Canadian Security Magazine

The facts of city life

By Mel Gedruj   

Features Municipal Matters Opinion

As the level of government closest to citizens, the municipal sector is unique.

In fact in ancient times people lived in city states and aside from Sparta, Greek city states, for instance, had no standing army.

In other words, citizens were taking care of their own security.

Nowadays, Canadians cities offer a myriad of services that are very different from one another. Water supply, wastewater and waste collection, public transit, libraries, recreation, public health and police/emergency are some of the well-known services. In single-tier municipalities, all services will be supplied from the one level government, while two-tier regional municipalities have their services divided between the two levels. Customarily, water and police would be from the upper tier while transit can be provided by either tier.

Security management is one of the most challenging aspects for the municipal sector. The number of different “businesses” making up the services listed above have different risk profiles and security needs. In an open democratic environment, security has to be deployed in a manner that would not abuse or restrict individual rights such as privacy.


Adding to that the fact that there are no all-encompassing standards for municipal security, the result is a sector faced with a dilemma. How and what can we develop in terms of security management planning and execution that would be repeatable, can be taught, learned from, and shared while serving the specific needs of municipalities?

This series of articles aims to provide a reasoned process and assist municipal practitioners and decision makers in tackling security matters like any other management area. In other words, strategic considerations should govern in establishing a framework from which tactical and operational solutions can be planned. To make it tangible, we need models that would enable the governance level, in municipalities that is Council (Board of directors in corporations) and the senior management level to decide on the level of risk to mitigate and what residual risk to “own.” At times, the lack of clarity in this area may have given the impression that as long as the risks are not uncovered there is little consequence, but this approach, if ever contemplated, does not take into account all the fiduciary aspects, whether explicit or not and the presence of critical infrastructure in municipal portfolios.

Let’s start with two conceptual models that would place security in relation with emergency and business continuity.

First, if we accept that all these functions flow from one to the other, in the following sequence — prevention, preparedness, response, recovery and continuity of operations — then we could call it a continuum.

Secondly, the Bow-Tie risk model developed in the ’70s by the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation places the event as the defining line between prevention, preparedness response, recovery and continuity. It allows us to assign a prevention and mitigation leadership role to security prior to an undesirable event and a support role afterwards. Therefore, it would be advisable to have these three functions in the same municipal division along with risk management. The reasoning behind this is to achieve team cohesion and interoperability. Considering that federally, an all hazard approach is recommended, the combining of all these areas dealing with risk, would lead to an integrated management process, when faced either by a natural disaster or a security event.  

Mel Gedruj, OAA, CSPM is an Ontario Licensed Architect and Certified Security project manager specializing in municipal security management planning.

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