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On the front line of COVID

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, while most students, faculty and staff gathered their belongings and headed home to work and learn remotely, Concordia’s Security team remained on campus. The increasingly vacant buildings needed to be secured despite the rising number of cases and uncertainty about the virus.

“Like with everyone else, there was some anxiety, but we all pulled together and our staff continued to come in to work every day,” says Darren Dumoulin, interim director of security.

Changing circumstances

The team needed to adjust quickly to the changing circumstances, modifying their patrol strategies to cover buildings that were now largely going to be vacant.

As the pandemic continued, security agents needed to ensure that issues like water leaks wouldn’t go unreported for long periods of time. This is something they had previously relied on the university community to monitor in their respective workspaces during the week, prior to everyone leaving campus.

With most of the university community now working and studying in a virtual environment rather than onsite, thoughts around what constituted an emergency also shifted.

“Before the pandemic, our emergency notification system was reserved for emergencies on campus, such as building evacuations or campus closures due to extreme weather,” recounts Dumoulin.

During the pandemic however, “IT system outages that affected teaching and learning and local power outages that affected VPN access for employees now constituted major emergencies.”

A gradual reopening

As days turned to weeks and weeks turned to months, some members of the Concordia community needed to return to campus for various research and work-related activities. Led by the Security team, an authorization system was set up to monitor everyone who came on campus.

“Authorization lists would change several times a day and we needed to record everyone entering into the building while also maintaining physical distancing and trying to ensure that building access delays were kept to a minimum,” Dumoulin says.

At its peak, the Security team was welcoming 1,500 individuals at different desks every day during the closure period. In total, they estimate having had 428,800 interactions with different individuals during this period.

On the front lines of campus access, the enforcement of health and safety standards fell to security agents. With mask requirements, hand-sanitization standards and the ever-changing guidelines from the provincial government, the team needed to be aware and quickly adjust to the constantly evolving circumstances while also collaborating with many different units at the university.

While being flexible and quick to adjust to changing circumstances may be a prerequisite for working in a security-related field, the Security team’s unwavering dedication during difficult circumstances has been outstanding.

“It is often in times of crisis you identify the people who go above and beyond, and our staff did just that,” says Dumoulin. “I am very proud to lead a team of such caring and dedicated employees.”

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