Patrick Straw is a familiar face to many in the Canadian security industry — more so now that he has joined the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) as its new executive director.
By Neil Sutton
Straw has a 30-year career in the industry, working in multiple aspects from distribution to integration and also serving on CANASA’s Ontario board. SP&T News recently sat down with Straw to get his thoughts on CANASA’s leadership and how the organization might evolve further to meet the needs of today’s security professional.
SP&T News: What are some of the top priorities facing CANASA today?
Patrick Straw: While our industry is getting more diversified and many more companies are coming into the security space, we need to work diligently to ensure that CANASA is the brand that represents security in Canada.
We need to be able to mobilize resources, such as our web site, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and our communication with our members. This is an area where we need to build on the infrastructure that we already have in place and all of these options need to be reviewed. Providing sources of education for our members is and always will be a top priority for CANASA and I am working with some partners to make additional resources readily available.
SP&T: Do you have any short-term goals as the new executive director you can outline?
PS: I have already attended several regional industry events and was able to talk with dozens of people from all parts of our industry, many of whom I have known for a long time. I have also participated in several Regional Council Meetings to hear what our members are talking about and what they would like to see from us.
Getting to know the office staff was also a first step priority and to get the team focused on a very “customer service” attitude with our members. As we have some newer staff, I have also initiated some in-house training sessions so that they know what our members do and to better understand the structure of our industry. We have a great team and I am very positive about us all working together as we move forward.
SP&T: What do you feel the role of a security association should be? How is CANASA meeting these needs and is there room for improvement?
PS: A security association, like all associations, must be representative of the needs of its members. We, of course, have our unique issues dealing with Police and Fire dispatches as a result of our activity but much of the role is communication, education and unification for the common goal of mutual success and maintaining a high standard for our industry. Improvement will come from engaging more of our members to participate, growing our membership to cover a wider gamut of security providers or manufacturers and to modernize our offerings.
SP&T: What is the role of CANASA in terms of outreach, interaction with other associations or authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), and acting as an industry ombudsman?
PS: With regards to AHJs, government at all levels and the many associated topics, this is a high priority.
In the short time that I have been here, we have reacted quickly to communicate with jurisdictions who are proposing changes to bylaws, etc., which affect our members in several provinces. Our regional councils try to keep on top of these situations and I will personally be attending meetings when possible to represent CANASA.
As for the U.S.-based associations, I know that we actively participate in several of them to date, particularly relating to monitoring stations and we will continue to do so.
This is a topic I will most likely be able to shed more light on in the future after I have had time to get to know them and how we can work together. As a general statement, there is a great value to tapping into available experience and resources. Many jurisdictions around the world have already been through a lot of the changes that are just starting to happen here.
SP&T: You are the third executive director since JF Champagne left in 2015, so there will naturally be some questions about the organization’s stability. How are you addressing those?
PS: I was quite surprised when I arrived to find that there was not the chaos that one could have suspected. We have a very strong Board of Directors and the leadership on this board stepped in and kept any important functions rolling along nicely. We also have a great team here, some whom are senior staffers who have been around for a long time. We have a few loose ends to clean up, but generally we are in good shape.
My management style is very open and we discuss many of the things that we want to do as a group first. This has been warmly received, and so far so good. Let’s not kid ourselves — there is lots to do, but we are starting from a good spot.
SP&T: CANASA used to be known primarily as an alarm association, but obviously times have changed. How is CANASA keeping pace and what can it offer the professional security community today?
PS: Good question. As I stated earlier, we recognize that the alarm component is only a portion of the overall security landscape.
Most of our member installer companies however have always done a little bit of everything, serving the needs of their customers. As some of the technology has become simpler and easier to use, others in the building infrastructure world are grabbing opportunities to sell and install — particularly in the video market.
But the alarm, access control, door hardware business and all the peripheral things around that are still done mostly by some version of the traditional security company. Let’s face it, there are just a lot more products and a lot more integrators and it is important that we keep them active with CANASA, so we can all work together to strengthen our industry.
We need to be a constant and up to date source for education, training, networking and advocacy.