Pay Attention

Pay Attention

So I’m fortunate enough to get to do some traveling with my work and get to see many an interesting place, work with incredibly passionate and hard working individuals for several large organizations and institutions.

I’m also asked about the small organizations or even just some residential services.  So I put some thought into it and I’ve put together some services for the small business/entrepreneur type organizations but nothing really for the residential side of things.  Until I went for a drive locally.  This rant will be as long as the drive was.  I still don’t don’t have any services for the residential side of things but I definitely have some advice.

So many homeowners install security/intrusion alarms.  We get them for only a handful of reasons;

  1. Recent break-in to our home
  2. Recent birth of a child
  3. Recent break-in to our neighbor’s home
  4. Recent purchase(s) of valuable items (eg; jewellery, electronics, antiques)
  5. Recent death in a relative that resided with us

There are other personal reasons but you get the idea.  Many reasons revolve around one of the above themes.

So you’ve listened to the sale person’s pitch, you liked it, you buy it, you have it installed it works.  Warning labels go on the windows, maybe a lawn sign out front, the hole nine yards.  So you go about your business keeping your property clean and in order, ensuring the labels are visible to act as the deterrent to any unwanted activity.

Question.  Has your alarm installation company or your alarm monitoring company done the same?  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I drove pass a local alarm installation/monitoring company’s office only to see that they had no warning labels in the window and that there business sign out front had been tagged with graffiti.  Are you kidding me?  The alarm company wasn’t even paying attention to what was happening on their own property.  How are they able to in good conscience give you advice on how you are to maintain yours to deter unwanted activity?

Here’s the advice.  Before you buy, visit their office.  See what security devices, tools or aids they are using on their property.  Ask if it all works.  Request a demonstration of the equipment if possible.  Is it the shoe cobbler story?  Everyone’s shoes are better than theirs.  These aren’t shoes we’re talking about, these are security and life safety devices we’re talking about.  If it’s important to you it should be extremely important to the company selling it to you.

I can also appreciate that there is a small portion of the market that is often referred to as the “one-truck, one-installer’ organization.  Nothing wrong with them, know several.  Their truck is their rolling office.  Does it look maintained?  Quickly peering into it, do you see client information just thrown about inside the cab of the truck?

If they’re not willing to maintain their security, how well or attentive are they going to be to yours.

Wow, haven’t ranted like that in a while.  Thanks for listening.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.


You know what you just did, right?

You know what you did, right?

So I’m going to do a lot in this post to “protect the innocent” or is the uninformed, but if I get to descriptive, you’re intelligent people you might just figure out where I was.

So I have an appointment at what could be, well it is considered a government infrastructure location.  So this location was pretty centralized within the city.  To add to it, it had nothing on the perimeter that would greatly attract attention to it.  I mean no armed guards patrolling the facility, turrets with with spot lights or a multi-tracking surveillance system with bio-metric analysis for access.

So that you get the picture…pretty plain.

So I have a scheduled appointment.  So as I’m waiting outside of the facility when what I can only assume was an employee of the facility, not my contact, approached me, a brief conversation determining the reason why I was there and boom…I’m in.  No call to verify, no reach out to their colleague, no text, no email not even a yell down the hall.  You get the picture.

So I’m passed the perimeter access, in through a few interior access doors and now I’m meters away from the heart of this building, the reason for it’s existence.  The reason for it’s existence, I’ll leave out.  So I’m placed in what can only be described really as an employee hang out or break area…not even in a monitored waiting area or lobby.

Oh I forgot to add that I was 15 minutes early for my appointment.  Was actually going to take the time to study the outside of the facility a little more but that really didn’t happen.

So there I sit and wait.  Five minutes before the appointment happens I receive an email:

I’m really sorry but something has come up and I won’t be able to make it to our appointment.  I’ve been pulled away to another facility.  I hope you haven’t been waiting outside the building too long.  I apologize.  Can we reschedule?

So a couple things.  Here I was in this building, not being monitored in any way from where I’m sitting only meters away from the belly of the beast.  My contact had not been informed that I was there.  The other employee took my word on face value.  Better yet I was given access without any verification, scrutiny, identification verification…I mean nothing.

So wow.  I don’t let anyone in my house unless I’ve come to some satisfaction I know who they are, why they’re there and what the intent of their visit is…family excluded.  Well most of them.

So where’s the failure.  Pretty obvious.  There is no security culture engrained into this facility.  There’s no belief that security is everyone’s job.  There may not be any access control policies…well l know there is, it’s not that enforced as I learned.

A simple risk assessment on the situation really held no weight.  So if i was on the on side of the team I would have just figured out how to get in again, but even better I was in already.  I might have just been able to go and do enough damage to hurt or even cripple this facility.  And walk away.  As far as my contact was concerned I was still outside or on my way.  The individual who let me in knew who I was to see, and the reason for it but never asked my name.

So lesson.  Make sure everyone knows what the policy is.  If you have appointments and can’t make it, contact someone on your team to make sure that this person is either not in or if they are in they get out.  Oh yeah…I let myself out.

Work on fostering a security culture, it is a  mind shift but it is beneficial and you don’t even need to be an infrastructure site to foster this type of environment.

As I always say, Plan the Work, Work the Plan.


Well that just happened.

warning-mass-confusion-aheadI really can’t believe this happens.

Here’s some context.  I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to interact with, read the material of, and visit several post secondary institutions lately and I can’t understand how this happens.

My concerns revolves around spelling mistakes, sending people into possible danger, spending the money and not using it, not sharing or teaching and simply letting it collect dust.  Where do I start?  Have you ever tried to write something down about something you’re so passionate about that you just can’t type fast enough.  That’s this article.

Okay, so I pick up this pamphlet…and let me start by saying that I’m not going to name the post secondary institutions because I’ve reached out to them in hopes that they re-think about and rectify my concerns.  So back to the pamphlet…so I pick up this pamphlet and it’s titled Security Information & Emergency Procedures.  The pamphlet for those that need to know was on display in the common bathrooms  I didn’t see it anywhere else other than the security office.  So I read through it, well organized in appearance, a splash of color for affect to distinguish emergencies.  But unfortunately riddled with spelling and grammatical mistakes.  Now, I’m not perfect in that area but at least I know where my spell check icon is.

The real classic line within the pamphlet was that the on-site security staff will make the determination if the threat of a bomb is valid enough to call the police, if the device or package found is valid enough to call the police.  Seriously, I know what level of training the staff has received, and that’s not to be taken as a shot at the staff.  None of them has the experience or the training for that matter to make the determination if a suspicious package has the ability to be detonated.  So I have the concern about the message they’re sending out.  The false sense of expertise they may want to display to the impressionable student.  Look around, many of these students are what they call mature students, professionals taking additional schooling to advance their careers, internet savvy students that know how to Google more stuff and information just to agree or disagree with their professors.  So really!

“In the event of a Lockdown…leave”.  Huh?  Might as well not call it your Lockdown procedure but just pandemonium announcement.  Leave…go where?  Where is the threat?  Right beside you, but you didn’t know that, you may have actually been safer staying in the room you were in, locking the door, and staying away from sight or as I like to call it Hide with Pride.  Why would you send someone into harms way?  You may not have meant to write that, but you did.  You have a chance to fix it, and so you should.

The not sharing scares me.  So I’m at a business function representing one of the charities I volunteer for.  During a conversation I’m asked what I do in my daily life.  So I explain and the next thing I know I’m knee deep into a conversation about emergency response procedures.  Turns out the individuals I’m speaking with are part time professors at one of these institutions that know these procedures exist but have never received an orientation, a training manual but know that they’re responsible for the students in their class spaces when the lights start flashing or the bells start ringing or announcements come over the half of the public address system that still works.  You would think that in an education institution they might be able to even pull off a podcast or webinar of training for their staff…maybe not.

My final beef, and thank you for letting me get this off my chest, is that I’ve seen because I’ve been part of the process, emergency response procedures get created, get tested once and never to be really looked at ever again.  That information, those exercises, those books were paid for to be used.  They aren’t something that’s just there to show that you were involved in a major project that took some time to complete…and that the table top or mock exercises were ‘fun’ to do…use them.  Keep having table top discussions and exercises, review those procedures annually at minimum.  I mean really review them, read each page to make sure the information is still correct.  Things change.

The more informed your population is, the more prepared they are, the more included in the process they feel, the more likely they’re going to be involved and not confused.  End result, less loss, reduced downtown, quicker return to normalcy.

Like I always say, Plan the Work.  Work the Plan.  It’s not going to do it itself.

What’s keeping you up at Night?

up at night 1



Often when I meet or speak with clients this is a question that inevitably makes its way into the conversation.

What keeps you up at night?

What do you worry about?  What are you afraid of happening?  What are you of afraid of not happening?

In our personal lives away from work we worry about the late night knock at the door…who is it?  Or that our daughter has gone on her first date and we stay awake waiting for her safe return or our son has the car out for the first time with his friends and we hope that the lessons and wisdom we’ve imparted on him stick and that peer pressure is not the prevailing  piece of advice for the night.

In our professional lives it’s the terrorism attacks, it’s the active shooters, it’s the multiple explosive devices placed on our property to be remotely detonated causing mass panic and terror….No…No it’s not.

What keeps us awake at night is the same thing that happens in our personal lives, the worry that something is going to happen that we can’t control and that we may need to manage well into the problem existing.  Are we prepared enough?  Did we do enough to train the staff?  Did we purchase the right equipment?  Are we up to date?

So what do we do?  We plan for it, we write about it, we seek advice on it, we talk it over with our colleagues, we stay up to date on pro-active trends, we conduct risk assessments to ensure we’re prepared for the right things and not just the flavor of the month emergencies, we practice it and we do it all over again and again.

I’d be interested to here what’s keeping you up at night.  I sleep well.  Actually that’s not entirely true.  I worry about you not getting enough sleep.  So let’s work on getting you there.

Remember…Plan the Work, Work the Plan.



InterpretFunny word.  Not funny ha ha.  Funny in the sense that in the security, risk and emergency management world there seems to be a lot of it.  Almost contradictory on some level.  Somewhere in the back of minds of many is a wish that during an emergency event, a highly sensitive security situation or where risk to persons, business, property and/or reputation that we don’t feel the need to interpret the instructions or guidance we’ve been given to respond appropriately for the situation at hand.

Of course the root of the word is interpret.



  • Explain the meaning of (information, words, or actions)

So that could be anything and everything from what your plans says, what your supervisor or responding emergency services authority said to you or others or what you think you saw someone else do and so on.

Let’s not forget what got you there in the first place.  You interpreted the need for a threat risk assessment which led you down a path that you and maybe your colleagues and supervisor thought a full emergency response plan was needed.

You proposed that the amount of time and cost associated with such a venture would cost X$.  Your manager thought it didn’t need to be so robust and felt a couple of the procedures could be removed bringing it down to Y$.

The executive team reviewed the idea and again and saw it a little differently.  It was a more “compact precise plan” in their eyes only costing A$.

So the plan rolls out.  An incident occurs which unfortunately you didn’t have a complete procedure on but a couple that slightly referenced this type of incident.  The costs associated are 10 times the amount if not more of the original proposal of X$.  The reputation impact is still being calculated and really won’t be known for some time.

Your legal team actually thinks that once it gets settled in court it’s going to cost more.  The judge presiding interprets the reasons why your organization did or didn’t do something slightly differently impacting your organization with orders from the bench to rectify this concern moving forward.  And yes that costs money.

So with all of the various interpretations along the way, could all of this possibly been prevented?  I wish.  The answer is most likely no, but the impact of sitting back and taking into account all of the interpretations and the best worst case scenarios helps.

Plan the Work.  Work the Plan.

Prepare to Clean up Bonuses


I had the opportunity lately to have conversations with colleagues, friends and various business leaders on the topic of bonuses.  Are they effective, how big can they be, who’s getting them (and by who I’m more speaking to the position with an organization and not a specific individual) and the reasons for being rewarded a bonus.

What I found interesting is that some bonuses are directly tied to the individual and some are directly tied to things, events or otherwise that the individual can’t directly manage or control.  Here’s a few examples;

  • Ensuring that all of your staff properly wash their hands when they’re supposed to
  • Customers stay in the store longer and spend more money
  • Sales personnel contact 20% more people
  • Patients are well enough quicker to be discharged sooner
  • Revenue incrementally increases each month by a minimum of 2.25% no exceptions
  • Significant increase in Facebook® Likes and Twitter® followers
  • Ensure clients respond to project scheduling requests in a timely fashion
  • Complete most of the projects assigned to you

For the record I did not make up anyone of these on this list.  In fact I’ve had a couple of these asked of me in the past.

So I get that bonuses are traditionally passed along when revenue is up and profitability is accompanied along with it and its a share in the wealth scenario.  But what if we’re to not change the system entirely but add emergency management performance indicators to the list.

As with many of the above list, you may not be able to manage or control the outcome of those scenarios and with an actual emergency event predicting its final outcome, well lets just say if you could do that you should be buying a lottery ticket.

But there are things we can include on that list;

  • Fire Safety Plan reviewed annually with executive sign off
  • Monthly Fire Warden training is completed with 100% success/attendance
  • Emergency response plan is reviewed and updated annually
  • Emergency response table top exercises, class room training conducted annually with 100% success/attendance
  • Down time of production/business/process is reduced as a result of effective emergency response due to an emergency, based on historical data of same

The list is not completely inclusive and I’m sure that many more can be added.  It’s not that I disagree with profit sharing, it’s that I disagree with some of the reasons  for it.  Why not tie it back to the fact that people are genuinely going to keep the business/organization going as best as they can in the event of an emergency.

“Thank you for protecting lives, property, assets and our reputation by being forward thinking in your goal to ensure that we’re prepared to respond to emergencies in the best way that we can.”

I think this would be a lot easier than standing outside the bathroom for most of your day making sure people are properly washing their hands, and a lot less creepy.

Plan the Work. Work the Plan.

Flavor of the Month Hero

Flavor of the Month Hero

Your business is not an ice cream parlor so stop treating your emergency preparedness priorities like your developing a schedule for the flavor of the month.  Not that there is anything wrong with ice cream parlors or flavor of the month schedules, some of them are quite delicious.  I digress.

I receive many phone calls and emails asking me to conduct a threat risk assessment then when I do and recommend that you may need to focus on natural disaster training and emergencies only to be asked to do active attacker procedures and simulations, I ask why?.  My concern is that the probability of that situation happening to you is low.  High risk, but a very low probability that it’s going to happen to you.  Depending on where you are, as an example earthquakes may be a greater concern, protect in place due to flooding in your area, how about simply a major flood at your workplace.

Don’t get me wrong,  Many establishments unfortunately need to have an active attacker procedure and train frequently for that type of situation.  But if all the data is pointing towards a higher probability of you experiencing a floor or earthquake over an active attacker situation where do you think the higher interest in procedure development and training should go?

This all boils down to your threat risk assessment.  When and if done correctly will give you volumes of information for you to think about.  It will also give you clarity on concerns that you didn’t know or were unsure about.

Some emergencies happen quickly and the cost associated (some immeasurable) can be very high.  Some take some time and may last for days or weeks or even years and the cost and reputation damage may be just as costly or more.  My advice is to really evaluate the information you’re given in your threat risk assessment.  Don’t be the guy/girl that thinks they’re looking like a hero because they arranged for an active attacker mock training exercise only to be the same individual who wasn’t prepared for the flood that’s about to hit you this month…and next.

If you can afford the time to really think it through, do it.  Once you’ve done it and you’ve moved forward, procedures and training are done…do it again.

Plan the Work.  Work the Plan.



Tipping Point

TippingPointSo here’s the thing.  You can preach about having great plans, great training, great response time.  You can do whatever is fiscally responsible, physically and mentally capable in your hands.  But where does it sometimes fall apart?  When the tools or infrastructure you’re given or have to work with are in disrepair, outdated or don’t even exist.

So where is my comment coming from?  As we’ve all witnessed many areas around the globe are getting hammered with extreme weather and other naturally occurring events.  Unfortunate for many local, regional, provincial, state or federal governments they have not done enough pre-planning over the years to recognize certain trends and react accordingly.  Why?  It costs money, it doesn’t win votes, it create deficits, generally people just might not be happy with the decisions.  Well they’re not happy now their home has been washed away, basement flooded, lives lost, life savings and sentimental keepsakes destroyed.

How are you or others expected to respond to an emergency or disaster when the initial tools that you may rely upon don’t work?  You’re behind the proverbial eight ball.  You are playing constant catch up.  The opportunity to go from response to recovery is delayed.  The cost of damages or even loss of life increases as you quite frankly respond to the uphill battle.

So what’s the answer?  The obvious answer is – things need to change.  We need to stop saying that we’re managing the event as best as we can.  Let’s be honest.  Our infrastructure is outdated.  If you don’t want this to happen again we need to invest in upgrading.  That’s going to cost money.  Yes.  Taxes may go up, user fees may be implemented.  Smarter design needs to be initiated, agreed upon and used.

I don’t have all of the answers.  What I do know is that there are so many innovative solutions out there to be implemented, there are thousands and thousands of great ideas wanting to be used.  Some are yes more expensive than others.  We’re at a tipping point.  Is the cost of not  implementing a solution more valuable than the losses that are created from not implementing the solution?

So how long is this going to take?

One Step Ahead

Unfortunately you’ve been inconvenienced, stricken, experienced, or were surprised by a major emergency event.  For one, that’s unfortunate that you’ve experienced that either directly or indirectly.

Common question during a major emergency event is “when will this be over?” followed by it’s brother/sister question at the end of the event “so how long is this going to take?” to get back to normal, so that I can go back home, to work, to the next town, to the grocery store etc.  The list is as long as your imagination can conjure and most likely even longer than that.

Friends, family and colleagues of Calgary, Alberta experienced the worst flooding that province has ever seen.  Some are estimating that for most, life may return to “normal” (as close as it can be in the short term) for most people affected by the Calgary floods within the next week or so.  Here is my estimation as to when that area will really be back to “normal”.  Years.  It is going to take several years for it to be back to normal.

Here’s why.  The cursory clean up will take a couple of days, other inspections of buildings and infrastructure may take a couple of weeks just to be certain, residential homes extremely damaged may take a couple of weeks to months to either be repaired, demolished and then rebuilt and so on.

Business of the city are losing money by the minute and unfortunately if they’re not prepared for or can ride the wait out, many could go out of business.

It’s the beginning of summer, warm and warmer days are ahead, the odd rain shower (hopefully not so much) to come in the following months.   So there may be an upside to dealing with the majority of this disaster in historically nicer weather.

But where is all of the damaged material going.  The current domestic and commercial waste sites and depots will only be able to manage so much, we may start to see temporary locations being used as landfill drop off stations.  Ask any Torontonian what temporary drop off sites are like in the summer months as they experienced a couple of years ago and I’m quite certain not one description or recollection will be rosey.  So, where is all of the damaged material going, what’s going to happen to it?  It’s going to sit, there, it’s going to stink, we may begin to create many standing water areas, attract vermin into areas not traditionally frequented or inhabited by.  So the next level of risks begin.

Environmental risks, risks of a damaged economy and so on.

Here is my silver lining.  At the beginning of this emergency there were many agencies both private and government already working openly and behind the scenes to be as best as they could be one step ahead of the emergency.  In my opinion they’ve done a fantastic job and their efforts should be applauded.

What I’m further certain about is that plans to mitigate the potential new risks and hazards are already being looked at and worked through, and at the end of the day, even though it may still take a couple of years to be completely out of the woods on this event, they will do fine.

It has all boiled down to one simple phrase; Plan the Work, Work the Plan.



So what are you looking for? And why did you lose?

What are we looking for

It used to surprise me, now it doesn’t.  Deserves some context, I know.

So in the past, I would either reach out to organizations to source out work or organizations would reach out to me.  The funny thing is that there were times when the organization who sought me out would end the engagement with “we’re not sure what we need, so we’re going to leave it here for now”.

Really.  So what changed your mind? I gave you enough ammunition to make you rethink the scope of the work?  You didn’t think it was as complicated, expensive or would take up as much or less time than proposed?

Many government departments are currently sitting in a moratorium with respect to hiring consultants.  I get that.  I can appreciate the ideals of saving money.  The unfortunate side of that equation is that some things are just not getting done.  Prime examples are Fire Safety Plans, Emergency Response Plans and the really big one that gets me is training and education is not getting done.

Private corporations are still within reasonable engagement of hiring consultants but they too are limiting what they will get done.  Right down to the bare minimum.  The unfortunate part is the training and education is not as robust or as detailed or in some extreme circumstances even exists.

Businesses/Governments, their employees and their customers are losing out.  Over what?  I know, it’s money.  I get, I make it, I spend it just like many others do.  But there needs to be a balance between what we’re willing to spend operational and capital budgets on and what we should be spending operational and capital budgets on.

In my opinion, the true value of any budget, annual revenue or bonus gained does not exceed the need to be prepared, to have your staff prepared and to have your customers know the comfort or your preparedness.

Maybe we go without some frills once in awhile.

Don’t forget the other side.  Your consultants, well at least I know I do, will work with you to massage the project wants to get you what you really need.  Preparedness is key and working within today’s budgetary confinements is a necessary forum.

Remember; Plan the Work, Work the Plan.