Residents and employees of downtown apartment buildings are being warned that while the City of Chicago believes the upcoming G8 and NATO conferences will create only minor disruptions, they should prepare for the potential of more dire scenarios.
The Apartment Building Owners and Managers’ Association of Chicago (ABOMA) will begin a series of security presentations for its 425 member buildings Wednesday on topics ranging from conflict resolution to perimeter security and bomb detection.
"My biggest concern out of this is for the safety of the residents of our buildings," said ABOMA president Tom Skweres, saying he thinks the potential exists for some member buildings in the downtown area to become a "residual target, or collateral damage."
The ABOMA presentation centers on topics ranging from how to spot a bomb which arrives in the mail to making decisions about protesters who have been tear-gassed and are seeking refuge. Building engineers are also advised about the best way to keep tear gas out of the buildings, a topic about which the ABOMA management says it has been hearing from its members.
"These are the concerns that they’ve been coming to us and saying, 'Can tear gas hurt me? Can tear gas kill me?'" said Tom Dobry, the executive director of the training center ABOMA operates in conjunction with its union, the Service Employees International Union. "We want them to know what it is, what’s the makeup, how long the effects are supposed to last."
There is, of course, the potential for simple inconvenience. With hundreds of thousands of people living in the downtown area, Dobry said they want residents and employees alike to know that moving dignitaries around will require street closures and likely multiple traffic headaches.
"Forty to 80 motorcades a day is what we’ve been told," he said.
Buildings are being advised that they should shut down parking to outside customers and to remove objects and items outside their buildings which might be thrown through windows.
"We trust and have faith in the CPD," said Dobry. "But if something were to break down and things become unhinged, our property service employees are going to be on the front lines.”
ABOMA represents buildings encompassing some 300,000 units, which an estimated 600,000 Chicagoans call home. Their buildings employ over 5,000 people.
"I think we have to be prepared for the worst case scenario because I don’t think anybody has really been prepared in the past, and I don’t think we know what is going to happen,” said Skweres. “We’re very concerned that it could disrupt the lives of our residents.”
Noting that the city has downplayed the potential for disruptions, he said, “I think that’s what they believe, that everything will be OK. But I think we have to take the position that it might not be OK, with the hopes that it will be OK."