The newly-appointed Chair of the Security Industry Association, James Rothstein talks to SJA about protecting schoolchildren and outlines his ambitions for the SIA during his two-year appointment.
The Texas shooting happened on 24 May, 2022 and as the story unfolded to a horrified world, it was the first day of the SIA GovSummit, a flagship conference in Washington that brings together government and the security industry.
Sadly but understandably, a session on School Safety using government standards and best practice was on the conference agenda with a top panel of experts.
“The session had looked at the technology in use, the funding available, the standards and recommendations already in place and available to every school – we were all deeply disturbed by the news coming out of Uvalde,” said James.
The SIA has a strong track record advising and guiding both government and schools in protecting themselves and it’s clear that James is adamant that every school is aware of, and has access to, those guidelines.
During our interview he says again something he’d written the previous day in a statement for and on behalf of the SIA membership: “The PASS Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools are the most comprehensive information available on best practices, specifically for securing K-12 school facilities.”
Devised by the SIA and the the National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA), as well as a host of other industry stakeholders, it has been developed and revised over eight years and those PASS guidelines are available to everyone.
Parents and teachers across country knows the risks and James – a father of two – was adamant that schools should not just try to design their own protection scheme. He said: “Not enough funding is there but in spite of a gradual adoption of broader standards, right now many schools, well intentioned though they may be, roll out their own solution. They need experts to lay those foundations and ensure they employ the right technologies.
“SIA is very active setting standards and helping integrators and schools find the best technologies to keep these venues safe, working with a myriad of manufacturers and a myriad of educators in safety who can really have an impact. It’s about employing the right technologies to ensure that people who aren’t supposed to be on premise, aren’t.
“Then if there is some terrible catastrophe, the ability to rapidly commence procedures on premise in a way that is compliant with fire codes need to be in place. There are solutions that exist now, which can lock things down and prevent entrance, but they must be deployed in such a way that does not inadvertently jeopardize safety.”
As well as the PASS K-12 guidelines there’s more help: “SIA has an abundance of training available as well to get deeper and PASS is an organization that will continue to drive safer venues, safer schools.”
It was unfortunate that this should be one area of the SIA’s huge influence that should have been at the forefront of the interview with James, a veteran of more than three decades in the industry and a passionate advocate for the association.
We spoke after the two-day GovSummit in Washington and James, who took up his two-year appointment as Chair of the SIA in March, 2022 has returned to his New York office, where he is operating partner at Lee Equity.
It’s clear that he has huge passion for the industry: “It’s a good business, it’s about protecting people, keeping them safe and that is rewarding. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend more than 35 years in it. Integrity is important and one of reasons I wanted to be involved and further that ability to add value to people’s lives and to help make their lives a little more safe.
“It’s a very fragmented industry and while there are big companies, there are also many smaller ones and a really strong esprit de corps.”
He believes that the pandemic highlighted the real strength of the sector where he says: “Companies in this industry are very resilient” and he says that creativity and and drive carried mot through that time. Protecting individuals of course includes ensuring health safety during a pandemic.
“I also feel that owners of companies and employees at all levels want to get involved in the industry, to help shape policy, drive standards and also ensure that the industry as a whole be seen in a good light. I think that’s very important.”
His two-year journey as SIA Chair is just beginning after previously serving as senior vice president of global security solutions for Anixter, where he held P&L responsibilities for the firm’s $2 billion global security and fire business. He’s also currently on the Board of Directors of Unlimited Technologies- one of the top 10 Systems Integrators in the US.
His other past roles include serving as Senior Executive and Principal for Tri-Ed Distribution and Vice President of Marketing for Fatwire Software. He spent nearly a decade at Honeywell’s ADI division, as Vice President of Marketing and General Manager of Intrusion and Access Control Products. He holds a BS in economics from Colgate University.
SIA Guide to Resources for the Prevention and Mitigation of Active Shooter Incidents: www.securityindustry.org
This is an edited version of the interview with SIA Chair, James Rothstein. You can read the full interview in the June issue of Security Journal Americas here.
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