Strength Through Association

There’s strength in numbers. Few would argue that point. Yet, collectively, the electronic security industry’s foremost national trade associations only encompass a minority of the total pool of eligible professionals. To make matters worse, the multitude of associations tends to fragment the industry’s unified presence. These are among the most pressing of a cornucopia of challenges facing these organizations today.

Groups such as the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), Security Industry Association (SIA), National Alarm Association of America (NAAA) and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) must also contend with the industry’s lack of standards, false alarm woes, labor shortage, public relations, and need for stronger education and training. Fortunately, these associations have committed leaders in place who are ready to fight the good fight.

Security Sales & Integration recently spoke at length with NBFAA President Cecil Hogan, CSAA President Mel Mahler, SIA Executive Director Richard Chace (Note: SIA President Allen Fritts was profiled in last November’s Security Sales), NAAA President Gene Riddlebaugh and NFPA President James Shannon to clarify where each association currently stands. (For a more thorough listing of national and regional associations, see Security Sales’ 2002 Fact Book, or visit

In five separate interviews conducted in a roundtable style, these dedicated industry patrons discuss how their respective organizations are addressing the aforementioned concerns as well as other critical matters affecting security practitioners, end users and the industry at large. And, although the drive for merging the NBFAA, CSAA and SIA into a single industry association imploded last year, the process has clearly opened up new channels of communication and cooperation among all participants.    Cecil Hogan
President, National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA)

Security Sales & Integration: As NBFAA president, what are your responsibilities?
Cecil Hogan: To preside at all meetings of the association. To appoint all committees, and perform duties that may be instrumental to this office. In other words, to be presidential. That means I get to sign the checks, answer the questions, and take out the trash.

SSI: Who qualifies for membership and how are members recruited?
CH:Basically, we are looking for someone who is in the electronic life/safety and property/protection industry. We recently did a study about changing the name of the association because our membership base has changed -they are no longer just burg and fire people. They now do a lot of things. However, NBFAA has a long tradition and name recognition, so we kept the name but changed the tagline to ‘Electronic life safety, security & systems professionals.’

Membership is open to any business entity that is also a member of the chartered state association, if there is one in that state. A large part of recruiting is done through word of mouth and at the grassroots level at the local associations. We also do plenty of advertising and get exposure in the trade publications. We have booths at a lot of industry trade shows as well. I am concerned about recruiting the large percentage of people who came in from associated fields, like locksmiths, who may not be aware of NBFAA.

SSI: What is the value of membership?
CH: We are excited about our new membership kit—it makes membership a no-brainer because it contains coupons for products and services well in excess of the association dues. The Reassuring America kit is also available at $150 for members. It saves members the usual legwork involved in developing production material for advertising and marketing.

We also have the National Training School (NTS), which offers all of our training courses. Right now, we are looking at a cyber course that approaches different applications of the Internet. We always have our feelers out there and try to find out what our members most want. With the help of SIA [Security Industry Association], we are putting classes on the Web, which should be available within a year or so.

We offer two meetings per year that usually coincide with the ISCs [International Security Conference]. We are looking very seriously at going back to a third yearly meeting, which we are going to approach members about.

NBFAA also has brochures and pamphlets that educate end users. Our Web site gets an exorbitant amount of hits because people really need general security information. That’s why we are completely revamping our Web site; we want to find out more about end users and share that information with our dealers.

SSI: What are some recent developments within the association, and what can we expect to see in the future?
CH: Changes in the association’s upper management is the major development. I came aboard as president July 1 and Merlin [Guilbeau] came on in April [as executive director], so we have somewhat of a new focus. We are working really well with CSAA [Central Station Alarm Association] President Mel Mahler. We are growing, moving forward and making plans to be a strong force in the industry.

A lot of dealers out there think of the NBFAA as a mysterious entity that tries to run the industry, but they have to learn that we are just like them. We are alarm dealers who just happened to get involved.

SSI: How is the association contributing to the war on false alarms?
CH: In the future, I hope to see greater NBFAA involvement and interaction between the alarm industry and authorities in trying to focus on our public partners to get the job done a little better. We have dropped the ball with the false alarm issue and some other areas. We need to concentrate on the grassroots level and that is what we are going to try to do. As part of that, we are going to try and have a presence and a face at more of the local state association events.

We are going to have to be coordinated and keep our lines of communication open so no one feels left out. I think we have been very successful compared to where we started. If we go to law enforcement not speaking in one voice, then they are not going to listen.

The cities that have disenfranchised their people are going to see they have made mistakes. They are going to see other cities working with us, having success and better serving the public in fighting crime. Where we have not been able to work together, it is the public that suffers. I really hate to see any city go to verified or non-response because the majority of good people are getting penalized.

The bottom line is that when you have a dealer who can meet with his or her precinct commander and talk about cleaning up the problems, then we have made a huge impact on the false alarm problem. When police see this, they will begin to realize our value and get excited about how we can help protect the public.

SSI: What can be done to improve the security industry’s reputation to mainstream America?
CH: Well, the Reassuring America program is trying to show that we are professionals and part of the nation’s defense. I think the worst is behind us with dealer program issues, but some still exist. The companies that run those programs have a responsibility to police their dealers. I think requiring those in dealer programs to be members of the national association could go a long way toward making them more responsible and professional.

There are others besides those in dealer programs who are problematic though. Some of them are still in the dark ages in terms of installation or they don’t know wha

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