Open Offices and Holidays: A Parade of Risks

‘Tis the season for many businesses to stay open through the holidays and for some to take part in the tradition of partying or watching a parade warmly from behind office windows. That’s why businesses located near public events should inform employees of how their offices will be impacted during the holiday season.

Parades pose various operational risks to property owners and businesses, both inside and outside their buildings. On Nov. 23 alone, at least five large parades will inch their way through the streets of major cities like Chicago and Detroit. Macy’s anticipates 3.5 million spectators to pack New York City’s streets for its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. That means 2.5 miles of barriers and street closings in the “frozen zone” between 77th and 34th streets, and businesses in the country’s most congested city should prepare for some disruption.

Theresa Morzello, the managing director for asset services for CBRE in New York City, has advised many companies who stay open or host events coinciding with parades and holidays. She said the first steps in mitigating disruption involve communicating with the event organizers and disseminating that information to tenants.

“This way they’ll know, for example, if one of their building’s entrances will close because of a parade,” Morzello said. “We also make sure that employees and their guests know the protocol for providing documentation for entering and exiting. That is usually handled in advance and lists are provided to security. And there are protocols for what to do when someone doesn’t have it. These are all things we do on a daily basis, but amped up a few levels because of the holidays.”

Morzello also said that property managers often try to utilize vacant office space because there is less potential for damage or disruption there. Wherever the gathering takes place within CBRE’s properties, she advises tenants to consider the following:

Hire elevator operators to help keep guests on their assigned floors.

  • Obtain a temporary alcohol license, if necessary.
  • Confirm that outside caterers are insured.
  • Address if the windows are operable and ensure they are kept closed.

But parades and crowded events are not relegated to big cities, as many major retailers take part in the festivities. Acadia Realty Trust manages hundreds of retail and office properties in the U.S. and Kellie Shapiro, vice president of risk management said clearing a physical path is the first step to mitigate safety risks during a high-traffic season.

“We issue a moratorium on any work during the holiday season. We email tenants reminding them to get everything done before Thanksgiving,” she said. “From then until New Year’s is not the time to have scaffolding and things like that.” She added that capital improvements are suspended across most of Acadia’s portfolio to avoid interfering with tenants’ operations during their busiest season.

Businesses can easily lose track of who’s coming and going during the busy holiday season, Shapiro noted. Acadia’s focus is on knowing its vendors, and she reminds tenants to be diligent about vetting third-party contractors for the sake of safety and reputation.

“You can protect your company by being diligent about who you bring in to your site. You should know who your contractors are – you don’t want to let some criminal just walk right in because you handed over the keys to your building,” Shapiro said. “You would hope tenants, if they saw something suspicious, would pick up the phone. We’d all like to secure something 100% but you have to know your limitations.”

Public safety in the U.S. has been headline news, considering the recent high-profile violence involving weapons and automobiles in just the last two months in Las Vegas, California, Texas and Manhattan. In a recent interview with Risk Management Monitor, Rezwan Ali, risk solutions group head of security at Falck Global Assistance, discussed how businesses and employees should review their emergency plans during high-volume times. He maintained, however, that the odds of being impacted by a terror attack is very low.

“When participating in larger events, such as the Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, people tend to focus only on the parade and their phones taking pictures and posting on social media,” said Ali. “However, it is important to stay alert and aware of one’s surroundings. Not just to be prepared for terror, but also to prevent being a victim of crime. It is recommended to download apps either provided by the authorities or by media outlets that generate alerts allowing you to get direct notifications should anything happen in your vicinity.”

Keeping Parades and Events Safe for Businesses and Employees


Holiday parades will be marching down many U.S. city streets during the next six weeks, with millions of revelers expected to attend. And while these are historically joyous occasions, safety is a top concern for businesses located near the festivities—especially considering the high-profile violence that has recently dominated headlines. Rezwan Ali, risk solutions group head of security at Falck Global Assistance, which advises companies about security, safety and travel risks, spoke about the challenges and best practices faced by businesses and employees located near parade routes.

Risk Management Monitor: How are companies responding to the rise in low-tech terrorism and violence?

Rezwan Ali: Companies have become more aware of the need for crisis management. Recent terror events in cities such as Paris, London, Las Vegas and New York have shown companies that duty of care is much more than just health and safety – it is knowing where your employees are traveling and aiding them if affected by terror or violent events. As companies become more globally oriented, their employees are required to travel more, which expands the company’s duty of care responsibility and creates a need for travel risk management. In recent years, there has been an increase in the demand for travel risk management, which originates in a company’s acknowledgement of providing duty of care services to travelling employees to mitigate the possible impact of attacks on the business, its reputation and employees.

RMM: What steps can businesses take to prevent disruption?

RA: The best way to mitigate disruption caused by terrorism is to be prepared at both the business and individual level. On a business level, companies should implement a crisis management process and a contingency plan. A crisis management process includes appointing a crisis management team and training the organization using various scenarios. The contingency plan provides guidelines on how to maintain business as usual when a crisis occurs and works in parallel with the crisis management process. On an individual level, training can provide employees with tools to cope with stressful situations and alleviate the impact of an incident. When employees know how to manage demanding situations, the effect on the company will also be minimized.

RMM: How can businesses located near a parade route or major event protect their employees?

RA: All businesses should have emergency and evacuation plans, which can be applied in the event of emergency. These plans should cover procedures for evacuating the office, safe areas and roles and responsibilities. Businesses located in areas identified as potential targets for terror attacks should incorporate specific emergency measures related to terrorism into their plans. They should also ensure that all employees know and understand that the emergency plans exist. These plans could include guidelines for what to do should a terror attack take place outside the office, as well how to react in the event of an active shooter. It is crucial that these plans and procedures are trained, exercised and tested.

Having an office in an area prone to various incidents requires the company to be informed of relevant developments. Sound intelligence can alert the company of an event, enabling quick initiation of applicable plans. Many companies use their network to provide intelligence or rely on local media to provide alerts. Regardless of the information, it is important to use trustworthy sources to ensure validity. The company can choose to develop a trigger system that determines whether the alert should activate any emergency procedures.

RMM: How likely is it that someone will be a victim of terrorism or violence during a large event?

RA: Although terrorism has severe consequences, the likelihood of being a victim of terror is low when compared to other risks such as traffic accidents and illness. The impact of a traffic accident on the individual can still be high, while the impact on the business will be minimal, in most cases. What makes terror so dangerous is not likelihood, but the fear of it happening. Terror literally means “fear,” and it is the uncertainty and severity of terror that is pivotal for how we perceive it. Employees may express a somewhat irrational fear that must be addressed and taken seriously by the company, as it affects the employee and his/her work.

Zombie Risk Management 101

An emerging risk over the past 10 years has been the rise of undead walkers, or “zombies” and their influence on supply chains, natural resources and mortality rates. These once-alive individuals thrive on human flesh and spread deadly diseases; their exploits have been well documented in California and Georgia for years on basic cable television.

Renegade armies have made significant gains in controlling the risks of these attacks and uprisings using makeshift weapons, but sadly, the supply chain is limited due to an outbreak that has been wiping out Americans.

To avoid these risks, on Halloween, encourage employees to travel in pairs in case the undead appear out of the shadows, as they often do. Their bites are infectious and pose the risk of death or even worse—you could become one of them. Should you sustain a bite, consider whether you will want to:

  • “Live on” and become a flesh-eater
  • Be placed under special quarantine
  • Be terminated on-the-spot to prevent future outbreaks and harm

As previously reported in Risk Management magazine, when considering risk management techniques for zombie encounters, such as fight or flee, it pays to plan ahead: Consider objects around you that could be used as weapons, wear shoes that can accommodate speed if fleeing is necessary and always be aware of your surroundings.

The undead do not need oxygen or blood to function, as detailed in the Zombie Survival Guide. They can thrive on land and even under water, so be sure to account for both scenarios when designing your contingency plans. If you are preparing to defend yourself or your company, it’s suggested you use a long blade or propulsion weapon and be sure to aim for the head. It is commonly believed that once its brain is pierced, a zombie should perish for good. Visit the CDC’s Zombie Preparedness page for more survival techniques and tips on how to best handle an encounter with the undead.

N. Calif. Wildfires Continue Widespread Destruction


The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) increased the National Preparedness Level to 3 today due to wildfire activity in eight Northern California counties, including Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino, where evacuations, road, trail and area closures are in effect. Since their start on the night of Oct. 8, the wildfires in California’s wine country have caused 23 deaths and forced more than 20,000 to evacuate, including the entire city of Calistoga. Additionally, hundreds of residents are missing.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Napa, Sonoma and Yuba counties on Oct. 9 and the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration was approved by President Trump on Oct. 10 to support state and local responses. The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services also activated the State Operations Center in Mather, California to its highest level.

The 22 uncontained large wildfires have consumed 170,000 acres in California and destroyed nearly 3,500 commercial and residential properties, many of which were in north Santa Rosa. One major difficulty responders are facing is that several fires have merged into complexes—where two or more individual incidents are located in the same general area—with each complex including an average of five fires.

Causes of the fires have not been determined, although downed power lines due to strong winds were reported on Sunday night, about the time of the first fires. Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) said its meteorologists measured the inciting gusts at between 50 and 75 miles per hour on Sunday night, which contributed to nearly 20 North Bay fires and “aided the fires in the Northern parts of the energy company’s service area…and damaged PG&E’s electrical system in some locations.”

The National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for North Bay Hills today. Heavy winds have consistently hindered efforts to control and contain the fires, and have been clocked at 20 to 30 miles per hour in the area, with some gusts expected to reach 50 miles per hour. According to CoreLogic’s hazard risk analysis, more than 170,000 homes in Napa and Santa Rosa alone are at some level of structural risk from the fires, with about 6% at significant risk.

Utilities have been affected, as well. Officials told SFGate that water systems in isolated areas of Fountaingrove and Oakmont in  Sonoma County have been “compromised,” prompting Santa Rosa police to advise that residents boil tap water used for cooking or drinking. Poor water quality has also become an issue in Napa County.

As reported in Risk Management magazine earlier this month, wildfires in the United States from Jan 1. to Sept. 15 had already burned 8.3 million acres, far exceeding the 10-year average. As of September, the Forest Service and Interior Department had spent more than $2 billion fighting fires this year—making 2017 the most expensive wildfire season on record.