National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) Leadership Conference: Aug. 25-28, Weehawken, N.

With Manhattan’s skyline as a backdrop, National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) members, employees and interested parties convened Aug. 25-28 on the eastern bank of the Hudson River at the Sheraton Suites for the organization’s annual “Leadership Conference,” this year subtitled, “Fostering Volunteerism.”

The event signified a departure as it has traditionally been held in conjunction with the International Security Conference and Exposition (ISC) East in New York. However, when ISC organizers opted to move the 2002 show to Orlando, Fla., NBFAA chose to stay put in a demonstration of support by again meeting in what used to practically be the majestic shadow of the World Trade Center.

In keeping with that theme, two high school-aged children of New York firefighters who perished in the terrorist attacks were presented with checks at the NBFAA Heroes Scholarship Awards Dinner at the National Women’s Republican’s Club. The event was punctuated by a poignant speech from FDNY Deputy Fire Commissioner Robert Brugger. In addition, the final day of the conference included a group outing to Ground Zero.

Another notable difference from 2001’s conference was the presence of NBFAA’s new regime, led by President Cecil Hogan and Executive Director Merlin Guilbeau. The two, along with other new association personnel and a few remaining holdovers, brought a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to the proceedings, which was evident throughout several committee meetings.

Internal NBFAA issues—such as an ambitious, Web-based overhaul of its member database and new recruiting tactics—and industry standards were among the most pressing topics discussed by the assorted committees. However, the false alarm problem, or as industry leaders are now referring to it, effective alarm management, was undoubtedly the most talked-about subject.

“As important issue as the RBOCs [regional Bell operating companies] was, it did not hold a candle to the alarm management issues we face now,” said Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) Chairman Leo Guthart during the False Alarm Prevention Committee meeting. Those in attendance discussed how to get the word out about False Alarm Prevention Month (November) and simplifying industry language for end users (e.g. “on/off” instead of “arm/disarm”).

During that meeting, Hogan announced that he would not sign a False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA)-endorsed alarm management document because it included no-response as a viable method for handling alarms. He circulated a letter, entitled “Alarm Management Clarification of Terms,” which stressed that the solution involves “all parties working together to manage the number of alarm responses, eliminating as many dispatches as possible to allow for better police response to legitimate calls.”

As he did during a symposium held during ISC East, Guilbeau made multiple presentations throughout the conference about a proposed new alliance to be called the Coordinated Alarm Reduction Effort (CARE) Council. The purpose of the group, which would include representatives from several major industry and law enforcement associations, would be to hold each party accountable for false alarms.

Despite his stance on the FARA document, Hogan was among a large contingency that expressed renewed hope about overcoming the industry’s long-standing apathy. “Associations are working together better than in the past,” he said, speaking about the CARE Council proposal during the AIREF meeting. “We all recently met for more than six hours and everyone is on the same page.”

Alarm Response Management Committee member Bill Moody added, “There was a time when discussing false alarms would clear a room. It is heartening to see the associations truly make it a top priority.” Long-time false alarm crusader Stan Martin offered more encouragement, saying, “It is exciting to see NBFAA really committed to getting the message to its dealers on a grassroots level. No matter what happens, the association has to continue to do that.”

A manifesto called “Effective Alarm Management: Contributing to Public Safety,” which was drafted by the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association (GLASAA) in reaction to L.A.‘s interest in verified response, was distributed and served as the basis for California Alarm Association (CAA) Executive Director Jerry Lenander‘s impassioned presentation to the NBFAA Board of Directors.

“There is a lot of work to be done to provide base foundational information to law enforcement about effective alarm management,” said Lenander. “This has to be done before any of the work that this association does will make a bit of difference.”

Unfortunately, in addition to the rift over the FARA document, attendees’ widespread optimism was somewhat dampened when Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Past President Robert Bonifas informed the AIREF Coalition that CSAA President Mel Mahler had, in fact, not agreed to participate in the CARE Council initiative. “CSAA staff members do not speak for the president,” he asserted.

In addition to committee meetings, a keynote speech by former Security Industry Association (SIA) Executive Director Ron Spiller, the presenting of the Heroes Scholarship Awards, and a host of social functions, the conference also featured an NBFAA Awards Luncheon.

“Best of the Year” award winners were named in five categories. The recipients were:

– State Association President—Howard Richardson, Washington Burglar and Fire Alarm Association

– State Association Newsletter—The Mirror (CAA)

– State Association Newsletter Column—“First, Do No Harm” (Jerry Lenander)

– National Training School (NTS) Coordinator—Gary Dawkins, Texas

– NTS Instructor—Robert Wolf, Wisconsin

As usual, one of the conference’s strongest aspects was the networking that took place as alarm professionals from across the country caught up with old associates and met new ones. Many attendees made frequent trips into Manhattan, which was just a short ferry ride away. The weather was generally mild for August, with some rain. NBFAA would do well to schedule the 2003 “Leadership Conference” at the same venue.

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