CAA Summer Convention Converges on Desert Resort Town: May 10-12, Palm Springs, Calif.

The California Alarm Association (CAA) presented its annual Summer Convention in Palm Springs, May 10-12.

About 150 members from 10 regional CAA chapters and other industry professionals convened at the Hilton Resort for a weekend of networking, a general assembly, educational sessions and poolside amusement. The main ballroom at the hotel served as ground zero for much of the goings-on, including security products and services exhibited by ADI, Altronix, Bosch, Dedicated Micros, GE Security, Honeywell Security Group, NAPCO, Tri-Ed Distribution and others.

At the event’s general session, the CAA Board of Directors took the opportunity to communicate key updates to its members — comprising the largest state alarm association in the nation — such as pending legislation, legal and public safety liaison efforts, along with a kind of ‘state of the industry’ appraisal.

Members received an upbeat assessment about their overall business practices from Paul Johnson, chief of the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS), the branch of the Department of Consumer Affairs that regulates alarm company operators.

“The [alarm industry] complaints that come in to my office are mostly just contractual issues,” Johnson says. “I applaud your self-policing. You are doing a great job.”

Les Gold, a partner in the law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp and legal council to CAA, addressed evergreen clauses, among other contractual issues. Gold says district attorneys around the state disapprove of alarm companies, after an initial contract expires, to have lengthy terms for new contracts.

“We are urging our companies to be very circumspect and not to enforce the term after the expiration of the initial term,” he says. Five states in the U.S. have moved to limit automatic renewal provisions. California so far has not, however, the legislature is examining the issue, Gold says. “As long as the companies don’t abuse it, the legislature probably will not adopt a law here.”

Gold also announced to the audience that the state has rendered a decision to not allow a limited liability company to be granted an alarm company license. “You must be either an individual, a partnership or corporation. We attempted to come in under an exemption and the [state] said no,” he says. “We are going to talk to the industry here and see if we can make an application to the state to change the law.”

A moment of levity ensued during the session when George Gunning, president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), was called to the podium. Members erupted in laughter when CAA President Jon Sargent feigned apologies to one of the industry’s most familiar personalities. “I’m sorry George, I was supposed to play ‘Hail to the Chief’ when you came up here.”

Gunning referenced a handful of topics that NBFAA is pursuing, including the passage of the College Life Safety and Fire Prevention Act, a NBFAA Web site redesign and a new CCTV training course held in a classroom setting. Once only available online, NBFFA held its first “Video System Technologies” course May 15-16 in Elmsford, N.Y. (For details on future sessions, visit www.alarm.org.)

Gunning also proclaimed his pessimism about industry attempts to extend the Advanced Mobile Phone Services (AMPS) sunset date beyond Feb. 18, 2008, which would effectively phase out support for older, analog cellular systems.

“We are trying to get an extension of 1 to 2 years, but I don’t think it is going to happen,” he says. “If you haven’t gone out and changed your radios, you better go do that.”

Of course, the subject of false alarms would eventually assume center stage in the dialogue.

Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), was in attendance and took to the dais to announce some impressive statistics: Alarm dispatches are down 70 percent nationwide during the past eight years; an especially notable figure considering installed alarm systems have doubled in that time frame from 18 million to 38 million. Also, Martin says, the national average for false alarms per system is .9 — that amounts to less than one false alarm per year, per system. Some communities are achieving even greater reductions, he says.

Martin praised CAA for its industry leadership and proactive efforts throughout the state to interface with law enforcement agencies. “California has been actively engaged with law enforcement, meeting with chiefs in numerous cities to talk about fixing issues and working with the CPOA [California Peace Officers’ Association,” he says.

Despite the successes of CAA member efforts to reduce false alarms, there is much room for improvement where small alarm company owners are concerned, Martin says.

“One problem is getting the small company owners to join in the industry’s efforts,” he says. “We have 10 percent of the companies doing 90 percent of the work.”

While apathy may keep some on the sidelines, Martin says for a great many alarm proprietors a lack of time is a significant issue. “The majority of them have five employees or less, so it’s hard to invest the time it takes to be involved in the politics of the issues.”

However, the hazard of continuing to work solitarily outside the support and leadership of an association such as CAA, says Martin, “is you get stuck in your own routines. But if you go to association meetings, you can actually learn something.”

Just ask Colette Came, proprietor of Came Security Alarms in Morro Bay, located on the central California coast. Came says she is now proactive about educating herself in order to maintain the viability of her small alarm company, which has three employees.

Came says joining CAA and attending the conference is a “growing-up mechanism for myself … understanding what is going on around the state and nationally in my industry.”

Of particular interest to Came was the convention’s educational seminar, Motivating and Retaining Great Employees. “It is a huge issue for this industry and for me in particular. It can be very difficult to find and keep quality installers,” she says.

The general session also provided a stage to highlight a pair of annual awards sponsored by CAA. Michelle Johnson, business development manager for Tri-Ed Distribution’s Garden Grove branch, received the 2007 Mark Schubert Memorial Award, honoring her support for association programs and activities.

The CAA Youth Scholarship Award was provided to Corey Williams, a student at Corona High School. The $2,500 scholarship is provided to a child whose parent works in law enforcement or fire service, honoring community service and scholastic achievement. Corey’s father, John Williams is an officer with the Long Beach Police Department.

The convention isn’t all about official business. After all, the hot desert air provided the perfect excuse to host CAA’s poolside Lazy Days of Summer Fiesta under a moonlit night.

While past installments have featured live bands to entertain convention-goers during the annual party, a karoke DJ held sway this year as some CAA members — willingly or coerced — assumed the spotlight. Not all of the sing-alongs were forgettable. Had there been “American Idol”-style voting, the crowd just may have chosen their favorite to be the pairing of Gunning and Gold, who teamed for, ahem, a scintillating rendition of “Under the Boardwalk.”

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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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