A subject consistently billed in numerous sessions at the American Society of Industrial Security's recent conference in Orlando was Homeland Security. Besides generating a lot of work, the federal government is having another significant impact on the security industry in the form of a cordial, but firm push for security standards for both products and design.
According to Jon Kinsey, business development manager for the government services group of Simplex, Dublin, Ohio, it starts with the Safety Act. "When you register with the government to get your product approved for use in Homeland Security projects, you must meet these standards," he said.
Kinsey's company is currently a pre-qualified vendor with the U.S. General Services Administration, so he's not surprised by the mandate. The federal government has been moving in this direction for the past several years. Furthermore, he believes, these requirements will eventually trickle down to state, county and municipal projects as well.
There are benefits to this qualification, said Kinsey, as the standards set under Homeland Security provide vendors with a degree of indemnification in the instance of product failure, such as the case of a catastrophic event like the collapse of the World Trade Center.
But the halo of Homeland Security is reaching beyond government projects. According to Alan Calegari, president and division regional head of security systems for Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo Grove, Ill., pharmaceutical and chemical companies - or anyone else who might be a target for terrorist acts - are being strongly "influenced" by the government to adopt Homeland Security protocols.
But what exactly are these protocols? "Many of our customers are asking us what we know about Homeland Security and how much experience we have," said Calegari.
For SBT, it's been such a booming business that the company is relocating its security division to the Washington , D.C. area to be in a better position to take advantage of federal work.
Part of this opportunity stems from the fact that the department is still growing and lacks expertise. Compounding that issue is the fact that it has very strict prerequisites for qualifying its staff.
"I knew of a young man who graduated with his Ph.D. at 28 and was very smart, but couldn't get hired [by Homeland Security] because you need something like 15 years of federal experience to qualify," Calegari said.
As a result, the government is turning to the private sector for help. Calegari likened it to being in a pool of pre-qualified defense contractors. "The government is really looking at outside companies to be innovators," he said. "We've had success to date, because we've brought in a whole new methodology and value-added concepts and solutions they're not used to."
Another thing the government is not used to is working without standards. But that's also being addressed by the private sector. According to Kinsey's Simplex colleague Mike Lohr, the National Fire Protection Assn. just recently got into the security game, having just approved standard 731. "Until now, there haven't been any guidelines on CCTV, etc. The new standard is not mandatory, but we are seeing it start to appear in specs," said Lohr.
Lauris Freidenfelds, a security consultant with Sako Assocs., Chicago, who sat on the NFPA 731 committee, said the standard is a great start, but there's still a long way to go as it was not something that was approved jointly by ASIS or the Security Industry Assn. (SIA), even though both bodies participated in the process.
"We went through NFPA, frankly, because they're very good at getting standards adopted into code," said Freidenfelds. "I'm personally pushing to get ASIS and SIA to back the standard."
Calegari, who also is involved with SIA, said his take is that security manufacturers don't want a lot of regulations, but the government's desire to go this route is really the driving factor.
The big question, in his mind, is who is going to enforce these standards.