AIREF Morphs to FAST, and Why the ‘Industry Owes a Debt of Thanks’

The Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation reexamined its existing mission and decided on an entirely new direction.

Something important happened in 2020 and it occurred without fanfare. The Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) Board of Directors did something admirable. They reexamined their existing mission, looked at common issues impacting the industry and unanimously voted to change the entire direction of AIREF.

In doing so, they essentially ended their own mission, thus moving the organization to a completely new structure.  Enter the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST), a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization launched last September designed to promote careers in the physical security technology and life-safety industry.

AIREF could not be prouder. FAST’s birth was the passing of AIREF. As the industry continues to transform, AIREF believed it must as well.

AIREF had always worked across industry organizations to provide funding for research and educational projects for the betterment of the industry. However, in the past few years industry associations, think tanks, private research companies and associate members had taken more interest in providing these studies, so AIREF’s Board of Directors was seeking a new direction.

When ESA CEO Merlin Guilbeau and SIA CEO Don Erickson approached the AIREF board with the concept of FAST, the AIREF board was intrigued. ESA and SIA then developed a working task force chaired by industry veteran Steve Firestone. Following many meetings and hard work, ultimately the task force presented its findings to the AIREF board members who approved the new mission unanimously.

Essentially, the board fired themselves for the betterment of the industry, but this selfless act began a new chapter. Over the years, AIREF provided guidance, thought leadership and well-developed industry reports that were used by law enforcement, trade associations, the alarm industry, academia and the media.

Serving on the AIREF board was a privilege and industry icons, whether living or deceased, all played an integral part in the success of AIREF. Leaders such as Spiller, Bitton, Lenander, Gold, McDonald, Knott, Rubin, Soloway, Orvis, Needham, N. Poulson, Gray, Foell, Devine, Doyle, Martin, Whitehurst, Ohm, Mabry, Goldfine, Lees, Boyda, Weinstock, Flagg, McFadden, Knox, D’Ascoli, Reitman, Baird, Smith, Guilbeau all played a key role under the leadership of past chairs, Charlie Darsch (Sentrol), Leo Guthart (Ademco), Peter Michel (Brinks) and John Jennings (Safeguard).

The industry owes a debt of thanks for not only what the board and AIREF accomplished, but for the insight of knowing that by stepping down they gave birth to the needs of our industry. As AIREF’s last chairperson before the transition to FAST, I am honored to have served with many of these talented leaders. Thank you for your dedication, leadership and love for our industry.

You can read more about FAST and its mission here.


airefKirk MacDowell, a member of the Security Sales & Integration Editorial Advisory Board, is a security industry veteran and founder/CEO of MacGuard Security Advisors. An active member with industry trade associations, his diverse experience includes alarm companies and manufacturers such as Alarm.com and Interlogix. He can be reached at kirk.macdowell@macguard.com.

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