Protect Your Livelihood, Join Industry Associations

As an active and contributing member to an industry association, a small company can have a big voice to help shape the business landscape on which it operates.

To be sure, participating in an association will take hard work, cooperation and company funds. However, by staying on the sidelines small companies forfeit their right to be heard, and no doubt others will speak in their stead. That’s why security contractors should involve themselves in the local and national associations organized to look out for their business interests.

Proof of this is exampled in the respect commanded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Medical Association and the American Hospital Association, which spent a combined $750 million during the past decade on lobbyist expenses.

To build to a lofty level of influence, all it took was individual companies that banded together, established goals and worked as one to make it happen.

Help Influence Legislation

Without cohesiveness, the security industry risks that subgroups with special interests may push their legislative agenda to the detriment of the whole. Edward Williams, an attorney and counsel to the Illinois Electronic Security Association (IESA), says it’s not uncommon for regulations to be passed by lawmakers without a full understanding of the impact on businesses and the public.

“The importance of being involved in local, state or national associations is that laws need full input of the industry,” Williams says. “Without full input, there can be errors and misunderstandings between the government and private industry.”

A win-win example of association involvement was the establishment of an enhanced call verification (ECV) policy in Reno, Nev. In 2007, Reno’s city council approved an ordinance requiring two calls be made to verify an alarm signal before requesting police dispatch. Also included in the ordinance is a requirement that all alarm system owners annually register with the city and pay a small permit fee.

The final language in the law was fashioned, in part, using the Security Industry Alarm Coalition’s (SIAC) Model Ordinance. “We worked very closely with SIAC and the local alarm industry. We tailored their input to our jurisdiction,” says Commander Doug McPartland of the Reno Police Department.

Such statements are evidence that joining associations like the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), which funds SIAC, helps our industry fight legislative battles by amplifying the voice of small companies.

The Collective Payoff

McPartland says the goal of the Reno ordinance is to reduce false alarm response by 60 percent. “We looked at all of the different options and talked to other communities that faced the same issues. We realize this is a partnership between the Reno Police Department, the alarm industry and alarm owners, who will have the biggest impact on our success,” he says. “We recognize that the No. 1 cause of false alarms is improper use. We’ll have to work to educate alarm owners. The alarm industry will play a big part in that.”

Even with this alarm industry victory, more battles loom on the horizon. “This cannot be done without a strong industry association. A stronger association means an industry will have a greater voice to the regulators writing laws,” says Williams. “To have input to the legislative process, an industry association needs involved members and resources to hire a qualified lobbyist. This is absolutely essential to be a player on the legislative front.”

With issues like verified response (also called nonresponse) being dangled in front of uninformed lawmakers by groups that stand to benefit from the upheaval it will cause, it is time for security dealers to band together and deliver the right message in the proper way — collectively.

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