ESA to Shutter State Chapter Program at Year’s End

The Electronic Security Association announced the decision to sunset the chartered program following a vote by its board at ESX.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Electronic Security Association (ESA) will cease operating its state chapter program at the end of the year, following a vote this week by its board of directors at the Electronic Security Expo (ESX).

ESA Executive Director Merlin Guilbeau, joined by board member Steve Firestone of Select Security and ESA President Chris Mosley, discussed the decision to disband the chartered chapter program with trade media on Monday at ESX.

Each of ESA’s 27 chartered chapters has a seat on the board. Along with the board members, the final vote included ballots cast by representatives from 23 state chapters.

Guilbeau said the move to disband the program and modernize ESA’s relations with state associations passed with a two-thirds majority. Three representatives abstained. The sunset will take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

Among key influences driving the board’s reasoning, Guilbeau cited research that found many national associations are largely separating from their state chapters. A survey by Marketing General, which provides associations and nonprofits guidance on growing and retaining membership, found that only 27% of trade associations had state chapters. Among that lot only 7% had a “contingent relationship” with their state chapters, Guilbeau said.

Updating ESA’s existing affiliation with state chapters, built on a 30-year-old model, had been deliberated for some time, Firestone said. In April, during ISC West, the ESA executive committee ratified the move to pursue a final vote by the board of directors.

Guilbeau said the association needed to “change with the times” and especially account for a generational shift taking place. New volunteers, especially younger ones, have less time or less interest in devoting countless hours to associations, unlike their predecessors, he said. Younger people “are more purpose directed” and associations therefore “must adapt to remain relevant,” Guilbeau continued.

Among other issues fueling ESA’s departure from its current model are inefficient administrative tasks that prove burdensome. For example, current governing rules mandate that membership to a state association requires companies also to join ESA. And vice versa.

In some cases, ESA bills the members and then pays a portion of the dues back to the individual state associations. The billing transactions can even transpire with state associations collecting dues and disbursing funds back to ESA.

“This decision eliminates that obligation,” says Bay Alarm COO Tim Westphal, who serves as president of the California Alarm Association (CAA). “If you want to be a CAA member, you can, and you are not obligated to be an ESA member. If you want to be an ESA member, and you don’t want to be a CAA member, you can do that. It allows both of those situations to be resolved with people having the ability to make the choice for wherever they find the best value.”

Although Westphal supports ESA’s decision to eliminate the charter program agreement, he elected to abstain along with two other non-dealer board members.

“It was a controversial vote. A lot of the states felt strongly, especially the smaller states, about having to quickly [devise a] billing system. I didn’t want them to be jammed on the timeframe of it, so I abstained,” he said. “I wanted [ESA] to consider a different timing and execution of the split. But the big picture, from a high level, this is the direction that is best for the industry. The split is a good thing.”

John Loud, founder and president of Kennesaw, Ga.-based LOUD Security, explains state associations will remain vital to ESA, “but at the end of the day national has to look to stand on its own merits and provide value.”

Loud, a past president of the Georgia Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association (GELSSA) who remains intimately involved in state and national association affairs, said his company will maintain memberships at both levels.

“I see value in both. Look at the alarm ordinance factor alone [from a local and state perspective.] You have to look close to home and see what’s going on in your communities, your police departments,” he said. “The stuff that happens in Sandy Springs (Ga.) eventually effects the people in Oklahoma and elsewhere. What happens in Georgia can have great influence in Florida and Texas and Tennessee. Just like what happens in California can eventually effect Georgia and New York.”

Loud cautions, however, that sunsetting the charter agreement could have negative implications for some associations. “There are going to be some state chapters that are probably going to soar and thrive, and some that will flounder and diminish or even shut down,” he said. “However, you are still going to have a national association that is going to be very engaged in all the states — from advocacy, the government awareness for different laws, licensing rules and more.”

One area that could impact smaller associations especially is lost revenue from training programs, which cover state government requirements for alarm technicians. Guilbeau noted there will be no wholesale changes to ESA’s National Training School after the charter agreement ends, and NTS will continue to offer some programming for specific states.

Nor will there be any reduction in advocacy programs that ESA conducts at the national and state levels, he said.

ESA, Guilbeau said, will pursue strong relationships with state associations but no longer will they be bound contractually. ESA will strive for “unique relationships” based on and tailored to individual state’s needs.

“National and state associations will have to work harder to gain new members,” he said. “Both will independently have to prove their value.”

About the Author

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Although Bosch’s name is quite familiar to those in the security industry, his previous experience has been in daily newspaper journalism. Prior to joining SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION in 2006, he spent 15 years with the Los Angeles Times, where he performed a wide assortment of editorial responsibilities, including feature and metro department assignments as well as content producing for latimes.com. Bosch is a graduate of California State University, Fresno with a degree in Mass Communication & Journalism. In 2007, he successfully completed the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association’s National Training School coursework to become a Certified Level I Alarm Technician.

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