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It’s often assumed that the role of a condominium concierge security team is to not only provide an outstanding resident experience, but to react when an incident occurs. That’s only partly true. When done right, a security provider should be training its guards in pre-emptive strategies to foresee and prevent problems before they can occur. That’s the critical missing link that not only helps ensure risk mitigation and minimizes legal liability across a condominium community, but also alleviates budgetary pressures and enhances a condominium property manager’s overall value proposition.

The pre-emptive and reactive approaches should be carefully balanced. The former with customized strategies designed to service the on-site needs of a specific property, and the latter to launch an effective response when the unavoidable occurs. But how?

The pre-emptive approach to risk mitigation

Pre-emptive risk mitigation is about taking the time to identify and eliminate potential safety hazards or security vulnerabilities across a community. This could involve everything from tightening a property’s cybersecurity defences to actively seeking out slip and fall or other potential injury-causing issues. Reputable security firms build risk mitigation into their service offering. Their guards are required to help address danger points, say, by removing on-site safety hazards, or deploying warning signs in situations where a threat can’t be removed.

Of course, one of the most important factors in pre-empting risk is active observation. Condominium security concierge teams that take an active approach to property monitoring, documentation, resident interaction and prediction—essentially thinking a step ahead, making their presence felt and discreetly poking into corners even when they don’t have to—are the ones that catch issues before they can become a problem for property managers, condo boards and residents.

Unfortunately, many security providers are satisfied having their personnel sit at a lobby desk through shifts, falling asleep on the job or being generally disengaged in their duties or from the people they’ve been hired to protect. That’s simply not how you proactively guard a property.

One of the most effective ways to build and maintain that pre-emptive approach to guarding is through accountability.  A security firm’s managers should constantly visit sites, stage impromptu spot-checks, liaise with condo boards and property managers and gain an understanding of the characteristics of the site, its resident community and their specific needs.

Reacting when needed

Unforeseen circumstances require an immediate and appropriate response. That could involve a range of potential events—some merely inconvenient, others more acute and threatening. An on-site accident, for example, would fall into the latter category. A slip and fall victim could require immediate first aid and may need an ambulance. A concierge security team will often be the first responder and will need to make that call, while documenting the situation to ensure that—should litigation occur—the facts surrounding the entire event are carefully and accurately documented.

This also helps to mitigate risk associated with malicious, frivolous litigation when no real injury has occurred, or to clarify the record when incorrect information is put forward. Importantly, a security provider’s supervisors should be on-call and available at all times to respond and provide assistance when an incident response team needs additional guidance. Supervisors must also be available to attend on-site to offer operational support, especially when the situation requires escalation.

Needless to say, that response must be prompt, robust and thorough. Failing to take action as needed exposes a condominium community to additional legal liability and puts residents’ safety and security at risk. Delivering that level of service is also relatively straightforward—if guards are prepared.

The importance of pre-deployment training

The only truly effective condominium concierge security teams are the ones that are properly trained—in Ontario, for example, that means completing the government-mandated 40-hour guard certification program—prior to their on-site deployment. That training needs to include both practical and theoretical elements, but should be sustained. Simply providing guards with a one-time briefing on a condo property isn’t enough to ensure they can do their job effectively for months or years, which is the duration of many security engagements.

A failure to conduct pre-deployment training creates major vulnerabilities in the event of an on-site emergency. If guards are unfamiliar with the property, emergency muster points, how to use the fire alarm panel, or what circumstances should trigger a call to police, fire department or paramedics, successful outcomes can be easily compromised.

Pre-deployment training should provide the full suite of tools that guards need to address daily challenges. That includes instruction on a fully operational fire panel, fire response procedures, risk mitigation, documentation and service level expectations—not only how guards will interact with property managers and residents, but how they can help enhance those stakeholders’ professional or residential experience in every way. The security provider should be aiming to build a long-term relationship with their clients by understanding their unique requirements and tailoring their training to address each one in a deliberate manner. That also reduces the amount of time-consuming, on-site training that’s required to get guards up to speed.

Lastly, recertification programs in areas such as first aid/CPR/AED, along with use-of-force and non-violent crisis intervention training, can help both in emergency response and de-escalation—the latter providing a security deterrence presence and offering guards the tools they need to enforce the Trespass to Property Act.

It’s impossible for any security firm to be completely proactive in their approach to risk mitigation. At times, a rapid response is the solution to address unforeseeable challenges as they arise. But the most reliable providers are those that balance their approach, doing whatever it takes to prevent issues before they occur, then reacting quickly to ensure they don’t grow into even greater challenges.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security

Many of us have watched films set in New York, where well-heeled characters live in Madison or Park Avenue apartment buildings managed by a highly engaged security concierge team that always greets them by name and occasionally steps in to help solve whatever narrative challenge they may be facing. It’s the stuff of fantasy—mainly because very few of us will ever be able to afford the luxury rent or prices that it takes to live in one of these elite buildings home to the ultra-wealthy.

But the point is that part of the resident experience is having that kind of high-touch concierge service on offer, at all times, delivering personalized service. To some, it’s just as important as the design of their living quarters or the number of parking spaces they have to store their collection of vehicles. Not every condominium property manager can deliver quite that level of service, of course, but they can create a unique environment for their residents.

An engaged, respectful and proactive security concierge team is critical to ensuring the protection of a property and the people living in it—and that should always be their primary responsibility. The COVID-19 crisis, with its numerous and varied building-access and health and safety restrictions, underscored the value of having well-trained and responsible security professionals at the ready. But in going above and beyond while doing their jobs, security concierge personnel can also provide added value to a residential community.

They can help improve tenant/owner attraction and retention. They can indirectly help drive up property values. They can make a building or complex a far more desirable community in which to live, which is the goal of any property management firm or of condo owners who are always eager to see a spike in unit valuations or monthly rents.

So, what does it take to build a highly engaged condominium security concierge team? These are five of the key ingredients:

Effective recruitment

Choosing the right security firm is important for many reasons, but none more so than their approach to employee recruitment, onboarding and retention. Put simply, the service a security firm provides is only as good as the people who are providing it. Every security firm can deploy guards at a high-rise property, but the better ones put time and effort into carefully selecting their security professionals, in particular the ones who comprise security concierge teams. More than anything else, these professionals need to have experience and expertise in customer service— along with a client-focused attitude—to be successful.

Ongoing training

One of the many reasons why guards become disengaged is because they don’t receive adequate training in the onboarding phase. They often don’t have a full grasp of what their job entails or what they’re expected to deliver. Even when they are trained, security firms often rush the process and fail to set their concierge teams up for success. Speak to your security provider, ask questions about how they train their guards—including practical or technical considerations such as fire panel or security system operations and emergency procedures—and how they’ll provide training customized to the needs of your residential community.

Strong communication

It’s important for security companies to maintain strong communications internally to ensure their guards are updated on important information relating to the property where they’re stationed. A basic guard huddle at shift changes can help concierge teams share information, which should also be logged in daily reports and conveyed to the security provider’s management team electronically—and, when necessary, the building’s property manager. Even more crucial are a concierge team’s ability to communicate effectively with residents. They are the frontline service providers at any condominium and need to be able to intake, direct or address resident concerns. They also need to be friendly and attentive to deliver the kind of sunny service experience that should be the objective of any reliable security provider.

Performance expectations

It needs to be made clear to security concierge teams that the expectation is for them to create the kind of residential atmosphere that they might want for themselves or their families. That means working with your security provider to customize key performance indicators that can be measured and benchmarked over time. Concierge personnel that meet those lofty expectations should be rewarded with longer-term placements, which is also the ideal scenario for stability-loving residents who tend to appreciate seeing the same security personnel in their building lobbies from day to day.

Management accountability

The only way to enforce these expectations is by requiring full accountability. The best way to do that is to ensure that your security provider’s management team are on the ball, inspecting sites, providing necessary support to their concierge security teams, meeting residents themselves, interacting with the property manager or board and generally building a strong understanding of that specific community and its needs. When gaps emerge, those managers should take action before you even know there’s a problem.

If they work hard to motivate guards, treating them well and readily providing constructive feedback, you can rest assured that your concierge security team will likely stay fully engaged on the job—and your residents will keep smiles on their faces.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security