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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 suggested that 70% 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 unequipped 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.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN SECURITY FOR YOUR SITE?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US.

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

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

Millions of Canadians took to the streets this past week in a ‘strike’ to protest and raise awareness around climate change. Some retailers—in particular those espousing environmentally-conscious values and business models—even closed their stores for a day in support. It’s reasonable to assume that at least a handful of those placard-carrying, green-minded citizens are concerned about the spillover security implications of warming temperatures and rising waters, such as the mass migration of people due to extreme weather events. What they probably don’t realize is just how close to home those impacts could be. It’s a cautionary note that commercial property owners and managers would be wise to heed, as well.

Because climate change is a concern for everyone, even those in the business community whose organizations are unlikely to be directly impacted by the planet’s fast-changing weather patterns.

Consider the torrential downpour last year that inundated much of Toronto’s downtown core. The deluge was so swift that two men became trapped in a basement elevator at their workplace.

Water flooded into the basement after they boarded the lift (which, unbeknownst to them, was out of service) and quickly rose to more than six feet. The men had only minutes to spare before the water level in the elevator cleared their heads. They were soon rescued by police who swam to the basement and used a crowbar to pry open a passage large enough for them to escape. No one was seriously injured in the incident.

It’s not every day that someone almost drowns in an elevator.

Extreme weather events are the new norm

While this was an unusually dire situation—it’s not every day that someone almost drowns in an elevator—Canadians should be prepared to manage the side-effects of increasingly severe weather. In fact, political leaders are already beginning to prepare us for the potential challenges that lie ahead. As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted in a speech earlier this year after major flooding ravaged parts of Quebec:

“ … with climate change, we’re going to see more and more of these extreme weather events more regularly. It means we have to think about adaptation, mitigation and how we’re going to move forward together.”

That means we can expect more intense rain, snow, wind and ice than ever before. In his comments, the PM was merely echoing findings of Canada’s Changing Climate Report released earlier this year. It issued several dire warnings, including that:

“A warmer climate will intensify some weather extremes in the future. Extreme hot temperatures will become more frequent and more intense. This will increase the severity of heatwaves, and contribute to increased drought and wildfire risks. While inland flooding results from multiple factors, more intense rainfalls will increase urban flood risks. It is uncertain how warmer temperatures and smaller snow packs will combine to affect the frequency and magnitude of snowmelt-related flooding.” 

climate change ice caps melting and security action plans
Develop your emergency action plan with us today.

Climate change-related risks and security challenges

Unpredictable weather creates a variety of risks, legal liabilities and security exposures for organizations. While not all will be life-threatening, many will apply pressure to already strained balance sheets. Indeed, some of those risks will be more benign, yet no less costly or disruptive to manage.

We’re aware of companies that have watched helplessly as large amounts of inventory or critical IT infrastructure such as computer servers, became submerged underwater in a matter of minutes as a result of historically heavy rainfalls. The ensuing business interruption cost them time, money and, in some cases, even goodwill with customers as they scrambled to recover data or deliver goods and services as promised. Others have seen their offices or manufacturing facilities damaged by high winds.

While not a realistic concern in the Greater Toronto Area, extreme heat can spark infernos that can impair regular commerce—think of the fires that raged across the Prairies in recent summers, prompting widespread evacuations in cities such as Fort McMurray.

Adapting and taking a security-first approach is the only way to mitigate climate change threats.

Security’s role in addressing climate-related incidents

At some point during any climate-related incident, your security team will likely be called upon to help manage the situation. That could be to protect a damaged facility as it awaits repair and to ensure that no one enters the premises if conditions are unsafe, or to help muster employees if the issue happens to be particularly dangerous and relocation to a secure site becomes necessary. This is precisely why organizations need to be equipped with effective emergency and preparedness disaster response plans.

Perhaps most importantly, they need to work with their internal security teams or third-party security providers to conduct a comprehensive assessment that analyzes absolutely every potential weather-related risk exposure. Doing so will not only help protect your bottom line and mitigate the threat of lawsuits or brand damage for a botched incident response, but could also save lives.

Employees must be trained to respond to an emergency, particularly if your business happens to be situated in an area prone to major weather events. And if not, you still need to be ready to adapt as climate patterns continue to shift. Even a seemingly pleasant heatwave—while great for patio and beach season—can put a damper on everything from morale to productivity if it’s particularly intense or sustained. Skyrocketing temperatures can quickly produce health-related challenges (think sunstroke or heat exhaustion) to which your security team might be the first to respond.

In doing so, they need to be ready to act. In fact, we all do, because climate change is an unfortunate fact of life that we’ll need to manage in the years ahead. It’s only by adapting—and taking a security-first approach—that we can proactively mitigate its many risks.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN AN EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

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.

Avoid fighting a liability case in court with our expert security solutions assessment.

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 offenses 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.

Virtual monitoring and HD surveillance cameras can combat workplace liability.

Leveraging expert security solutions to mitigate legal risk

As you read this you may be wondering: why is a security agency 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 the 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. Expert security solutions like ours 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 expert security solution 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.

Hire a security solutions company that takes a customized approach

One of the most interesting aspects of running a commercial property security business is being able to work with clients that have previously engaged with other firms in our industry. Maybe this applies to your company.

What we’ve found is that many of our competitors deliver security plans that are generic, non-specific, and inadequate. Why? Because many firms use templated action plans that can be standardized and rolled out time and again, no matter the client. While this helps maximize the efficiency and profitability of the security firm, what I would call the McDonalds-ization of commercial property protection offers few benefits to clients.

No two commercial properties—be it retail, commercial, condominium, office, or industrial building—are the same. They all have unique needs that require customized, expert security solutions that address your short- and long-term needs and goals. If not, your assets will remain vulnerable and an ideal target for the bad guys who might look to vandalize or break into your space.

Your security plan may be right for today but can it scale with your business as it grows and changes?

And make no mistake, professional criminals know the security firms that are more diligent and detailed as compared to those that are not. They tend to prey on the latter and design their plans accordingly.

As a commercial property owner or manager, look for a security company that comes to the table with a tailored strategy suited to your needs—not someone else’s. With that in mind, here are four important questions to ask when engaging with a security firm and evaluating their proposed security program:

Does it reflect your distinct requirements?—Before signing on with a security firm, sit down with your staff and determine what you think is your organization’s commercial property security needs. Perhaps you store hazardous chemicals at your facility, for example, or operate on a 24-hour basis meaning you require round-the-clock protection. Whatever the case, it helps to have at least a basic understanding of your unique security needs. When engaging with a firm, make sure they ask those same questions. Again, many will offer a generic plan, but only a thorough security risk assessment can define the ideal approach for protecting your property. If your security provider isn’t willing to take that step, be prepared to look elsewhere for help.

Does it integrate technology solutions?—This is a very important consideration at a time when everything from high-resolution cameras to drones and robot security guards are revolutionizing our industry. Any coherent commercial property security proposal should include a relevant security component when applicable. That could be something as simple as the use of electronic checkpoints to track guards’ movements or as complex as a complete integration of security systems across your IT infrastructure for ease in monitoring properties. Such considerations are no longer the domain of large, deep-pocketed security companies. They’re a pre-requisite for doing business in our industry, and a key element that you should expect to see in any security plan.

Can your security company build a customized approach to suit you at all levels?

Is it priced right?—Price points vary greatly across the commercial property security industry in Canada. As in any sector, larger, reputable firms will generally charge more than their smaller competitors. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes industry behemoths will look to undercut their tiny rivals by offering security services at near break-even rates, particularly when they have other, highly profitable products and services to up-sell. As is the golden rule when buying any service, you only get what you pay for. Be just as wary of providers who undercharge as those who try to gouge clients based on perceived brand reputation and industry clout. Look for providers willing to work within your budget and establish a tiered rate card based on your individual property needs.

Does it scale?—The plan may be appropriate for today, but what happens when your facility-protection needs change, or you add more properties to your commercial portfolio? Can that security provider adjust its strategy to address those changing needs? Be mindful of how the security agency is managed, and particularly whether management is organized and willing to grow its business alongside yours.

It’s only once you have the answers to these critical questions that you can choose the security company best suited to protect your commercial property assets. And from someone with 25 years of experience in the industry, believe me when I say that it’s well worth taking ample time to come to the right decision.

DO YOU NEED EXPERT SECURITY SOLUTIONS?

FILL OUT OUR QUOTE FORM AND ENJOY A CONSULTATION WITH US.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

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

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

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

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

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

Security risks abound in co-working spaces

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

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

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

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

How to protect a co-working space

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security 

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

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

Skipping the construction security plan is common

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

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

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

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

Commercial property security starts with site access control

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

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

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

Round-the-clock condominium security is crucial

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

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

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

Construction Security Plans for Commercial Interiors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

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.”

marijuana legalization and security in toronto

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 percent of employees say they partake in the odd joint, while 39 percent 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 prepare 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 

No one ever expects emergencies to happen, but when they do, it’s crucial to have a plan in place and be prepared. From tragic incidents such as the vehicular rampage through a north Toronto neighbourhood in April that killed 10 and injured 16, to weather-related incidents that can disable a commercial property, building owners, managers and their security personnel need to be strategic in finding ways to prepare for worst-case scenarios before they occur.

Hopefully these plans never require implementation, of course. But being prepared is important, if only to provide peace of mind. Part of that planning means also taking the time to train staff on the key points of your organization’s emergency preparedness and disaster response plan, or EPDRP (read our recent blog for an overview of how to develop your own comprehensive, customized plan) and then deploying effective emergency preparedness drills to be ready if, or when, disaster strikes.

Wincon Security is deeply committed to educating our clients as to how critical these plans are, so much so that we build EPDRP development into our client onboarding process.

As part of that commitment, we participated in Emergency Preparedness (EP) Week event in May coordinated and facilitated by York Region Corporate Business Continuity Program Specialist Sophia Craig-Massey and Markham Fire public educator Alex Freeman. The Remington Group hosted the event.

Various speakers underscored the importance of having an EPDRP, particularly for condominium and apartment complexes. They cited the fact that on May 4th, thousands of Toronto residents were without power when a rain and wind storm disrupted electrical service across the Greater Toronto Area. Not surprisingly, EP Week attendees were eager to engage and learn about the importance of having 72-hour kits in their residences—a handy item to include in the tool boxes of any commercial properties, as well. The kits typically feature items such as flash lights, blankets, non-perishable food and other essentials that might be important to have when power is non-existent and accessing additional supplies is all but impossible in an emergency situation.

An Emergency Preparedness Guide was also provided by York Region. Appropriately titled ‘Is your family ready?’ (hint: most are not), the guide contains information on what to do before, during and after an emergency, a rundown of the types of emergencies most likely to occur in York Region, and emergency preparedness tips for people with disabilities and/or special needs. The guide also provides handy tips on preparing a home kit, car kit (another essential consideration), as well as a guide to preparing emergency food and water supplies and how to shelter your animals and prepare a pet emergency kit to be fully prepared in case you’re stuck without pet supplies for a period of time.

While the topic may have been serious, the format was fun and engaging for everyone from kids to seniors. Children and adults had the chance to spin the big wheel and answer questions pertaining to the emergency preparedness skills they’d learned at the event. Those who correctly answered questions around key concerns such as the items you should have on hand at home in case of a power outage, won prizes to add to their own emergency kits.

In addition, the dedicated first responders at Markham Fire handed out fire hats to all those in attendance, and educated their audience on important topics such as fire safety in the home, how to develop a home evacuation plan and ways to check and update smoke detectors.

It was an evening of fun and learning all rolled into one.

From our perspective as a security provider, we need more events such as this one—and not just for home owners and occupants. Even though we educate our commercial property clients on the benefits of having an EPDRP, those who don’t already work with Wincon may not have a plan in place. From our experience, the majority of commercial property owners fall into that latter category, while those that do have a plan might find that it’s outdated or inadequate.

It’s crucial to remember that commercial properties are just as susceptible to disaster-related issues as residences—sometimes more so. And as any business owner or manager will attest, most organizations simply can’t sustain the cost and disruptions associated with unforeseen product or service downtime. In the case of small and medium-sized businesses, especially, even a short disruption in service can potentially cripple their operations and result in devastating bottom-line consequences.

All in all, this was a great event and we’d like to see more like it. Next time, let’s encourage more commercial property owners to attend, and continue educating them to ways to develop effective EPDRP strategies to help protect and secure their business assets.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

We all talk about the importance of security, but enforcing protocols can be remarkably challenging when our security responsibilities seem to be growing by the day. It can also be stressful at a time when we’re being bombarded with daily headlines about cyber security breaches, commercial property vulnerabilities and the like. Even constant requests to reset email passwords can become daunting.

But for a commercial or residential property owner or manager, paying attention to security is a crucial requirement for ensuring the safety of occupants and residents, as well as protecting valuable assets. Still, we often encounter organizations that have struggled to maintain and enforce security best practices, be it simple measures such as installing effective lighting around a property or even ensuring that doors are closed and locked at the end of a work day when the property is empty.

Why? The unfortunate reality is that for many organizations, taking a proactive approach to security is at the bottom of their list of priorities. They tend to react to security issues rather than developing a strategy to help mitigate risk, satisfy legislative requirements, reduce the threat of legal liability and implement reasonable measures to protect their assets—be it people, property or both—before unwanted situations develop.

Sound familiar? To help you make security a top organizational priority, we’ve put together four simple steps designed to help keep your people and property safe and secure:

Make it easy—One of the greatest challenges with security is that it can be complicated. When in doubt, embrace a philosophy similar to the one that legendary Apple CEO Steve Jobs employed when designing game-changing devices such as the iPhone and iPad: if the instruction or device can’t be followed or used by a four-year-old, it’s probably too onerous for the average person to effectively deploy on a regular basis. Your security protocols and infrastructure should be designed to suit the unique characteristics of your workplace or commercial property, and should be so simple that they become virtually reflexive for key stakeholders to use or follow.

Make it fun—Many organizations have turned to strategies such as gamification to gain security buy-in from their staff. That means setting up systems where employees or residents—in the case of a property such as a condominium—are rewarded for following established protocols. Sometimes that can involve a more elaborate points-based system. The stakeholders in question can gain points which they can then redeem for something of value—a half-day off work, for example. While gamification can be highly effective, it can also require significant work, especially in the set-up phase. A simpler approach might be offering monthly recognition and even rewards to those who have best adhered to security policies and procedures, in the same vein as an employee-of-the-month recognition program. The point is that incentivizing stakeholders does help improve the odds of compliance—which is the core consideration when protecting your property.

Build it into the onboarding process—Whether it’s considerations over digital or physical security, one of the most effective ways to ingrain a sense of vigilance across your organization is to offer new employees orientation training that includes specific reference to their security responsibilities. Those points should also be built into your organization’s workplace policy and procedures manual (which you should have, by the way) and employees should receive regular refresher courses reminding them of those obligations and updating them on any new security measures or technology that you might have introduced in the interim. Of course, your onboarding process should focus not only on physical security—ensuring that the doors are locked at night, for example—but also IT security, which is an increasingly daunting threat for virtually every organization. That includes everything from alerting staff to the potential of phishing or other nefarious cyber scams, to the importance of securing and protecting physical tools such as laptops and USB sticks, which tend to be a prime (and easy) target for cyber criminals.

Hire ample security—So, you’ve managed to get buy-in from staff and they’re actively (and happily) following security procedures. But do you have enough security staff on-site to properly protect your property? This tends to be another major oversight as organizations will often attempt to cut corners and reduce security expenditures to bolster their budgets. Having ample security to patrol a property is a core requirement if you want to keep it safe and secure. Work with a reliable and experienced security firm to determine the number of personnel you need, then develop a comprehensive strategy to highlight and defend potential vulnerabilities.

Winston Stewart, founder

Wincon Security