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A DEFINING MOMENT IN THE SECURITY INDUSTRY – The 2003 Blackout, August 14, 2003

Toronto and most of the northeast experienced the largest blackout in North American history. It took only 90 seconds for it to implode. It led to chaos. No one knew what was happening – some even opined about another terrorist attack. Mayor Bloomberg of New York went on the airwaves within minutes, suggesting that Canada was the cause of all this.

Traffic lights were completely out. Subways were shut down. People were walking down the stairs from their office buildings all across the city and emptying into the streets.

Working in security was crazy – calls were coming in requesting extra service. Guards were not able to make it to work via subway or by vehicle. Communications systems soon overloaded. What followed was a decision to ‘man’ the control room and use cell phones. Many staff elected not go to work and stay home (as the Premier suggested). Both my bosses were out of the province on vacation. It was time to lead, follow or get out of the way. I chose to lead and be the calm voice in midst of chaos. We got through it. No major impact on our clients – other than the loss of business during the outage. I was exhausted but proud of the effort made by some and puzzled by the lack of effort by others.

These moments stay strong in my memory, as it has defined my career realizing the importance in developing safety and security solutions for our customers. To this day, there are still companies that need support in developing an emergency response and a business continuity program. As a corporation we are obligated to have measures in place to safeguard our employees, visitors and customers.

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