Tuesday, April 16, 2024

St. Mary’s considers increasing safety, security measures

  • March 27 2024
  • By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHERBROOKE — With the continuing increase in breaches affecting individuals and organizations, including governments, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s is exploring ways in which to make its offices and other buildings more safe and secure.

Warden Greg Wier told The Journal, “As we continue to serve the public in key locations of the municipal office and the RecPlex, it’s vital that we maintain a strong overall security management strategy for the benefit of the public, staff and users of the municipal facilities. A strong security strategy fits well with our efforts to improve accessibility and offer more services at the RecPlex. Ridgeback Security is a well-known expert and advisor to municipal governments.”

As part of that effort, council invited Chris O’Brien, president of Ridgeback Security, to make a presentation at its committee of the whole meeting on March 20.

“We believe in creating a security-conscious workforce that actively contributes to the protection of the business,” he said during his presentation. “By fostering an environment that supports employee well-being and resilience, businesses can enhance their security posture and reduce the likelihood of security incidents caused by human factors.”

He noted that the “global threat to the environment is changing and evolving at a tremendous rate … More specifically, there has been an increase in violent attacks in the Maritimes, specifically (involving) knife and edged weapons,” O’Brien added.

Along with private sector experience, Ridgeback was responsible for the protection of commissioners and witnesses that participated in the Mass Casualty Commission. The security company has also worked with the Canadian Armed Forces for 15 years, specializing in executive protection, physical security audits and training, instructing over 25 courses and assisting in the development of courses on the national level. They have also protected top-ranking officials, ambassadors and private sector individuals.

O’Brien told council’s committee of the whole that personal and physical security, along with education and training for security purposes, are number one priorities in security protection.

“There is a clear need to develop policies, re-look at infrastructure, execute security awareness training, monitor our state of mental health and to prepare on how best to handle hostile or aggressive people attending your place of work,” he said.

O’Brien concluded by stating, “At the end of the day, it’s about the safety and security of the people that work here, and the public that come in; about protecting those people and assets of the municipality as best we can, in a reasonable manner. That is pretty much our mission statement when working with municipalities.”

Councillors thanked O’Brien and took a few moments to discuss the information provided to them.

“We have this building, we have our RecPlex, and we also have our water treatment plant,” said Wier. “So, if something happens to your water,” he paused before continuing, “I guess to me, those are the three critical spots that I would say… [require] security.”

He spoke of the crisis in Walkerton, a quiet rural town in Ontario where 2,300 people fell ill and seven died in May 2000, when there was a break-down in the town’s drinking water system leading to e-coli contamination. According to news reports at that time, many residents voiced concern that, if the information had been released as soon as it was known that there was a problem, the tragedy may have been avoided.

Wier said the final decision on hiring Ridgeback to assist them with a better security plan and protection “comes down to [our] budget.”

He added, “We are not a big municipality, but we probably have eight, maybe nine buildings altogether.”

Councillor Courtney Mailman said, “I just think [security is] important, especially for staff and members of the public. It’s a small com- munity and we all think nothing will ever happen. But, it would be good to be prepared,” she paused before adding, “for any situation.”