As many people will know – unless you’ve been living in a cave (not that there’s anything wrong with that) – Toronto and Huntsville (Ontario) Canada are hosting the G8 and G20 summits respectively. Toronto is just down the road from me (100km – well for the size of Canada that is just down the road…) and Huntsville is just two hours north of where I live.
As with past years, there is expectation there will be demonstrations and problems with demonstrators. I’m not suggesting that all demonstrators will be violent and impact damage upon buildings and corporate building but there will no doubt be some. History has shown that there will be. In fact, Ottawa (Canada’s capital) had a bank explosion, directly attributed to protestors associated with the upcoming G8/G20 summits – they even admitted to this.
If you didn’t know, the G20 summit is being held right in the downtown core of Toronto – a city core where approximately 100,000 people congregate during the busy daily business hours. You can imagine the impact this has on operations for any business or corporation within this zone. I even know people who live right beside this “security zone” and they aren’t too impressed with what is happening. In fact, they’ve headed for the hills – or they’ve gotten out of Dodge, as the old west saying goes.
With the summit being so close to so many core corporations (Financial Institutions, International Conglomerates, Embassies, Service providers, Technology companies etc…) you can bet that many have implemented some measure of proactive contingency plan. I’ve put below just some of the ones that have been implemented. Just so you know, most of these I didn’t have to look up; they’re what my friends have told me are occurring at their place of employment (at least the ones that haven’t ‘got outta Dodge).
Contingencies in Action
- Working at Home – If an employee has the ability to work from home and dial-in to systems (VPN, Webmail access etc), they are. In many instances, employees were ‘told’ to stay home and work there and not to come to the office at all. Due to the potential of demonstrations that could get nasty, no corporation wants to put their employees in danger.
- Vacations / Lieu Days – Like many employees, many of us build up lieu days if we don’t get paid overtime. This week, many have been told to take these days and have an extend weekend. Most people – as one friend told me – don’t’ have access to dial in to systems and mail so instead of working from home, they are being given their lieu days. As he told me, many were happy to have the time off away from the office, as many didn’t want to end up in the downtown area while the summit was on. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, they are getting paid – they earned these lieu days after all.
- Video Conferencing/ Conference Call Initiatives – As one friend told me, he still has to work though he’ll be doing it from home. Instead of having any face-to-face meetings, he’s got a few conference calls scheduled instead. For some offices that have video conferencing options, they are utilizing this more than they used to. In fact, the same friend told me that the last time they used the equipment – that sites dusty in a large boardroom – was during the H1N1 scare. Maybe, these summits will help utilize these initiatives more.
- Office Closings – Simply put, some offices are closed during the summit period. Even if they don’t have an alternate location, they have locked their doors, hired security guards (like there aren’t enough wandering downtown as it is…) and just given people the day(s) off. They don’t want to take the risk of anything happening to people so they’ve closed shop until the hubbub is over.
- Contacted Insurance Companies – Since demonstrations can get violent – not all the time admittedly – many corporations have contacted their insurance companies to find out about damage coverage. The Canadian Federal government has said it won’t compensate businesses for any lost business or damages, so it’s up to the corporations themselves to see what they can do. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything else by way of examples because each corporation would be different and very few seem to want to provide details on their coverage – that might cause a demonstration on its own. 😉
- Increased Security – This is understood. For some offices that are staying open simply because of the size of their business or the size of the facility, additional security measures have been implemented. Everyone must – and I do mean must – have their corporate ID as well as their personal ID or they don’t get access to the office. In some instances, different or central access/entry points have been determined so that security officers can better control who is entering the facility. This ensure that only authorized personnel can enter and all else must turn back and go the way they came. From what I’ve heard and seen, there are no exceptions. If you’ve forgotten your ID you almost need to the company President to vouch for you – assuming he/she remembered their ID.
- Apartment/Condominium Building Security – Downtown Toronto also has some large condominium buildings within a block of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC) where the G20 summit is being held. Many of these buildings are requiring people to ID themselves before they can even get into their own homes. As a result, people’s contingencies because of the inconvenience to living so close to the “security zone” is to leave. I know a few people who have enacted their personal contingency plan and have gone to the cottage or staying at a family/friends home for a few days so they aren’t so near to what might be a bad situation. With some buildings being so close, there is the potential for these condominium buildings to be vandalized, which could put people’s safety in question. Thus, they’ve high-tailed it out of there.
- Transportation Alternatives – For many that do still need to get downtown or somewhere near the site (though not directly within the security zone), a car is their primary mode of transportation. There is currently a drive to get people who do need their car to the take the subway to work and park further away from the downtown core. This would help keep people away from any roadblocks or demonstrations that could be occurring above ground. With any luck, this contingency initiative will carry over into the future and people will drive less in the very crowded streets of downtown Toronto.
- Communication Plans – I used to work at a corporation situated downtown and they have an Employee Phone Line to provide employees instructions and status updates when there was a crisis or disaster situation (i.e. snowstorms, strikes etc). I’ve checked the number – because I remember it – and they have placed messages on the line for employees. I’m not at liberty to say the company’s name or provide the details of the messages (as it is an internal number after all, I just happen to remember the number) but it is being utilized to keep in contact with those employees staying at home. Of course, that doesn’t mean all employees are calling the number to get updates but I do know that each message states when the next one will be placed (updated). It’s one way corporations are keeping in touch with their employees, just as they would in other disaster situations.
- Event Changes – Even other events in Toronto have implemented their contingency plans. One of the world’s largest Gay Pride day celebrations (over 1 million people attend the parade and $100 Million funnelled into the local economy) changed its date when the G20 was announced. Usually, the parade is held on the last Sunday of June, which would have been June 27th – one of the G20 summit dates. But due to the G20 the parade day was moved to the following Sunday, which is July 4th (the American Independence Day). Not only that but many you know of the World Conference on Disaster Management (WCDM) held in Toronto. It too changed its dates. It was to be the end of June but moved the conference to the June 6-9 dates when the G20 was announced. BTW, the WCDM was held in the same conference building as the G20 location.
Therefore, many corporations have implemented their plans to address the G20. Citizens seem to be mixed on the impact or the potential for danger but if you saw what downtown looks like right now, you’d know that contingency plans – both personal and professional – have been implemented. My best friend who works across the street from the convention centre told me there are more security and police officers on the sidewalks than there are actual employees.
What will happen at the G20 and what the demonstrators have to say is yet to be seen. One thing for sure though, many corporations and Toronto residents have implemented their contingency strategies to prepare for whatever is to happen. I think I’ll to go to the cottage for a few days as well, much better than work…
The new book by StoneRoad founder, A.Alex Fullick, MBCI, CBCP, CBRA, ITILv3, “Heads in the Sand: What Stops Corporations From Seeing Business Continuity as a Social Responsibility.” Available at www.stone-road.com **