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There for the community

It’s possible that Campus Security was a little more noticeable in fall 2019. That wasn’t due to changes in the number of agents — rather, it was because of adjustments to Security uniforms, intended to make it easier for people to spot help when they need it.

“At our downtown campus, we aren’t just interacting with Concordia members. Our location means that we need to be ready to provide help to vulnerable populations. In addition to making agents easier to identify, we also provided them with additional training on urban issues and resources available to those in crisis,” says Jacques Lachance, director of Security.                      

Invisible to the community was the additional analysis and investigative work undertaken by Security during the 2019-20 period. Some was to support students or employees facing particular concerns on campus. Other investigations related to issues on which Security collaborated with Instructional and Information Technology Services (IITS).

Security analysists also got to work on COVID-19 response planning long before official discussion about locking down schools and businesses started in Quebec.

“We began planning in January 2020, along with other members of the Emergency Management Committee. We looked at lessons learned from other communicable disease situations and put in place measures that we could activate when COVID-19 arrived in Canada,” says Lachance.

“When the government ordered most people to stay home in mid-March, we were ready with protocols on lab access and securing buildings and controlled entry points that would minimize risks to individuals — including our agents who never left campus.”

Keep in touch

To simplify communication across Concordia’s two campuses, 65 buildings and numerous types of spaces, in spring of 2020 Security brought in a new system called Rave. It comes with an app component called Guardian, which allows people to text questions or requests for help to Security.

“Texting is more comfortable for many people — though the app still includes the phone number if you need to speak to an agent right away. The app can also make it easier to locate a person in distress if they aren’t sure how to describe their whereabouts — though that feature is only offered if a person chooses to turn on geolocation,” Lachance says.

Security also reached out to community members through training and prevention efforts. These included Campus Security Week, Concordia Emergency Response Team training and other prevention programs aimed at keeping community members safe on campus and beyond.

Building in security

Every new and renovated space needs to be considered from a security point of view. Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is responsible for certain aspects while the rest — notably fire prevention and alarms — falls to Security. During 2019-20, the team fitted no fewer than 45 spaces with new security equipment. This included new space on the seventh floor of the Henry F. Hall Building, the Learning Square and Loyola’s new Applied Science Hub.

“The Hub was one of our big spring projects. We worked to secure critical research equipment as well as establishing measures that would protect lab and office spaces while allowing access to those working within them,” Lachance explains.

When COVID-19 forced the closure of buildings, demands on Security changed. The team collaborated with the Office of Research, HR, IITS, EHS and many more to ensure safe, controlled access for essential services. They established new systems and protocols to reduce the risk of contagion and facilitate contact tracing. At the same time, they brought their expertise into a new space: that of virtual events and remote classes.

“Virtual settings come with their own sets of challenges. Our experience with real-life situations and cooperation with colleagues in other areas of the university have allowed us to assist people in online contexts as well as physical ones.”

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