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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

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—security 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 security 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?

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, makes 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.

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.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security