The holiday season is almost here and with it comes wind chills, snowfall and icy conditions. For condo property managers and condo boards, that means working with their security teams to pay close attention to the many potential holiday and winter security risks that can arise across their condo communities when the thermostat drops and the holiday lights are strung.
While the weather is an obvious source of challenges, it’s not the only one. As we outline below, everything from the risk of parcel thefts to added stress on building infrastructure with residents continuing to work from home threatens to put a lump of coal in condo managers’ stockings this holiday season and beyond. It’s the time of year for security providers to be more engaged than ever and to focus on both reactive and proactive risk mitigation. Here’s how:
It’s beginning to look a lot like parcel season
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the volume of parcels flowing into condo properties has surged as e-commerce became the only means of shopping. Now, even with social distancing restrictions largely relaxed (at least for now), many consumers are increasingly turning to e-commerce for their holiday shopping needs. The problem is that most condo buildings aren’t equipped to handle a continuous influx of packages. Condo concierge teams have been forced to play the role of parcel handlers in addition to their regular duties. Security guards are tasked with ensuring that items aren’t lost or stolen, but that’s easier said than done if a lobby isn’t equipped with a secure parcel storage area.
To make matters more complicated, the holidays typically result in a deluge of pricier packages as residents purchase Christmas gifts and have them delivered. When parcels go missing due to improper storage—or when they’re mistakenly given to the wrong individuals by a concierge—the condominium corporation could face significant liability and compensation costs.
The next two weeks will see a surge in deliveries. Condo boards and managers should develop a strategy to receive, document, and store packages, perhaps by setting up a storage room or even introducing secure parcel storage lockers to help manage the influx. Being proactive about delivery management will only help to enhance the resident experience and avoid potential complaints or conflicts.
Oh, Christmas tree!
Every year there are holiday stories in the media about Christmas trees catching fire or electrical issues with lights creating similar fire hazards. The reality is that most people will forget decoration safety best practices from one year to the next. Security providers should help condo managers develop information emails and notices to remind residents to keep live trees sufficiently watered and to test all lights for proper functionality prior to use. Other decoration-related points to consider: Are residents allowed to hang lights on balconies? If so, are there restrictions on the types of lights that can be hung? If the practice is prohibited, residents will need to be reminded. Enforcing rules such as those can consume a security team’s time and distract them from core duties. Best to use the communication tools available and inform residents about their responsibilities in advance, while continuing to send reminders.
The same goes for Christmas tree disposal. Natural trees are wonderful, but they create a mess if they’re not properly disposed of. Request that residents bag their trees before transporting them through building corridors and direct them to appropriate disposal areas.
There’s no place like home for the holidays (and to work remotely)
An often-overlooked consequence of pandemic-era remote work arrangements is the extra strain on condo building infrastructure. Everything from increased HVAC and electrical demand to the potential for water leaks (think burst pipes due to added use) and the risk of elevator break-downs as service demand spikes, can cause havoc for condo property managers and security concierge teams. Condo managers should be prepared with a plan to manage and mitigate winter-specific risks that come with residents spending more time in their units and using services. Security teams should be prepared to investigate and address building system malfunctions on a proactive basis, highlighting issues before they can escalate.
Baby, it’s cold (and icy, wet and snowy) outside
The most immediate risk for condo managers and residents is from the elements. Winter inevitably brings an unpredictable mix of snow, ice, rain and the potential for slip and fall incidents. Properly trained condo concierge and security patrol teams are the first line of defence against mitigating legal liability and other risks. Guards should be responsible for identifying, documenting and reporting potential issues such as icy sidewalks, while also taking action to address those issues. It only takes a few minutes to salt a busy pathway, for example, but that simple act can save a great deal of response time, stress and cost if an accident occurs.
The same approach should apply inside a building, as well. Security teams should be on the lookout for frozen pipes, faulty mechanical systems—a malfunctioning heating system can lead to a temperature drop in mechanical rooms that increase the risk that pipes will freeze—overland flooding and other hazards that could result in expensive repair and cleanup work if left unchecked. That’s especially important in underground parking garages, many of which can be prone to flooding. Those problems could escalate quickly in the event of a major snowstorm or rapid thaw cycle.
Training condo security guards for winter weather
The key to effective condo security risk mitigation—both over the holidays and throughout the winter—comes down to strategic planning, communication and training. If a condo building is equipped with a winter safety and readiness strategy (which should be a component of comprehensive emergency response and disaster-preparedness plan), many common challenges can be avoided. Condo security teams must be trained in relevant procedures and be held accountable to maintain reactive and proactive risk mitigation policies. Top security firms in the Greater Toronto Area will take that approach as a best practice. That includes active emergency response, such as training condo security concierge and patrol teams to be able to activate backup generators or liaise with trades or technicians when emergency incidents occur.
Last consideration: condo property managers need to work with security providers that deliver pre-deployment training to their guards. A security team is only as good as their preparation. Unless that training is updated regularly and customized to the unique features of the property and resident community they’re protecting, it won’t be effective.
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Winston Stewart, President and CEO