WEB EXCLUSIVE: Improving Building Management and Tenant Communication: Lessons from the G20 Summit

Picture the following: you are the building manager of a large skyscraper in the downtown area of a large metropolitan city. An international conference, drawing government leaders, media personnel, and security professionals from around the world together in a confined space, is taking place around you. Stress levels are high, and before you know it, thousands of protesters are gathering outside of your property, blocking off surrounding roads and limiting your tenants’ ability to enter and exit the building.  Now what? How do you effectively manage your building, communicate with tenants, and report to the building owners without losing your calm or your control of the situation?


For many building managers in Toronto, this scenario is not at all unheard of. The G20 Summit at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre constituted the biggest security event ever to take place in Canadian history. The summit, which took place on June 26 and 27, brought together heads of state and leaders from around the world in an effort to strengthen the world’s financial markets. 


Throughout the weekend, local law enforcement officials struggled with demonstrations and violent protests in response to the political event. Building managers and tenants throughout the region were advised to take extra precautions to avoid harm and business disruptions during the weekend, and many buildings were actually shut down during the summit to avoid protesters and other disruptions.


One example is Brookfield Properties, an active participant in the Commercial Real Estate – Financial District Security Group (CRE-FDSG), which is an organization in downtown Toronto formed with the purpose of maintaining safety and security in the area. During the Summit, Brookfield led the emergency operations center for Toronto-based properties and assigned a dedicated staff member to send messages and maintain a coordinated and centralized communication strategy with all other major property owners in Toronto. To do this, Brookfield used Send Word Now’s emergency notification platform to communicate with tenants, property managers, the Canadian Banking Association, and other major stakeholders throughout the weekend.


And yet as the city empties out after the conference, what security or business continuity measures will remain in place? What will building managers learn from the conference that they will then also apply in their routine operations? External threats can pop up at any time during the year, no matter what might be going on around your properties. By implementing solid continuity strategies and establishing robust communications networks, building owners and managers can remain proactive, putting both their stakeholders and tenants at ease. 


Coordinate among property managers for streamlined responses to emergencies

Many Toronto-based properties will be using on-demand communications systems to send messages out to specific buildings or in the downtown area. What can building managers learn from the G20 response? 

  1. Use emergency notification systems to coordinate among building managers and tenants.
  2.  Keep a list of all stakeholders and adjacent building managers to reach out to them immediately should an emergency situation occur.
  3. Create scenarios ahead of time, so that they are approved by senior management and ready to go when a crisis strikes.

Communicate with your tenants to ensure their safety

When confronted with unexpected crises, property owners and managers need to be able to reach their tenants in a very short period of time. Most important, they must have the ability not only to broadcast messages, but to receive responses in real time to ensure that tenants are, for example, aware of scheduled maintenance or that they have safely evacuated a building in the event of an emergency. What can you do to prepare?

  1. Let tenants know ahead of time that they may have difficulty entering or exiting a building during a large-scale event taking place outside. Communicate any scheduled closures and re-openings for building affected by the external event.
  2. Maintain lists of different tenant groups, based on building location and type – know if your tenants are more likely to be in the building on weekends, weekdays, or nights.
  3. Set up automated alerts using an emergency notification provider, to notify tenants any time that there is a service interruption, repair, or renovation taking place in your building.

Readiness and response preparedness are just as important as prevention when it comes to protecting your properties fr
om harm during a large-scale external event. You should do all that you can to prevent a crisis from affecting your property, but you should also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively should one strike.



Tony Schmitz is president and CEO of Send Word Now, a provider of on-demand alerting, response, and incident management services for both routine and emergency communication. Send Word Now’s service is used by government agencies, municipalities, universities, non-profit organizations and businesses, to ensure fast, effective, two-way communication in real-time. He can be reached at [email protected].


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