At the Frontline: 2013 ASIS President Geoffrey Craighead

Jan. 9, 2013
Universal Protection Service executive discusses how he got his start in the industry, evolution of profession

Like many security practitioners, Geoffrey Craighead’s start in the security industry was an unconventional one. Craighead, CPP, who currently serves as vice president of guard services firm Universal Protection Service, originally graduated from Australian National University with a degree in forestry. After returning to his hometown of Melbourne where he played professional Australian Rules football for two years, Craighead was later hired by a company called Security Systems Far East Ltd. in the late 70s where he started to learn about the security industry.

"The more I got involved in it, the more I saw there were some real possibilities here with regards to a career. I never really thought it was going to be a career to tell you the truth, but one thing led to another," Craighead said.

In 1982, Craighead came to Los Angeles where he attended a local ASIS chapter meeting, from which he landed his first job in private security.

"I heard about (ASIS), went to a chapter meeting and through that got a job," he said. "I actually won the door prize, which was a bottle of Jack Daniel’s whisky donated by the contract company. I called them up that afternoon to thank them and ended up being interviewed the next day and two days later I’m running around in a patrol vehicle in L.A. Things work out in funny ways." 

He would later work at the First Interstate Bank building (now known as the U.S. Bank Tower) in Los Angeles where he developed an expertise in high-rise building security. Craighead has even authored a book on the subject entitled "High-Rise Security and Fire Life Safety." He currently runs the training program for Universal Protection Service, which provides fire and life safety services to many high-rise buildings throughout the U.S.

In this "At the Frontline" interview, Craighead discusses how he’s seen the industry change through the years and what the future holds for the profession.

SIW: How have you seen the role of security practitioners change over the years?

Craighead:  The relationship between private security and public law enforcement has improved so much and we know that watershed event of 9/11 contributed a lot to that. ASIS really does reach out to foster those relationships through its law enforcement liaison council and its association with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, but the other thing that strikes me… is the technology that I’ve seen change so much and the one technology I think has changed the most rapidly has been video.

When you think of what’s go on over the last 15 years, it is just phenomenal. The capabilities of video to help security practitioners is just invaluable as a tool to both possibly detect a crime when it’s occurring, but also forensically with regards to investigations, so that’s been the biggest change. When I was writing the second edition of “High-Rise Security,” I remember I took the week off to go through the magazines I had and I would pull out articles and catalog them where they would fit into the book and the thing that most impressed me when I first did that was how CCTV had changed. A lot of the articles were being written about video rather than access control or intrusion detection. Of course the other big change was when you had network connectivity with some of those devices… and that has changed things.

SIW: With your expertise in high-rise security, how would you say the threats against those facilities has changed?

Craighead: In my experience, in the mid-to-late 90s, there was quite an interest in workplace violence. It seemed to be the vogue subject. There were a lot people out there on the speaking circuit talking about it. Then that sort of went away for a while and then this whole wave came in about terrorism. The statistics that are coming out… they don’t necessarily say that the number of workplace violence incidents is increasing; in fact, I’ve seen stats that say they’re dropping, particularly since 1990. I think it’s these high-profile, multiple fatality incidents that’s really stepped the entire issue up and I’m sure there are things going on in society that may have contributed to it, such as economic difficulties and the stress that people are under. I think that the way that society has loosened up its morals, its integrity and its ethics may have contributed to the problems that are going on in personal relationships because one of the aspects about active shooters, or at least workplace violence, is some of the stuff from domestic relationships is spilling over into the workplace.

SIW: What role has ASIS played in helping to improve the information available to security managers on a variety of risks?

Craighead: One thing that I think has improved over the years with the security industry in general is the type of things that have been written, the research that has been done because a lot of the books that I have looked at through the 70s, 80s and up until the present time, many of those publications have become much more professional. Rather than being anecdotal, they’re based on what is really happening and they’re better researched. ASIS has been involved in a number of research papers with CRISP (Connecting Research in Security to Practice) reports. There are a number of those reports that we’ve done and they’re really well-produced papers.

SIW: What kind of impact will the recent massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School have on the security industry in general?

Craighead:  I don’t know what the full repercussions of this incident will be. I think it comes on top of others that were just so horrific that its caused this incredible awareness among the general public. When I was coming into work this morning – I happen to live in Southern California – they were talking about LAPD officers going into schools for 30 minutes and doing a walkthrough and having a look at what their security plan is like. Obviously, different jurisdictions are already reacting in a different manner to it. We are definitely taking this very seriously and we will be looking with regards to what changes may occur so that we can meet the needs of our members. Already, if you go to our website, there are a lot of tools there that are available to people to help them have resources to prepare for active shooters. I think (the ramifications) are still unfolding as we speak.

About the Author

Joel Griffin | Editor-in-Chief,

Joel Griffin is the Editor-in-Chief of, a business-to-business news website published by Endeavor Business Media that covers all aspects of the physical security industry. Joel has covered the security industry since May 2008 when he first joined the site as assistant editor. Prior to SecurityInfoWatch, Joel worked as a staff reporter for two years at the Newton Citizen, a daily newspaper located in the suburban Atlanta city of Covington, Ga.