A High Risk Night – Literally a “Trial by Fire”
It was late at night when the fire alarm began loudly sounding from the speakers everywhere in the building. Ready for such emergencies, the Condor concierge who was at the front desk at the time immediately began the fire alarm procedure.
Just a few hours prior, the police were contacted for a disturbance and had arrived to speak with the persons inside a unit. Was there a connection? Could there be a more severe risk?
“It would be a true test of everything put in place up until that point.”
The building itself is no stranger to fire alarms, as it is connected to a hotel. False fire alarms and nuisance fire alarms unfortunately are a regular occurrence. And this is the real danger at hand. When residents are so used to false alarms there is a very significant risk that when a real fire occurs there will be complacency and the alarm would be ignored. The destructive nature of a fire is not one that can be taken lightly.
So, on this night, when the alarm activated, it would be a true test of everything that had been put into place up until that point:
- a test of the level of training provided to the Concierge on how to handle fire alarm emergencies;
- a test of the culture and responsiveness of the residential community;
- a test of the proper function of the building emergency systems maintained by the coordinated work all contractors responsible for regular maintenance and testing
- and of course a test of the Property management itself in their overseeing the building
Attending fire fighters were unfortunately welcomed by a real fire taking place.
The Story as Told by Vipasha, the Condor Security Guard on duty during the Fire
What follows is a personal account of the incident directly from the Condor Concierge team member on duty, Vipasha:
“The incident that occured on 17th April, 2020, consisted of four major events: a domestic dispute, a fire, a flood, and a death of one of the residents in a unit affected by the fire.
All events overlapped, and time was one constraint that was not working in our favour that day. All of that was as traumatising for everybody as it was for me, watching somebody die in front of your eyes, makes you numb for a while. As I have never experienced such in my life, I was not sure what should I be doing.
Then I thought, I am the person who is here to provide security to all the residents of the building and if I show signs of panic and nervousness then all the residents interacting with me are going to panic and lose courage, therefore I did what as a Security Guard one must do – show courage, be calm, think on the feet, and come up with solutions as things occur. Eventually, that helped me handle this situation.
While I was getting trained to be a security guard, I learnt techniques to handle situations, how to talk, how to do fire procedures, and how to stay calm all the time, but along with every technical aspect of the training, I learnt one more thing – how not to lose your courage in difficult times.
One Condor repeatedly saying in training is, “your safety is most important.” As I went through more modules of security I observed that all the training modules were based on the fact that we have to be safe first and then manage incidents keeping that in mind.
Show courage, be calm, think on the feet, and come up with solutions as things occur
So during my experience, when I went to the 12th floor where this incident happened, I was maintaining a safe distance from the victim and tried asking him questions which can help me decide what my next step could be. I was well aware of the attacker, his aggression and potential to attack people, so I decided to separate the victim from the attacker. As the attacker went into the unit and locked himself in, I quickly brought the victim to the lobby, so that I can buy some time to take necessary steps like calling the police and informing the building superintendent.
Being a security guard, our first and foremost duty is to secure property and people in the building we are working in, therefore I kept residents protected by advising them not to interact with the attacker and to remain calm and safe inside their units.
I told them to contact me if they need any assistance and be safe when police arrive.
We simultaneously made several announcements about the fire to evacuate residents from the building. We informed some of them by phone as well, and I was in touch with all the residents who were calling me to make sure they evacuated the building and were safe. I was on the phone constantly so if any resident called me I would be able to provide them with assistance.
When the fire services arrived I gave them the list of all residents with medical conditions so that they would be able to prioritize those evacuations, since they might not be able to evacuate by themselves.
All I thought was if, “I were living in this building what would I expect my security guard to do?” and then I did the same.”
Words of Wisdom for Security Guards
Condor asked Vipasha to share the lessons she took from this incident, and to give advice to other Condor Team members on how to deal with similar incidents in the future:
My mentor Eric Senior (Condor’s Operations and Training Manager) taught me how to be present in the situation and how to strategically prioritise situations as you deal with them. And that’s what I did on Friday; I differentiated the incidents and applied what I was trained for. I followed the procedure for domestic dispute, then flooding and the fire procedure all at once.
Also, my Site Supervisor Hosni has been a great teacher to me, he has always taught me after the mistakes I have made, always encouraged me to work effectively and efficiently. I would say these were the main reasons that made me deal with all the incidents that happened on site that day.
I have learnt throughout my life that we should learn from our mistakes. However, according to me, learning from mistakes is just one part of it, applying what you have learnt at the right time at right situations is what makes the difference and helps you grow through life.
“Applying what you have learned at the right time at right situations is what makes the difference and helps you grow through life.”
My suggestions to fellow Condor Team members are:
Always know what you are doing, if you are not sure, ask for help.
Understand the nature of job and your responsibilities and duties as a security guard.
Do not depend on others when it comes to thinking on the feet and immediate decision making, because one late decision can cause a great loss in some situations.
Always be observant and aware of your surroundings and people around you, you will get to learn a lot for sure.
Have courage in and believe in yourself, what you can do perfectly, nobody else can deliver the same quality, so have faith in yourself first and then others.
Also I would suggest everybody working in this industry to be compassionate towards others. Every day is a training itself, learn from what you have done and never think you are always right, because everybody has different perspective and everybody sees things differently. So we should gain experience from others and help them grow by sharing what our experiences have been and never forget, at the end of the day we all are humans.
Pride, Gratitude, Sympathy, Commitment, Community
Condor is extremely proud of the actions taken by Vipasha, the Condor Concierge on duty during this incident. Your actions have saved lives and you can be proud of your response for the rest of your life. When you were called to perform at your best in a real life situation, not just a training scenario, you answered the call with courage and professionalism. Thank you for your dedication.
One of the members of the Condo’s Board of Directors, shared these words of thanks: “Thank you Condor. Hats off to the exceptional training that your firm delivers to your staff. Vipasha (and Hosni) are superstars!”
“Thank you Condor! Hats off to the exceptional training that your firm delivers to your staff. Vipasha (and Hosni) are superstars!”Statement from the Board of Directors
On behalf of the Board of Directors and the residents, we would like to acknowledge the exceptional efforts made by Vipasha during the unfortunate incident in our building that occurred on April 17, 2020.
Throughout this unprecedented event, Vipasha displayed a calm, efficient and professional manner while responding quickly to the rapidly changing demands that were asked of her. Not everyone could step up the way she did in a split second but she didn’t hesitate.
Her caring and compassionate nature was in full force and helped to diffuse the worry and stress that everyone was experiencing.
She is a credit to your company and we are very grateful to her. Please share your feedback with others in your company as you see fit.
We uphold the responsibility of meeting these work challenges with the right responses when it counts. We will continue to ensure that all of our team will be ready and prepared if another event of this nature occurs.
We hope and trust that other communities in Toronto and our other client communities elsewhere will honor this incident by implementing all the lessons learned, and above all else remembering that there is an essential bond that cannot be broken between your building’s residents and your building’s security team. At the moment of need your security team has a very real responsibility to take swift and appropriate actions that may mean the difference between life and death.
In this time of social distancing and social isolation because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, sometimes we feel a loss of connected-ness.
“Events such as these, though unfortunate, do tend to bring us closer together, and remind us that we are all part of a greater community.”Condor Management