Monday, June 4, 2012

The Awakening; it Can Happen to Me!

Not in our corner of the world!

Things like that happen on other countries, we're too nice!

What are the chances? So small they really don't exist!

This are typical responses one would get if we we're to discuss the potential of a "shooter" running rampant inside a major shopping venue in Toronto. Oh, perhaps we could have a mugging, or more likely just a "fisticuffs" going on, even a purse or purchase snatching. But never a shooting. C'mon, this is "Toronto the Good"! We don't do crap like that!

Apparently, some of us do.

There are three things I won't do following this dastardly attack. One, I won't blatantly use it to sell myself, my services or my programs. That would be, and is cheap and taudry. Secondly, I won't use it to stir fervor and frighten people to action in the cause of Emergency and Disaster Planning and Preparedness. I think that doing so would only stir up anxieties unnecessarily, and that would not be a positive to peoples responses should another like event occur. And lastly, I will not attempt to soothe you collective brows, and coo such sweet affections inferring the bad man is gone, never to return, and this is a once in a lifetime thing, never to return to us again. Because this is the second time such events have unfolded inside of 7 years.

In December of 2005, a vivacious 15 year old Jane Creba was shot dead by an errant bullet from the gun of another drug/gang-banger while she shopped a busy Yonge Street, only meters away from Saturdays sad events. We were all amazed and shocked such a thing could happen in our fair city then, but I think many believed (perhaps even me to a degree) that this would likely never happen again. We've just been reminded that events, like history, have a tendency to repeat themselves, and as Churchill said, we are damned to repeat them if we do not learn from them.

I know we learned from Jane Creba's death. Perhaps we forgot some of what we learned though, and this is our lesson on remembering.

From all accounts I have seen, the security team at the Eaton's Centre performed admirably and quickly. I can't say I've seen anything to find fault with in their response by any media account of events. The same can be said for Toronto's men and women of Toronto Police Services. They too were on the scene rapidly, and took charge as they needed to in order to protect. I can't say that there was any miscue at all from any responder. That's great news!

In saying all that though, it brings to the front of my mind anyway, the need for more preparedness training in the private sector. A heads up as it were for the average man and woman and child on the street. And, more importantly, practice in the business world in responding to these rare yet potentially deadly occurrences ahead of time.

I don't know if the Cadillac Fairview Security staff had ever conducted an exercise related shooters inside the Eaton's Center before, but it seems obvious there may have been some discussion and possibly training conducted reflecting that. It would make sense with the Centre's tourist designation. The result either way is, this might have been a far more tragic day for many more families had the response gone any other way. I strongly commend the actions of those immediately on scene in response.

I can't help but wonder though, how things would have gone if this event occurred in a private business instead of a public place. How many would be injured, how many would be dead. I wonder this because the majority of businesses don't have a security team on hand trained or at least schooled on responses to such hostile attacks. I wonder how our organizations events(Scouting events, Optimist Club meetings, Lion's Club charity events and Charity gals and balls and more) would fair if something similar to Saturday's food court attack occurred during the event. I cant recall seeing any security personnel around when I spoke before a Rotarian Sunrise group breakfast a year or so ago in downtown Toronto. And I know we didn't have any onside security in the warehouse of a former employer of mine when an escapee of the Metro East Detention Center tried to hide in one of the dumpsters inside our loading dock one year.

Security teams at every event we hold as NPOs isn't feasible. Nor is having, in most cases, a full time security team in our businesses and meeting halls. The cost benefit ratio is way out of whack, especially for our service clubs who all too often work on shoe-string budgets. But (you knew there had to be a "but"), there is a liability we have as business owners, service club members and organizers of other events (those aforementioned galas and balls) to those who attend the meetings, events, galas and balls. It's called "Due Diligence", it's called "Duty of Care" and it all hangs on doing "all things reasonable" to protect employees, guests, friends, and families from harm. While a security team might be above the "all things reasonable" category, having Emergency/Disaster Plans that deal with theses potentially deadly occurrences isn't.

Emergency/Disaster Plans for events, balls, galas, service club meetings and in general for businesses really aren't expensive, especially compared to the value of the lives that would be saved by having a plan in place, not to mention the potential cost from litigation should a court decide you didn't do everything reasonable to protect those "in your charge". For most charitable events, Emergency Plannners would offer discounts based on the nature of your organization. Savings would be seen too, where an event was returning to a previously utilized venue, as the bulk of the plan would already be written and require minor revision to accommodate the new event. I think it would be fair to say, based on inside knowledge, most of these plans could be generated for less than $1000.00 Cdn for very large events, and probably less than a few hundred dollars for the average sized event. Perhaps less for charitable.

Regardless, the benefits of putting into place an Emergency/Disaster Plan in the workplace, or for any type of gathering or event far exceeds ANY of the costs. There are any number of people and businesses that can help you prepare, or prepare for you, a solid Emergency Plan. I strongly recommend you consider using their services. It's not just for you protection, but also for your guests, employees and their families protection.

Greg Long, President;
TEN33 Inc.

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