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Standards: Good or bad, it is up to you

There is a movement afoot these days by many professional organizations to develop standards and guidelines.
To some people, these are dirty words. I am the first to recognize that there are good standards and bad standards. I would suggest it comes down to determining what is propelling the standard and who had input into its development. I would argue that those people joining standards and guidelines committees, all have their own reasons for doing so.

For the purpose of this column, I am strictly talking about security related documents. First and foremost, some people are genuinely interested and concerned about the industry and wish to help create a new benchmark for the industry and society as a whole. By creating a standard, whether it is related to energy, workplace violence prevention, personnel, risk assessments, physical security or any of the host of industry related documents, people hope to better protect people, property and other assets. People also get involved in document development to gain experience, to make contacts, and to enhance their resume. These can be positive things if those people work hard and do what is expected of them. From a negative perspective, people also promote standards to score political points, hold others back or for personal or professional gain.

Forcing others to comply with a standard or guideline simply for political gain often indicates that someone wishes to prove to others that something is being done about a problem. Whether the problem is actually being solved or not is irrelevant. We see this all the time in the political arena. A good example is the installation of CCTV in pubic areas. While not a standard, it is guideline that more and more municipalities around the world are rushing to embrace, because “everyone else is doing it.” Politicians can then broadcast to the world that they are “doing something” about crime. The fact that there is considerable body of evidence pointing to the fact that CCTV is not the magic bullet for crime control is irrelevant.

I have also seen standards created in the security world where few if any security people actually sat on the development committee. When one views the membership list, one conclusion that can be drawn is that joining the committee is for personnel gain — create a standard then force everyone to comply with it.

I also question why some people get on development committees when they are clearly not part of the industry. To me the obvious reason is to have a say when they have no right to do so and in fact have been vocal opponents of the industry generally. One is forced to draw the conclusion that they have an ulterior motive. The next time, you review a document, scan the committee list and see which organizations they represent. Give some thought to why some names are on the list.

Having said all this, I will say that after sitting on several development committees for guidelines and standards, I would encourage people get involved as long as it is for the right reasons. Most professional industry associations have initiatives to write standards and/or guidelines. The trend nowadays is to write international standards.  Over the next several months and years, there will be an increased demand for committee members to get involved in this development process. Based on personal experience, the commitment required does not take nearly as much time as one thinks. Also committee members usually get access to a number of documents as part of the review process, which can come in handy in carrying out your job.

If you think something should be done or should no longer be done, then by sitting on a committee and doing your work, you can have a strong influence in shaping the future.  Give some thought to getting involved.

Glen Kitteringham, M.Sc., CPP, F.SyI. is President of Kitteringham Security Group.


February 7, 2011
By Canadian Security

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