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Security directors take measured approach to recent terror threat

There was an increase in surveillance using existing security hardware and a redeployment of staff, but security directors for some of the largest facilities in Toronto’s downtown core say they did not significantly alter their plans following the arrest of 17 alleged terror suspects June 2.



June 19, 2006
By Jennifer Brown


Topics

David Hyde, the director of security services for
Cadillac-Fairview, which has significant properties in Toronto’s
financial district including the TD Centre, said while alternations
were made to how existing officers were deployed in building lobbies and other key areas, and tools such as CCTV cameras were used to provide more focused
coverage, he has not significantly ramped up security at his facilities.

“This
kind of incident causes us to revisit
where we might need to improve. The actions we’ve taken
have been more geared toward reassuring a nervous tenant and nervous
public and nervous visitors to the buildings. These threats have been
here a long time and we’ve very much been aware of them,” said Hyde,
adding tenant concern was “fairly minimal” despite the fact press
coverage on the issue has been intense.

"We increased security
manpower around tower lobbies and parking areas to reinforce a positive
perception of security to building tenants and visitors.  We do have
the capacity, within a threat escalation profile, to progress to more
high profile security measures (i.e. hand-held explosives detection
units, searches of all vehicles entering the facility, restricting
access through the lobbies).  We did not take these more advanced steps
in the recent case as the authorities (CSIS, RCMP and Toronto Police)
confirmed there was no continuing or impending threat in relation to
the suspected terrorist cell arrested across the GTA.  We base our
response on the risk as it is presented or apparent to us and the best
interests and needs of our tenants," said Hyde.

Cadillac-Fairview
went to policy of random searches of vehicles entering loading dock
areas and vehicles were stopped and asked to verify purpose and identity,
and the information was logged. 

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Some
security directors say steps taken by other large facility landlords
was somewhat exaggerated given the fact CSIS indicated the threat had
been eliminated.

“The biggest reaction I think I saw was the
misunderstanding of what security officers are to do in such
situations,” said Paul Carson of Brookfield LePage Johnson Controls
(BLJC). “I understand that some organizations have adopted the
inspection of large trucks with parabolic wheeled mirrors for
inspecting the
underbelly of trucks, which in an of itself may
appear to be a proactive step but does it provide any real value other
then the optical one?”

BLJC is a joint venture between Brookfield Properties and Johnson Controls World
Services Ltd., and the company provides facility management services.

Carson
says ammonium nitrate/fuel oil (ANFO) bombs are generally concealed in
the payload area of a truck and unless the contents of
every truck is inspected it is unlikely a bomb of this nature
would be detected because no external wiring is required to ensure detonation of the
ordinance.

“But it does show a degree of diligence that is
comforting to the general public, which shouldn’t by any means be
discounted,” he said.

While Cadillac-Fairview tenants were
informed of what measures were in place, the approach Hyde said he took
was to be calm and not add any additional security features above and
beyond what was already in place.

“We don’t want to be alarmist.
We felt, as a responsible corporation, it would be inappropriate for us
to ramp security up to the level of having guys in flack jackets
checking the sidewalks to make sure no vehicles are parked out by the
building,” said Hyde. “That gives the public the message there is an
impending threat that could come to fruition at any given moment. We
don’t need to take steps that cause anxiety, panic and alarm based on
having no factual data of a threat. CSIS confirmed there’s no
continuing threat here so it would irresponsible of us to take very
controversial and intrusive measures.”

While some property
management firms increased security presence with bomb-sniffing dogs
and checking every vehicle, Hyde said the decision was made that
additional measures such as that were not required.

“I would
argue that’s what you do in an elevated threat level situation. When
threat levels have gone up based on factual data or information from
the authorities or from knowledge you’ve got that’s what you do. We
have a process in place to support that, however, this was not one of
those situations,” said Hyde.

A heightened sense of concern
around preparedness may cause some organizations to ramp up security
spending, but experts say that isn’t necessarily the correct approach.
In fact many facilities have been ramping up security gradually as part
of a long-term plan to harden their system, but the plan was not
related to any specific threat.

“Even if everyone was to get a
$1 million and told ‘do what you need to do’, you wouldn’t be able to
do it overnight,” says Leo Manos, director of security services with
the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto. “Certain projects have to
follow others. You can throw money at it, but you still need to have
time on your side. It takes time to implement.”

Manos says there
is the day-to-day needs of the business to remain concerned about and
about culture change when a new security system is put in place. He has
been gradually increasing the number of CCTV cameras at the historic
hotel, as well as adding physical landscaping barriers in the form of
planters crash rated for a 15,000 pound vehicle, at the west side of
the hotel and limiting parking on Piper Street at the rear of the hotel.

 “We
were planning for that some time ago. We’re still doing things to
better our facility and we always revisit our security policies and
manuals and projects. So yes, maybe now it has more attention to and
maybe some are thinking they should move their three to five-year plans
up because they won’t have that time to plan for it. There’s a saying ”“
if you are predicting it you will most likely prevent it.”

For
the most part, communication remains a core element in reassuring
clients and tenants that security measures are in place. Soon after the
terror suspect arrests were made public, Cadillac-Fairview sent out
communications to all its tenants in the downtown core.

“From
our major tenants connected to critical infrastructure or connected to
the major sectors of financial or insurance, yes we were contacted by a
small portion of those tenants asking what we were going to do in
response,” said Hyde. “Our message was business as usual.”

Hyde says Cadillac-Fairview did deploy existing resources in different ways.

“Anytime
you are dealing with a perception issue, I think it’s incumbent on a
responsible security organization to increase the visible elements of
reassurance to the tenant basis, to the visitors to the building, to
the population using the building,” he said.

That means if there
is a concierge that typically sits behind a desk, in this situation
that individual may have more regular interaction with the patron of
the lobby and get out from behind the desk more.  Or, the security
department will hone in cameras on sensitive locations such as tower
lobbies and loading docks and take a more hands on approach with
frequency and taking a closer look at cameras during key periods of
time.


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