Author Archive

Protest Gone to the Dogs

September 27th, 2016 Comments off

In recent weeks, a video has emerged from the pipeline protests in the US where the Dakota Access Pipeline company attacked protesters with dogs as seen in this video.

Providing security support for any protest can be extremely challenging. Emotions often boil over, and actions can quickly escalate when a trigger event occurs. In order to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all involved, a measured approach to security is required. Dogs are never a wise choice when dealing with protests. Many years ago, during a building trades strike in Canada, dogs were used to protect the property from protesters. The result was a PR disaster. The dogs became the protesters’ targets and were attacked and killed.

This unfortunate incident brought national attention for all the wrong reasons.

A security guard’s job is to observe, report, and deter those considering action, not to cause more problems. Video of guards fighting protesters is bad for business. Damage to your brand will be irreversible if such an incident occurs. In many cases, poorly trained guards can quickly escalate situations. Simple words can be the fuel needed to ignite a protest. Non-Violent Crisis Intervention training is vital.

When incidents make front-page news, it is not good for business. The key when dealing with any form of protest is to have a plan. Understanding the dynamics at play and how to manage them is crucial to your success. A balanced approach ensures people and properties are protected.



The Changing Face of Labour Disputes

August 5th, 2016 Comments off

Recently we supported a client with a complicated set of issues at the bargaining table. As is the case with most expiring collective agreements, I was called upon to work with management in developing a contingency plan in the event of a strike. A threat risk assessment of all sites with recommendations, costs, and timelines was provided to manage picket lines.

Part of our overall plan was to look at corporate events leading up to the strike deadline, as well as a review of the risks to executives, families and board members. We have started to see a trend where unions have become more creative with campaigns during bargaining. The goal of the union is to create awareness and apply pressure on the management team. In this particular case, the union began to target corporate events. Sending protesters to leaflet locations where management was planning to attend. In addition to the typical social media campaign, the union also began to post the names and addresses of key firms on Twitter.

Social media monitoring is not only a valuable tool in protecting your brand; it can also identify risks and gather intelligence. With the information from Twitter, we were able to mobilize teams to the individuals impacted. The lesson learned is the union has a new powerful tool that they can use to communicate and mobilize protesters quickly.

The ability to gather social media information may also form part of your argument for a court injunction. Harvesting and storing the information in a format that can be easily accessed and used at a later date should be reviewed. Millennials entering the workforce are less likely to march and stand around burning barrels with picket signs. The new form of protest will most likely play out on the web.

Ensuring you have risk mitigation strategies in place to deal with picket lines as well as how the union will use social media to mobilize its members will be important. For those environments where unionized members are part of your I.T. department, you should consider hardening security and potentially engaging third party support to monitor and conduct penetration testing. We have been called upon by a number of municipalities that have faced I.T. related concerns with unionized I.T. personnel being able to access a host of sensitive information.

The face of labour disputes is ever evolving.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Travel Security

July 7th, 2016 Comments off

With attacks occurring almost daily around the world we face unprecedented risk. The need for travel security, as well as emergency response has never been greater. Cafes, airports, and public meeting places have all been targeted. Most of the attacks have focused on areas where Westerners travel. These attacks no longer happen in countries deemed as high risk. The key is having a plan and understanding your risk.

Threat risk assessments are necessary. Reviewing the region, routes within cities, hotels as well as meeting areas is a good starting point. You need to have a strategy if things do not go as planned. Security awareness training and being mindful of your surroundings is vital for your employees.

Travel tracking tools will identify where your employees are and enable you to make contact with them quickly. Most travel trackers such as E-Travel provide country risk ratings as well as alerts. It can support travellers pre-trip as well as during. Alerts can be delivered via SMS or email.

If you do not have an emergency or global security operations centre, you will need to provide a contact number that employees can call to receive guidance and instructions. Many travel risk management companies provide emergency response numbers. Guidance can include whether to shelter in place or consider evacuating.

Technology is becoming part of many travel security plans. GPS tracking and SOS panic features are now included in phone APPS such as MyTrac. Travellers can now push a panic button to engage security response. This can be as simply as general guidance or in severe situations initiate an extraction. Once the panic feature has been engaged, two-way communication can commence immediately.

You should also have a travel risk management vendor in place to deal with security and medical emergencies. If you have insurance be sure to review your hard loss triggers, as sometimes they are not easily met. Services such as CAP (Crisis Assistance Plus) offer a membership that is fully indemnified. The cost of response is eliminated which can save your organization a considerable amount of money.

Having a well-resourced travel security program will also ensure you have met your Duty of Care obligations.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. The cost of being unprepared is immense.


Ostrich Investigative Technique

May 24th, 2016 Comments off

Bill 132 will force Ontario employers to take sexual harassment and issues related to workplace violence more serious. You can no longer ignore and hope it goes away.

Legislation has been in place for some time relating to workplace bullying and violence as well as sexual harassment. This is not new. Bill 132 will add more teeth.

However failing to conduct a thorough investigation will no longer be acceptable.

We recently assisted in a case involving a female employee who complained she was being sexually harassed. Human Resources completed an investigation and found no proof. The female employee, in turn, wrote a letter to the CEO and Board Members expressing her frustration.

We conducted an investigation, and the two male suspects had no idea what this complaint was about and proclaimed their innocents. The human resources manager did not possess the skills and experience to get to the bottom of things.

Upon receiving the details, we elected to conduct an open source investigation on the two male suspects and uncovered numerous online posts mentioning and targeting the female employee. We also identified others who had knowledge of the situation.

We interviewed others, and they were very informative and confirmed the situation as well as other inappropriate acts carried out by the individuals in question.

Armed with this new information, we then interviewed the male suspects for the second time. Both men initially continued to be dishonest with their responses. After a period, the two males had indicated they did indeed target this female because she had broken off a relationship with one of the males.

The main suspect had a checkered employment history. He elected to resign his position. The second man faced discipline and was restricted from the area where the female worked. The outcome provided closure and was resolved in a manner acceptable to the female employee.

You need to review how you currently conduct investigations, as well as what tools and third party resources can assist you when things go bad.

If you would like a complimentary copy of our workplace violence guide, please contact me at


Your Magic Crystal Ball

April 13th, 2016 Comments off

A new tool in the fight against disability and workers’ compensation fraud is open source investigations. The use of this technology is becoming more widely recognized and accepted.

Individuals continue to post more and more about their lives on a host of social media platforms. Instagram is overtaking Facebook as one of the most popular places to post photos and videos. Twitter also continues to be a favourite tool.

Posting all aspects of our daily lives makes us feel part of a global community. What does this mean for disability claim managers and those in the human resources profession? They have an unprecedented look into an individual’s public life.

How many times have you seen a doctor’s note that states that the individual is totally disabled, or unfit for modified duties, sitting or standing for longer periods, etc.? In the past, you would have to conduct a costly surveillance to determine the individual’s level of activity. Today, you may be a few clicks away from validating your concerns.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Do you realize how much data a photo reveals? Often we can obtain the exact location, date of the photo and when it was uploaded. All this information can become a part of your investigation. We had a case where an individual requested time away from work, and it was denied. The employee subsequently submitted a WSIB’s claim and got the requested time. The employee then posted photos on social media. Our investigators extracted data that placed the subject in Romania.

If the Internet is an iceberg, social media is only the tip. What lies below the surface is massive. A skilled investigator can easily harvest open source data. We recently had a case where a female employee was a part-time yoga instructor, outside of work. At the time of her claim, she turned on her privacy settings to avoid detection. Her only mistake was being showcased in a Yoga studio newsletter that was harvested using search techniques. Despite increased privacy settings, many apps disregard it and provide data the subject thought was hidden.

Can you do these types of investigations yourself? The short answer is yes. However without the necessary skills, you often won’t find what you need. It is also recommended that an independent third party gathers the information and later testify and present the evidence. The data is harvested in an ethical way to ensure privacy has not been violated and formulated into a structured admissible report.

An open source investigation is non-intrusive without any risk of being exposed. Using proxy servers allows investigators to collect data undetected without leaving any digital footprints.

If you have a claim that is under suspicion, maybe it’s time to have a peek.



Winds of Change

April 5th, 2016 Comments off

Brazil is currently facing unprecedented challenges. The country’s economy is in free fall, and the Petrobras scandal continues to provide a black cloud over the country’s leaders. The people of Brazil have become increasingly restless. To date, this has led to large-scale protests and calls for President Dilma Rousseff to step down. The refusal to step down will ultimately lead to a showdown between protesters, opposite parties and the government.

What does this mean for the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio? At this time, mass protests are expected with threats to disrupt the torch run and planned events at venues. During the FIFA World Cup crime spiked and buses used for public transit were set ablaze.

Risk Plan


In working with clients, the following areas represent the greatest threats they wish to prepare contingencies for:

  • Medical and Health Concerns – the Zika virus along with reports of unsafe water and sanitation conditions
  • Political Threats – mass protests and potential removal of the current government
  • Crime – Rio is situated near the Favelas (these areas are beyond police control)
  • Traffic – existing infrastructure will not support the influx of people in Rio


What is your Duty of Care obligation?

If you have paid for the ticket, you are responsible and need to provide some level of protection. If you are found to be negligent, you can expose yourself to liabilities.

  • Pre-Trip Briefings – all personnel and clients attending Rio should be provided with a detailed briefing on the current security and medical risks and what they need to do to mitigate these risks
  • Communication – how will you communicate and provide updates during the games, are employees required to check in?
    • Is there a global security operation or command centre people can call?
  • Travel Tracking – your ability to quickly assess where people are at all times is required in the event of an emergency or crisis
  • Medical Support – you will need to have plans in place in the event medical attention is required
  • Security Support – what measures and precautions will be necessary to protect your people
  • Ongoing Support – flight delays, lost passports, damaged luggage – these are all things that need to be covered in your plan

Risk SecurityWe firmly recommended you review your current travel insurance. Most travel insurance provides protection for day-to-day events and is not geared to crisis or emergency occurrences.

Pay particular attention to the following:

  • Hard Loss Triggers – what event will trigger payment and support for a claim? Often the bar is set very high, and you will find you do not meet the criteria for an allowable claim.
  • Political Protests – most policies view protests as an act of civil disobedience and in extreme cases, These types of events are not covered, and any response will be out of pocket.
  • Natural Disasters – will your policy provide coverage in the case of a natural disaster?
  • Crime – if you are a victim of a crime what will be covered?

Should your insurance not cover these events, you will incur costs for any response options that might be required. If you need help in reviewing insurance or emergency response agreements, please feel free to contact me at We will have one of our risk mitigation specialists conduct a review and provide more information on what you can do to protect yourself and your workforce.

Where in the World is it Safe?

January 21st, 2016 Comments off

We all remember 9/11 and since that time terror attacks have increased from a couple times a year to almost a daily occurrence.  Some are small and others are on a much larger scale such as San Bernardino and Paris.  These events no longer happen in locations we have never heard of.  Places we used to deem as low risk are suddenly becoming targets.  What does this all mean to the security industry and travel risk management responsibilities?  Most likely there will be no more easy days.  When any emergency or crisis occurs, your ability to deal with the event is becoming increasingly important.

There are many considerations but it is important you have plans and processes in place.  These are a few key considerations:

  • Policies and Procedures – do you have guidelines in place for all employees? (travellers, expats and domestic personnel)
    • Most firms do but employees have not read them
  • Training – policies are wonderful but without training and awareness most employees do not fully understand why certain measures are in place and the importance
    • Use real life examples where possible
    • Running an exercise can be a great learning opportunity
  • Security Awareness – teaching people how to recognize and avoid risk is extremely important
    • If there is a protest do not go out to see what is happening
    • In Egypt a lot of folks went to the main square to witness history and some got caught up in police operations
  • Reporting – do your employees know how to report incidents and to whom?
    • Too often events could have been prevented with proper reporting
  • Travel Tracking – do you know where you people are and can you reach them?
    • Itinerary based tracking gives you a time and place but where are they right now
    • During the Paris attacks most firms only knew where employees should have been but had difficulty pin pointing their exact whereabouts
  • Communication – do you have the ability to provide mass messaging and receive responses from your people?
    • You will need to be able to ensure all personnel are accounted for and are ok
    • If you had 200 employees in country how would you communicate?
    • Some of our clients spent days reaching all their employees
  • Medical and Security Response – you may need to support those injured and evacuate others to a safe area
  • During a crisis is not the time to be securing resources or finding out your current vendor cannot assist
  • Do your homework

Understanding your gaps well in advance of any crisis is key.  Murphy’s Law will most definitely rear its ugly head at some point.  Your duty of care and moral obligations to staff will be under scrutiny.  How you respond will be watched and a poor reaction will rattle your employees’ confidence.  A well thought out response will show employees you not only care but also are prepared.

Needle in a Hay Stack

December 31st, 2015 Comments off

We are regularly called upon to conduct investigations for various situations. Workplace violence, compliance and ethics as well as benefit claims are typically the most common areas of concern.

Social media digital surveillance is only one component of any investigation. Open source investigative research is a potential gold mine. The World Wide Web has grown incredibly in the past 10 years. We now have greater access to large quantities of information but the amount of information is staggering. The ability to run queries to extract required data is the key to success and this requires some training and experience.

I recently helped a law firm with an investigation. The individual in question was a nurse. She was claiming she was totally disabled and unable to work and she managed to do a good job of keeping her social media footprint sanitized. In many cases, legal representatives advise their clients that social media can be monitored, but most people still continue to post information despite warnings. In this case social media provided no information that she was active. However open source investigative research provided other crucial information. A yoga studio was promoting the nurse’s ongoing yoga classes and workshops, leaving the breadcrumbs we needed. Armed with this tidbit of information our investigative research team went to work. In the end, the client was able to paint an entire picture, complete with interviews and additional facts.

Often the smallest piece of information is all that is needed to connect the dots.

Practice Makes Perfect

October 19th, 2015 Comments off

I recently took part in an active shooter exercise and it was a great learning experience.

The people that attended the exercise were made up of security, human resources, legal and HS&E professionals. The scenario involves 15 employees attending an event at a US hotel where a gunman enters, an employee gets killed and two are seriously injured.  The remaining employees are accounted for with the exception of two that are missing.

Everyone participating in the exercise had a representative from each discipline. We had to work together as a team to manage the crisis and emergency response. As you can imagine, we encountered many challenges. The team went to work and developed an initial action plan with a critical goal of protecting and caring for our people.

Those in human resources and HS&E engaged a third party travel risk management vendor. They were tasked with getting 12 uninjured staff to a safe place and evacuated once the situation stabilized. The travel risk team also engaged medical professionals who were able to coordinate first aid response for the injured. Employees at the hotel received instructions from medical professionals on how to stabilize the injured until EMS could enter the site.

The security team immediately notified the company’s security operations centre. The regional security manager was directed to travel to the area and set up a temporary command centre in a nearby hotel. Law enforcement was contacted and informed. The travel risk management vendor was also asked to dispatch crisis coordinators to work with the regional security manager.

Legal and compliance personnel briefed senior management and engaged the crisis communication vendor. Communication with the employees’ families was initiated. It was decided that the senior managers would attend the homes of families of the deceased and injured to lend support. Insurance firms were notified and thresholds for coverage reviewed. Risk managers began to access exposure to liability and determine the best course of action to mitigate risk. Communication experts also prepared external communication messaging.

We quickly learned despite all our combined expertise, that we were ill prepared to manage the crisis. The need to have a detailed plan became quite clear.  We were making numerous decisions on the fly with no real clear guidelines or objectives.

In the end, the police cleared the site within 8 hours. EMS moved in and assisted the injured. The travel risk firm’s doctor was critical in instructing the uninjured to care for the injured until EMS could move into place. The regional security manager and crisis responders were able to communicate with the uninjured staff and get them to a secure place once the police had cleared the hotel. Transportation and airfare were coordinated to return folks home. It became clear, that practice makes perfect. If you have not practiced responding to an emergency – do so. It will be a tremendous learning experience.


Find Out Before its Too Late

September 30th, 2015 Comments off

We recently supported a client with an evacuation of their personnel from a project site in Africa. The clients had received threats and it was decided that personnel would need to leave.

As with many situations like this, it was chaotic. In the process of evacuating, the client learned that their current Travel Risk Management program had a number of gaps. We typically do not always see these gaps until we are in the midst of a crisis.

The client first learned that the insurance they had in place to protect travellers and expats required that a travel restriction be issued in order to meet the threshold for coverage. Meaning they could evacuate, however they would assume all costs associated. Although the area had become unstable, there was no travel restriction issued by any country. There had only been warnings and advisories issued.

In addition to this, there were other groups making the similar decision to evacuate personnel. Their current vendor was no longer able to support their needs as they were stretched to capacity. After making enquires, the client decided to contact with our team. We commenced working with them and the immediate decision was to have personnel hold in place until logistics could be coordinated for their extraction. Staff members were provided with guidance and access to our crisis hotline at our global security operations centre in Johannesburg.  A small team was mobilized to the area and began support. An assessment of the situation was completed and the best option was to extract personnel. Ground transportation and aircrafts were coordinated and personnel were safely moved to a neighbouring country.

In analyzing the client’s travel risk management program, the following was discovered:

  • The client had a medically focused program in place that was not well suited for security related evacuations
  • The travel insurance they had required a travel restriction to be issued in order to activate coverage
  • When the decision was made to incur the cost to evacuate, the vendor they had was engaged by others and no longer had resources
  • The client discovered that they needed to expand procedures internally to ensure events like this were managed more smoothly in the future

We have since worked with the client to develop a more robust response to security related crisis situations. In addition to this, we introduced our CAP product. The client acquired memberships for all personnel posted internationally. This ensured that they do not need to have a travel restriction issued in order to meet thresholds for cost recovery.

The client was able to enhance their existing program and reduce costs in the event of a crisis. In addition, their employees now feel safe and secure when working abroad knowing these improvements had been made.

The lesson here is to make sure you ask the right key questions when developing your crisis plan prior to an incident. If you would like a review of your current crisis response plan, please feel free to reach out. We can provide an analysis the will allow you to close the gaps.

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