Association Among the Associations

As I wrote in my June editorial, “Freedom of the (Trade) Press,” due to its controversial nature, I was worried I might have to learn “swim with the fishes.” As it turned out, I was instead fed to the lions! The material clearly struck a nerve, polarizing those who roared in outrage like the MGM mascot and those who shouted approval like overzealous preachers.

I believe most readers understood the editorial as I had intended it: an entertaining piece about how select individuals seek to censor information to the exclusion of others, and how we will only come together when we stop thinking and behaving that way. My assertions accurately reflected what I have personally encountered. They expressed concerns I believe are representative of the majority of installing security dealers, who I interact with daily.

My hope is that the column incites people who tend to exclude others to rethink how they do things, and those who feel excluded to know they are not alone. Ultimately, it is about everyone working together, as the column states. I certainly have no interest in denigrating any of the trade associations or the dedicated individuals who so gallantly toil for the betterment of the electronic security industry.

Time and time again, our magazine has sung the praises of the associations, and we have no intention of stopping. In fact, when you consider everything we do within the pages of Security Sales & Integration and outside it with the industry at large, I don’t believe any other publication comes close to matching the depth of our commitment, support and involvement.

Consider the cover story I did a year ago this month (“Strength Through Association”) that featured extensive interviews with the leaders of all the major industry associations. In observance of the first anniversary of the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001, the article underscored the power of unity and promoted the importance of the entire industry working together more cohesively as a team.

In light of this issue marking the second anniversary of 9/11, I thought it appropriate to check in with the associations again and see what has transpired during the past 12 months.

Following is a question-and-answer roundtable discussion with Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) President Mel Mahler, National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) President Cecil Hogan and Security Industry Association (SIA) President Allen Fritts. They are continuing the long line of devoted association leaders who have looked beyond themselves and donated their time, energy and passion toward the good of the many.

There seems to be more cooperation between the associations than ever before. How and why has that happened?

Hogan: Mostly, we simply put the past behind us and got on with life. It helped that Mel and I have been friends for several years, and there was already a trust in place that we could build on.

Mahler: The cooperation between NBFAA, SIA and CSAA really began to blossom with Ralph Sevinor. As CSAA president, Ralph actively participated in the NBFAA Board meetings and, most recently, he and I participated in the NBFAA’s strategic planning meeting. When I became CSAA president, since and Cecil and I are friends, it merely added icing on cake.

Fritts: One of my main initiatives was to make sure the industry’s leadership was working well together, rather than adversarial. I have tried to bridge and foster a much better relationship with NBFAA and CSAA than ever before. We have our executive directors talking and working on programs together. I believe the ties are stronger than they have ever been.

What are some of the fruits of this collaborative spirit?

Hogan: I believe the most important benefit we’ve seen is the opportunity to focus on the positive rather than the negative. We are able to make progress in areas that benefit all our members.

Mahler: The fruits include the joint participation in NAMTSE [National Alarm Monitoring Technology Symposium and Exhibition] today. We are also fortunate to have three excellent executive directors who respect each other and work together.

Fritts:  A few months ago, all the association presidents and executive directors gathered and discussed mutual opportunities and ways to work together. I have often believed that if you are all working in the same direction, you are going to get there a lot faster. There have been no personal agendas. It has all been about the industry and I am very proud of that.

What are the latest and greatest accomplishments of your association?

Hogan: That has to be the finalization of our Risk Retention Group, which will allow us to offer top quality, competitive E&O [errors and omission] insurance to our members at a time when it is becoming increasingly difficult to get and expensive. We also have a new ‘voluntary insurance’ offering for our members and their employees that is going to be very beneficial for them.

Mahler: The greatest accomplishments have been NAMTSE and Distance Learning. Also, emerging under Bob Bonifas’ [of Alarm Detection Systems] leadership, is a real effort in false dispatch reduction and getting IACP [International Association of Chiefs of Police] endorsement of two-call confirmation.

Fritts: The development of SIA’s Industry Groups and working more closely and cooperatively with the other associations have brought me the proudest moments as SIA president. One of my primary directives was to improve and empower our Industry Groups, such as the new Homeland Security Group, and I believe we have succeeded.

What is the status of your association’s membership, and how do you plan to grow those numbers?

Hogan: NBFAA’s membership is growing, even in the face of increasing buyouts and mergers. We expect to grow those numbers even faster by offering increasing benefits such as those I’ve already mentioned. We want to make it obvious that it is just bad business not to be a member.

Mahler: Membership has grown for us as well during the past 12 months. The creation of a Proprietary Central Station Group was a major step headed by the efforts of Steve Doyle [CSAA executive vice president]. The addition of John McDonald to head membership is a major plus.

Fritts: Increasing our membership was yet another one of my top priorities. We have done that by raising the value of belonging to SIA as well as through our partnership with Reed [organizers of the International Security Conference (ISC) and National Security Summit (NSS)]. We have worked closely with Reed to make them better than ever, and I believe the NSS [formerly ISC East] has us on track toward improving that event.

If you could change one thing about this industry, what would it be and why?

Hogan: I believe we as an industry hurt ourselves terribly with the greedy proliferation of uncontrolled dealer programs that sprang up almost overnight. The race to sign up the most customers resulted in unethical behavior on the part of many dealers. It put many companies, both large and small, either out of business or nearly so, and greatly damaged our reputation with the public. If greater controls, such as those in place now, had been in place all along we would have been much better off.

Mahler: I would change the significant apathy that exists in all but the 2,200 of 14,000 dealers who belong to CSAA and NBFAA, and have them realize that false dispatches can lead to verified response and that it could happen to them!

Fritts: I would like to see more people in this industry taking advantage of the capability that the Internet can bring to them regarding training, codes and standards, and other essential information. I would like to see them better utilizing the tools that could improve their business through the use
of the Internet.     

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