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The Man from Down Under

ASIS INTERNATIONAL’S NEW PRESIDENT, Geoffrey T. Craighead, CPP, is a true world citizen. Born and raised in Australia, Craighead also lived for several years in Hong Kong, then London, before coming to the United States, which he now calls home. He is currently vice president of Universal Protection Service of Santa Ana, California, a major U.S. security contractor. He is also the author of a seminal work, High-Rise Security and Fire Life Safety, a comprehensive reference for managing security and fire-life safety operations within high-rise buildings, now in its third edition.

Security Management spoke with Craighead before the ASIS International 58th Annual Seminar and Exhibits in Philadelphia about his life Down Under and in Asia, the trajectory of his security career, and the impact of ASIS on his professional development.

Early Days

Craighead was born in the Australian city of Melbourne and was raised in a middle class family. “Both sets of grandparents had come out from Scotland in the early 1900s. Dad worked as an accountant and Mum was a housewife. My sister, Barbara, my twin brother, Ian, and I were just regular kids with a regular home life,” he recalls.

He attended the Australian National University at Canberra where he completed a degree in forestry, intending to become a forestry professional. However, Craighead’s grand passion was football. “To explain it for non-Australians: there are three types of football in Australia—English football that’s known here as soccer, rugby, and then there’s another kind called Australian Rules football. It’s a fast moving body-contact sport with no protective gear. Some reporters have aptly described it as ‘organized mayhem.’ It is the most popular football played Down Under,” he says. Craighead began playing professional football in 1973 in the Victorian Football League (now the Australian Football League) at the same time he was attending his final year of university.

“I would fly down to Melbourne on Friday night, play on Saturday, train on Sunday, come back to Canberra on Sunday night, and go to university during the week. Then, when I had graduated, I went down to Melbourne to play—although when I say professional football, we weren’t getting paid high salaries at all; we were paid $38 a match for senior players,” he reveals, adding that he later worked for a local transport company to pay the bills.

The next year, 1974, was a bad one. Craighead broke a thumb, gained 20 pounds of weight that he couldn’t shake off, and was suffering from a traumatic breakup with a girlfriend. “I was absolutely devastated over it,” he recalls and speaks of suffering deep depression. During this bleak period, Craighead says, he had a spiritual epiphany that left him at peace with leaving pro football.

Another aspect of his spiritual awakening was the desire to use his forestry degree to help people. “I wrote to various churches asking if they could use someone with my abilities, and long story short, I was offered a job to run a forestry plantation on Elcho Island.”

Elcho is off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. At the time, it had a population of about 1,400 Aboriginal indigenous people and about 40 outsiders, mainly Christian missionaries. Craighead took to life there immediately. “There were really great people working there, and a small town feel that I had not had being brought up in a city,” he says. “It also exposed me to a different culture, with a strong kinship system, and some wonderful Aboriginal people. I was even informally adopted into an indigenous family, becoming a son to Djuna Djuna and Dhangal Yunipingu.”

Although the church forestry project he had been sent to run did not thrive and he eventually recommended its termination, Craighead developed a strong connection with the local people. Sports were an integral part of the Island’s culture, and eventually, the YMCA there asked Craighead to become its first director of sports and recreation—a job where he put his football skills to use coaching local teams, umpiring matches, and creating other sports-related programs for the inhabitants. While there, he also arranged sporting camps to try and help youths who sniffed gasoline to get high—a common addiction on the island.

After several years on Elcho, Craighead relocated to Hong Kong and began work in Society of Stephen, a church pastored by two Americans, Rick and Jean Willans, that helped drug addicts come off heroin and commence a new life. These individuals were mostly members of Chinese Triads—known in the West as the Chinese mafia—who were involved in a range of criminal activities such as extortion, robbery, drug trafficking, and prostitution.

“There were some real success stories…. It was wonderful to see these people change—particularly when through prayer in tongues they were painlessly set free of heroin, which was killing them,” he states. “After withdrawal, they began the process of learning to live in the kind of loving family environment that we sought to provide. Many of the boys had run the streets for years without any real family other than gang brothers to anchor their lives. They needed to learn an entirely different way of living. Regular Bible studies, daily prayer, shopping trips to the local street market, soccer at the local field, church meetings, social outings with other members of the church, and learning how to deal with people without the use or threat of force, were part of it. In a way, this was also an introduction for me to understand the security measures needed for operations such as this.”

While engaged in this work, Craighead lived at the local Chinese YMCA, studied Cantonese at a Hong Kong college, and met his future wife, Sarah, in 1977. “She first came to Hong Kong when her dad was the Australian Trade Commissioner. We’ve been happily married for 33 years, and now have two wonderful children, Pip and Searcy. Sarah doesn’t sound Australian, and she doesn’t like football, which is ridiculous, but otherwise, she’s an okay girl,” he jokes.

After their wedding, Craighead ceased his full-time work with Hong Kong addicts and landed a job with Security Systems (Far East) Limited, where he was responsible for sales and marketing of electronic security systems. That led to a position with Hong Kong & Kowloon Wharf and Godown Company Proprietary Limited in 1981, where he spent a year as a chief inspector for proprietary security operations at the mixed-use Ocean Centre and Ocean Terminal in Kowloon.

Coming to America

In 1982, the Craigheads decided to go east—quite a distance east—to the West Coast of the United States. After sharing a house in Los Angeles with their pastors from Hong Kong, Craighead started to look for work. “I went to an ASIS Los Angeles Chapter meeting because I’d bumped into someone who told me about it. As you walked through the door, you got a raffle ticket for a door prize. Well, I won, and the prize had a fellow’s business card attached to it,” he recalls. “I called him up that afternoon and thanked him and asked ‘By the way, do you have jobs available?’ He said there was something, and I was told to come in for an interview. So, I went for the interview the next day, and two nights later I was running around in a patrol vehicle as a field supervisor inspecting accounts! So it was ASIS that led to my first job here.”

In his position as district manager with Pedus Security Services, which he remained in until late 1987, Craighead learned a great deal about the contract security business. He worked for a former Los Angeles County Sheriff, Fred Dickey, and the president of the company, Timothy Gilmore, CPP, who encouraged employees to earn ASIS’s Certified Protection Professional ® (CPP) designation. The managers were told that if they studied for the CPP and took the written examination, the Protection of Assets Manual, exam fee, and other costs would be covered. In addition, he says, “If you passed, you got an increase in salary. So, I studied and I got the CPP just under a year later…. I received a $100 monthly increase in salary.”

On high. While Craighead was studying for the CPP, his company’s client, the 62-story First Interstate Tower (now the Aon Center), lost its security director. Located in Los Angeles, the tower was at that time the tallest building west of the Mississippi. Craighead interviewed for the position, even though he had no extensive experience in high rises. The property manager who interviewed him was a tough New Yorker who seemed impressed when Craighead said, “I will tell you what you need to know, and I will never lie to you.” Pedus Security Services was quickly notified of Craighead’s selection. “I think it was that honesty thing,” Craighead reflects. “He wanted someone he could trust.”

After starting in his position at the tower, Craighead often wished there was a manual on how to run a security and fire-life-safety program in the high-rise environment, because no guidebooks existed in the mid-1980s. “I started dissecting the building and learning how all the systems worked. And I started keeping files,” he states.

One of the issues at First Interstate Tower was that it did not possess a sprinkler system. These systems were not required in Los Angeles’ office towers in 1973, the year the building was completed. In May 1988, years after Craighead left the tower, a massive fire destroyed five floors, killed an engineer who was investigating the incident using an elevator, and injured 40 others. The high rise suffered more than $50 million in damages.

“It was a really big incident here,” he says, and ultimately led to changes in the way buildings were operated in Los Angeles, including immediate notification of the fire department when an incident occurs, certification of fire-life-safety consultants working at high-rise buildings, and formal approval of building emergency plans.

By the time of the fire, Craighead was working for American Protective Services, eventually becoming a regional manager for contract security operations in Southern California, reporting to a retired police captain, Sam D’Amico, and a retired U.S. Marine Corps General, Art Bloomer. (In 1999, the company was purchased by Securitas.) Craighead had joined that company in 1987 and was still with it in February 1993 when the World Trade Center in New York City was bombed by Islamic terrorists. “It was a watershed event in high-rise security,” he says, and it made him think, once again, about writing a book.

A few weeks later, sidelined at home because he’d broken several ribs in a rugby match, Craighead looked over his files and then obtained a book on how to write a proposal for publishers. “I mapped out the book and sent it off to Butterworth-Heinemann. Six months later, they accepted the proposal for a book on security and fire life safety. It was a major undertaking. It took a year to write and another year in copyediting,” he recalls.

Since its first printing, High-Rise Security and Fire Life Safety has become an indispensable tool for security and facilities managers. It has been revised twice—the last time in 2009, when the content grew by a quarter, now not only addressing office buildings but also hotels and residential and mixed-use buildings. Also incorporated is a review of the terrorist attack that brought down the Twin Towers on 9-11 and a CD-ROM that offers sample fire safety and security surveys, as well as a sample of a building emergency management plan and information pertaining to additional security and life-safety resources.

Like many others in the high-rise security area, Craighead was awed by Douglas G. Karpiloff, CPP, who worked for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as security and life-safety director for the World Trade Center. Karpiloff was always glad to share the details of the building’s security and safety program. In fact, Craighead recalls, after having had long-term voice and e-mail exchanges with Karpiloff, “I was supposed to go to the World Trade Center to meet with him on September 20, but Doug died on the eleventh. We were never to meet.”

ASIS in Action

During the 1980s, Craighead joined the Inland Empire Chapter of ASIS. His first volunteer leadership role was as that chapter’s secretary. In the 1990s, he was an active member of the Los Angeles Chapter, serving as secretary and treasurer and helping arrange guest speakers.

In his career with American Protective Services, Craighead had begun conducting security surveys. “I had done a security survey for the corporate headquarters of a major automotive facility. It was well received, but the corporate security director wanted a second opinion and so shared my survey with Rich Michau, CPP, who was then the president of the ASIS Professional Certification Board (PCB). He was impressed and invited me to interview for the PCB. I came onto the PCB in 1999, and that was how I began to get involved with national leadership,” he states. Craighead was a member of the PCB for six years and then became its president.

“I really do feel that ASIS certifications are increasing in value as time goes by. The CPP, when I got it, helped me professionally a lot. ASIS marketing can assist with promotion and branding, but it’s really up to the individual security practitioner, within his or her own sphere of influence, to make people understand how valuable the designation is and to mentor other professionals to get it too,” he states.

After his years on the PCB, Craighead headed up the Society’s Commercial RealEstate Security Council for two years. Eventually, he was urged to run for the ASIS Board of Directors, but he was not successful on his first or second attempts. The third try, however, proved successful, and Craighead has since served as the Society’s secretary, treasurer, and president-elect.

Strategic vision. Craighead says that during his presidency he would like to highlight and promote public private liaison and partnerships. “I really do believe that this continues to be important for the Society and for those of us making a concerted effort to protect civil society. For example, ASIS has reached out to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. And I do think it has come a long way. I don’t think we are there yet as regards private security’s relationship with all public law enforcement agencies, but there has been a tremendous advancement in cooperation, particularly since 9-11,” he says.

Other than this, during 2013, Craighead intends to focus on the long-term goals that the ASIS Strategic Plan lays out, which include fulfilling the needs of members in the profession; delivering quality education and research; creating opportunities for exchange of ideas and information; and developing and promoting security standards, certification, professionalism, and ethics.

“These goals are clearly delineated in the strategic plan, which was developed many years ago and continues to be constantly refined by many experienced leaders in the security profession. It’s not that I’m an automaton or a robot without my own personal ideas, but I am a strong believer that the leader of the Society does not have the mandate to take off into areas outside the plan…. You don’t want anyone to take it out into left field and at the end of their year, everyone is left looking around asking, ‘What are we doing out here?’” he states.

He notes that’s not just common sense, it’s also the requirement. As he explains, “according to the bylaws of ASIS, the role of the president is to be a spokesman for the Society.”

As that spokesman, he says, “In the time that I have…I want to remind people about where we came from. ASIS has been built by a lot of wonderful, dedicated people over the years since Paul Hanson and a group of industry professionals got together in 1955, and it will continue on. In subsequent years, there will be other exceptional people who will step up and make invaluable contributions to the Society and the security profession,” Craighead says. He adds “Mentoring is an important part of this. If it hadn’t been for Tim Gil more making me aware of the CPP program and tangibly supporting it by paying for the course and materials and then rewarding me with a pay increase—if not for a gentleman like that, I probably wouldn’t be as seriously involved with ASIS as I am now.”

Ann Longmore-Etheridge is an associate editor of Security Management and editor of ASIS Dynamics.