional security firm.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

Ontario business owners who spent the last week celebrating the tabling of Bill 47, legislation that promises to repeal most of the controversial Bill 148 (with the implementation of the equally unpopular Pay Transparency Act also due to be delayed and revised, as well), could be forgiven for missing the enactment of another important new law. Only this one comes with significant cyber and physical security implications for organizations across industries.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is new federal legislation that “applies to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information in the course of a commercial activity.” Put simply, if yours is an organization that has clients to whom it sells products or services, it falls under the Act’s jurisdiction. Exemptions exist in provinces that have privacy legislation in line with PIPEDA, but in those cases provincial laws need to be almost identical to the federal counterpart, or else the latter applies. What does this all mean? According to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada:

“Organizations covered by PIPEDA must obtain an individual’s consent when they collect, use or disclose that individual’s personal information. People have the right to access their personal information held by an organization. They also have the right to challenge its accuracy. Personal information can only be used for the purposes for which it was collected. If an organization is going to use it for another purpose, they must obtain consent again. Individuals should also be assured that their information will be protected by appropriate safeguards.”

New disclosure requirements

Perhaps most importantly, the legislation requires Canadian firms to brief customers in the event of a data breach that involves the hacking of personal information. At the same time, organizations must inform the Privacy Commission if they believe the breach carries with it “a real risk of significant harm to an individual.” The language in the new law is notably vague and unspecific. Organizations are required to have “appropriate” digital safeguards in place, even when sharing data between third-party vendors.

Penalties for non-compliance can top $100,000 per violation, so organizations are wise to be proactive and fall in line with the new rules.

PIPEDA a challenge for SMEs

Smaller businesses will likely have more difficulty complying with the law, particularly because they lack full-time IT teams or personnel to help track and protect data. Only now the financial stakes of ensuring adequate cybersecurity are significantly higher. As if the potential brand and bottom-line hit from an incident of data theft wasn’t bad enough, to add insult to injury cash-strapped companies also have to worry about Ottawa levying a steep fine when they’re at their most vulnerable.

While the new PIPEDA rules are obviously focused on the protection of data while promoting cybersecurity vigilance and protection for consumers, this is also about physical security. Why? It’s not uncommon for thieves to steal laptops or servers from an office or retail outlet, for example, then search those devices for everything from sellable business data to credit card information. Whether they actually find anything to peddle is beside the point. Because so many organizations still lack the necessary cloud- or hardware-based back up systems to protect data in case of a physical theft, losing that information to physical burglaries can be just as bad as being hacked by an online malfeasant.

An opportunity to think holistically about security

Here’s the good news: PIPEDA represents an important opportunity for organizations of all sizes and across industries to improve their security infrastructure. Without this legislative impetus, many companies would be happy to keep on carrying on, ignoring potential threats and crossing their fingers that a hacker or burglar won’t one day target their precious customer data.

It’s best to look at PIPEDA as a chance to develop a comprehensive security strategy that looks at both physical and digital security in a holistic way, analyzing potential vulnerabilities and outlining effective tools to help mitigate risk. This would also be the ideal time to consider upgrading security hardware such as monitoring and alarm systems, not to mention the crucial software that protects everything from your property’s entry points to devices such as laptops. These security components should all work in harmony and when one is insufficient, crafty criminals will be sure to take advantage to exploit weaknesses.

Is PIPEDA compliance potentially costly? Yes, but taking a proactive approach is always less expensive than trying to recover from a massive data breach. For that reason, the legislation could be just the nudge that your organization needed to stay safe and secure.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

If all goes according to the federal government’s plan, by October 17, marijuana will be legal in Canada.

It’s a hugely significant legislative change that will have an impact across our society. Well, sort of. As many experts have already noted, the likelihood of reefer madness gripping the Great White North and making pot heads of us all is highly unlikely. Those who want to toke (legally) will finally have the opportunity, while those who prefer to crack a cold one on their off hours (or not indulge at all) will consider it business as usual.

That raises an important point for owners and managers of commercial properties and the businesses they occupy: having an HR or facility policy to manage the use of marijuana in the workplace is crucial for ensuring building security. More on this in a moment, but first, the legalities of managing pot use in the workplace and why it matters.

As Toronto-based labour and employment lawyer Peter Straszynski wrote in a 2016 article for Canadian Lawyer magazine:

“Employers will have the right to prohibit the use of marijuana during work hours, and to further prohibit attendance at work while impaired. Violation of these prohibitions can be made the subject of progressive discipline. In appropriate cases, such violations could result in termination of employment for just cause. Where an employee’s use of marijuana amounts to a physical or psychological dependency, however, such addiction will likely constitute a “disability” under provincial and federal human rights legislation, triggering the employer’s duty to accommodate the employee’s disability.”

I won’t delve deep into the complexities of accommodating a pot addiction—although as a business owner, it’s very much on my HR radar—but I can’t do enough to emphasize the importance of training security personnel on ways to identify and manage the behaviour of inebriated individuals that may be under their watch. Why?

Put simply, pot use is already quite common in Canada. According to the 2017 Canadian Cannabis Survey, 23 per cent of employees say they partake in the odd joint, while 39 per cent admit they’ve driven while high. There is a chance that once legalized, usage will increase, if only slightly.

Now, you may argue that, as an employer or property owner, an individual’s drug-use habits are their own business and none of yours, right? Not so fast.

Anyone who’s been around pot users or partaken themselves knows that people who are high, as with individuals intoxicated as a result of consuming alcohol, tend to make poor decisions. Their senses are dulled. They are clumsier and less alert. They simply aren’t as rational as when sober. While a person who is high isn’t likely to become violent, of course, they can act in ways that are highly problematic from an HR standpoint, potentially placing others at risk—particularly if your commercial property is one that stores or produces hazardous materials, or houses heavy machinery.

It’s important for employers and security personnel to bear this in mind when dealing with individuals who may enjoy consuming cannabis, or who is prone to sneaking the odd joint during work hours.

On the other hand, it’s just as important to set clear policies that govern drug use for security personnel while on the job. Wincon Security already has policies in place to ensure that our staff never partake in any form of drug use at a client site or while engaged in the delivery of services on behalf of our organization. We enforce this policy rigorously and won’t compromise even as pot possession and usage is legalized in the months ahead.

Why? To be fully engaged in their roles and ensure that the commercial property, apartment or condominium residence they’re guarding remains fully secure, our staff must be at their very best. In the same way that we wouldn’t permit our people to stop for a pint mid-shift, we will never permit them to take five to share a joint. Luckily, we work with some of the best in the business and have never had to take action to enforce this policy. Other security firms may not be as stringent in the drafting or enforcement of similar policies.

While it’s highly unlikely that marijuana legalization will cast a significant negative pall on Canadian businesses, slowing productivity and delivering a collective case of the munchies, we do need to prepared for its inevitable arrival. Take the time to adjust your HR and security policies to ensure that yours is a pot-free workplace, and make it clear that employees—and especially security staff—understand that drug use is not an option in your workplace.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

Remember when delivering security services meant assigning a guard to patrol a building to make sure that doors were locked, monitor CCTV cameras and generally ensure that nothing untoward was happening across a property?

That was basically the situation when we founded Wincon Security back in 1992. Given the current leap forward in technological advancements, that year may as well have been 1882!

Systems integration as a business model

Nowadays, progressive security companies leverage the latest and greatest technologies to help protect client properties and assets. We’re no different, except for the fact that several years ago, we took the notion of advancing security processes and procedures to the next level. We embraced the concept of systems integration. Put simply, it’s the process of ensuring your organization leverages the most effective technology possible to satisfy all relevant security needs, but in a holistic way that looks at every aspect of your business model.

The entire process starts with a security risk analysis to highlight vulnerabilities around a property or key asset. Rudimentary questions such as access point vulnerability, external threat levels and the very nature of the assets under protection—are they volatile or highly sought-after materials, for example—all factor into the equation to determine how best to protect your property and people. From there, it’s about looking at the available technology on the market and choosing the right solutions for your organization’s needs.

Work with a security firm that understands the latest technology

This is where it gets tricky, and where the more reputable security firms are differentiated from those with less-than-stellar track records. Progressive security firms will have a strong handle on those technological tools—such as high-definition cameras, advanced biometrics, card access systems, drones and cutting-edge security software—including how they might best integrate with your existing security infrastructure to deliver the desired protective results. In many cases, a full security infrastructure overhaul is a non-starter given the overwhelming costs. That’s why you need to work with a budget-conscious provider who understands that security funds are nearly always finite.

Bear in mind that sometimes the process of finding the right technology can involve a cross-continent search. In rare cases, we might need to source products from providers around the world to satisfy a client’s security needs. But that’s simply the nature of the task at hand—finding the right product often means looking further afield. That’s why it’s more important than ever for security firms to maintain strong partnerships with suppliers across North America and beyond.

The importance of value-added service

Security firms such as ours, which take pride in being full-service, integrated solutions providers, will then leverage that technology to deliver enhanced value to our customers. Let’s face it: anybody can sell you a great monitoring system or even a drone to help protect your property. But it’s the unique ones that can bring it all together with an effective strategy that integrates human and technological assets to produce a holistic solution to meet your needs—and keep the bad guys at bay for the foreseeable future. Couple that technology with a robust 24-hour support and facility monitoring service such as ours, and that end result becomes achievable.

Any comprehensive systems integration plan should also be focused on improving efficiency, reducing overhead costs and mitigating risk—all key value propositions for owners and managers of retail, commercial, condominium, office and industrial properties. But it doesn’t end there.

A culture built on innovation

We’ve incorporated a strong emphasis on innovation as one of our firm’s key value propositions. While innovation was always a key part of our corporate culture, it’s now a central pillar. We expect employees to come forward with process improvement and technology ideas based on their interactions with clients, ongoing industry research and on-the-job observations. Our management team then assesses their input and uses it to provide a never-ending stream of feedback and ideas to our clients.

In that sense, systems integration is as much a company-wide process as it is a system of procurement and operational deployment. It’s a principle that drives cutting-edge security providers (or should) and ensures that clients get the solutions they need. More importantly, it’s a way of doing business that delivers a competitive advantage to security firms that incorporate it.

For Wincon Security, embracing systems integration has been a game changer—and it has the potential to deliver similar results to your organization, too.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security