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During the last G-20 Summit, June 26 and 27, 2010, Toronto’s usually bustling downtown core became a ghost town as authorities established a security zone in preparation for anticipated protests.

For RBC Dexia—whose Toronto location (RBC Centre) was right in the middle of that zone—the safety of its employees and clients was its No. 1 commitment. “That was really the driving decision for us to disperse our workforce,” says Don Fisher, head of HR , Canada, with the organization.

Months before the event, RBC Dexia divided its employees according to the time-sensitive nature of their service requirements. Employees whose business activities could not be delayed while in business contingency planning mode remained at RBC Centre, or were dispersed to an off-site facility in Toronto’s west end or to other business units. Those employees whose activities could be delayed worked from home.

While the dispersion helped to ensure employee safety, it was also disruptive. “Many employees had to change their normal routine. And the normal routine wasn’t just related to work; it was also on the personal side,” explains Fisher. For example, some employees had to extend their daycare arrangements or commute further to reach the off-site location.

Fisher worked from home for a few days during the week prior to the summit, but he spent the first day at RBC Centre. “That was a very interesting day because of all of the news reports, and the anxiety and unknown of what was happening at the time.” Once heightened awareness of the protestors began trickling through to the employees who remained on-site, Fisher says the organization felt it was prudent to send them home early.

RBC Dexia’s G-20 experience was a team effort of various committees, including a communications committee, which was established and co-led with HR . The committee met twice a week for four months prior to the G-20 and once a week in the weeks before the event. It supplied communications on the organization’s preparation, including security reports and real-time updates.

To ensure that all of the preparations would go off without a hitch, RBC Dexia had a dry run in May, sending everyone to off-site locations or to work from home, just as they would be doing in June.

Fisher believes the G-20 experience “gave us a real-life example that demonstrated that we were prepared. I think it gave us a lot of confidence.”

Sorry, we’re closed
From June 21 to 28, 2010, attractions and events near the G-20 security zone in Toronto were shut down.

Strike out
The Blue Jays-Phillies series, originally set to feature the much-hyped return of former Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay to the Rogers Centre, was moved to Philadelphia.

Dark night
Performances of Rock of Ages and Mamma Mia! were cancelled from June 21 to 27.

Tower heist
The CN Tower was closed to the public from June 25 to 27.

Brooke Smith is managing editor of Benefits Canada. brooke.smith@rci.rogers.com

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© Copyright 2014 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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