Canadian Security Magazine

G20 Toronto: 9 Strategies for surviving the summit

By Tony Schmitz   


From June 26 to June 27, 2010, the City of Toronto will be hosting the G20 Summit, a high-profile meeting of heads of state, national leaders, and economic specialists from around the globe, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada and President Barack Obama of the United States. The G20 Summit represents one of the largest security events in Canadian history, and will demand a considerable amount of resources from both public and private organizations. Security costs for the event are estimated to be over one billion dollars.

In the coming weeks, local businesses, international corporations, individuals, government agencies, and law enforcement personnel will be scrambling to prepare for the summit and to make sure that response mechanisms are in place for anything that might go wrong that weekend. Organizations throughout Toronto will be impacted by the summit simply by having a business presence in the city.

Here are nine tips to keep in mind when preparing for the summit and any other possible security concern. Follow them to make sure that your business continuity plan is up to date, that your employees are prepared, and that your daily operations are not derailed in the face of unexpected emergencies.

Ӣ Prepare a concise business continuity plan. An articulate and well thought-out business continuity plan is a necessity in any top organization, and must include a simple and personalized set of tasks and responsibilities for each of your key responders. People work best during the first 24-48 hours of a crisis when good training and planning is supplemented with clear and streamlined assignments. Maintain a wide perspective in your planning in order to provide your responders a tight focus.

Ӣ Simplify your plans with tasks and checklists. Instead of filling large binders with overwhelming amounts of information, distill your business continuity plan into strategically organized and easy to read checklists. Create individual checklists to address specific events, such as the G20. This end of June, every employee of a Toronto-based company should be provided with a list of tips and an abridged BCP checklist to be aware of and prepared for any possible crises.


”¢ Automate your communications plan. Make sure that your organization has an emergency messaging system that is truly next-generation. Your system should provide a wide breadth of functionality, automated two-way communication, a SAS 70 Type II audited infrastructure based on a SaaS delivery model, and an integrated, lightweight IMS and BCP platform. Additionally, remember to consider cost, security and versatility when choosing your mass notification platform — the right provider should simplify your operations, not add to the confusion. Your personnel should be able to use the service on the fly, without formal training, should an emergency arise during the G20 Summit.

”¢ Embrace multimodality. The flexibility inherent in multi-modal emergency communication increases the chance that important and time-sensitive messages will reach people quickly during an emergency. If a mail server is down, or a network is overwhelmed, alternate points of contact are critical. Don’t rely on email and office phones when employees may be in the field or telecommuting during the summit. Make sure that you can reach your employees via landlines, cellular phones, email, fax and BlackBerry.

Ӣ Pre-formulate your responses to particular scenarios. You can develop messaging content and response parameters ahead of time by pre-populating alert scenarios. You will still need to update these strategies in the event of an emergency, but having a framework in place will ease both internal and external communication during riots, protests, or unexpected road closures during the G20.

”¢ Overestimate your needs. Have communication and response strategies in place for every possible situation, so that if anything does happen you know that you’re prepared. It’s hard to be over prepared during an event such as the G20 Summit.

”¢ Leverage partner resources. Work with other organizations in your area or industry to ensure a more comprehensive response to disasters. If something goes wrong during the G20, the chances are that it will not only affect your organization. Work with other companies and government agencies to secure alternate workspaces and share critical information. You’ll streamline your emergency response process and increase your efficiency by a significant degree.

Ӣ Prepare for a crowd in downtown Toronto. The G20 Summit is bringing together leaders and economic advisers from around the world. With them, we can expect a number of organizations to stage demonstrations or protests in response. In the week leading up to the conference, avoid unnecessary meetings, travel, and visits to the heart of the conference areas. If your offices are located in downtown Toronto, increase security from June 21-27, and make sure that the outside of your building is cleared of garbage and debris that can be set on fire or thrown during a possible political protest.

Ӣ Test your plans! Run a test of your business continuity plan before the G20 to make sure that you, your employees, and all other stakeholders know how to respond when an actually crisis strikes.

No company wants to find a story about itself above the fold in the newspaper for its failure to efficiently manage and communicate with its staff during G20. To protect both their reputations and their employees, organizations operating in Toronto and adjacent geographies should work in lockstep with federal and local officials to make sure that they are aware of road closures, delays, and other security measures that are put into effect for the Summit weekend. It is critical that organizations maintain open and effective communication lines with employees, clients, partner organizations, and local officials. And most importantly, it is critical that all of these strategies are implemented in the long term, to maintain their effect even once the G20 dust has cleared.

Tony Schmitz is President and CEO of Send Word Now, a provider of on-demand alerting, response, and incident management services for both routine and emergency communication. Send Word Now’s service is used by government agencies, municipalities, universities, non-profit organizations and businesses. He can be reached at

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