Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Annual Meeting: Oct. 25-30, Cancun, Mexico

Perhaps it was something in the warm, tropical air. Maybe it was the white, sandy beaches. Or possibly it was the clear, aquamarine water. Whatever it was, the 2002 Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) Annual Meeting, held Oct. 25-30 at the Cancun Ritz-Carlton, ushered in a new zeitgeist of industry cooperation and solidarity.

Whether from the security, law enforcement, standards, financial or legal communities, throughout the proceedings, the more than 200 attendees and presenters expressed a common vision of doing whatever is necessary to ensure the betterment of the electronic security industry.

The weeklong conference was punctuated by CSAA board meetings, seminars, the naming of the association’s Stanley C. Lott Award, high-level networking and a busy social agenda. Many attendees commented that, educationally, it may have very well been the strongest Annual Meeting CSAA has ever conceived.

During a panel session involving the heads of each of the major law enforcement associations, it became apparent just how much they value the alarm industry.

“Our missions have changed so much since 9/11 that we are not able to look after property. That’s why you folks are so important. That’s why we have to work so closely with you,” said Sheriff Tommy Ferrell, president of the National Sheriff’s Association (NSA). “We can’t live without the service you provide, especially now that you all are cleaning up some of the false alarm problems.”

On the codes and standards front, recently named UL President and CEO Loring Knoblauch and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) President and CEO James Shannon indicated that, in wake of 9/11, their organizations are more focused than ever on the electronic security industry.“We are in a time of change and transition. This is the best time in our [NFPA] history, a time where we can really fulfill our mission of making the world safer,” said Shannon.

Meanwhile, Loring said UL has spent $125 million on new computers, hired 390 customer service people, named new managers at most of its worldwide branches, designated a vice president in the newly created role of safety officer, and promises to be more proactive on safety and security issues. Loring also screened an amusing and informative video entitled “Are You Alarmed?” that is designed to educate city officials and end users about the value of UL standards for the installation, maintenance and monitoring of alarm systems.

One of the most colorful and well-received presentations was delivered by Security Sales & Integration Editor Scott Goldfine, who provided the audience with an advance look at the magazine’s 2002 Dealer Survey. Among the more fascinating findings was that, although overall the industry was flat during the year, government sector installations increased 25 percent from 2001. (For more on the Dealer Survey, see SSI’s 2003 Buyers’ Guide & Fact Book.)

Goldfine also revealed that dealers’ biggest concern today is a lack of training, a sentiment that was recurrent throughout the conference. During his presentation about the future of fire alarm systems, Hughes Associates Inc.‘s Wayne Moore took it a step further, saying, “The worst thing we have are people thinking that they don’t need the education.” Moore shared some amazing photos of haphazard installations and added, “Maintenance and reliability are the most important steps for reducing false alarms.”

In an effort to address this dearth of training, CSAA Education Committee Chairman Bud Wulforst offered an advance look at the association’s new long-distance, Web-based training program for central station operators. The launch date and pricing were not available at press time.

Those curious about the state of the security industry in the event’s host country found the answers in a lively session about the Mexican market. SecuritasSergio Gonzales Cortina explained that Mexico remains undeveloped in the realm of electronic security. “However,” he stated, “it is a good opportunity for professional players. We need to educate the market here. It is not easy, but we have already started.”

SiemensRogelio de los Santos added that the nation’s low wages make it difficult to replace laborers with electronic devices. He also said the market is reeling since ADT released 50 percent of its dealers there in 2002. “Actually, I estimate it to be more like 75 percent of the dealers,” he said. “This has left many distributors several million dollars in debt. There are too many bad-debt customers here.”

Looking to the future, Kismet Group‘s Craig Leiser and Bosch Security SystemsJohn Judd spoke on the exciting promise of sensors and monitoring. “We will see more advances in sensor technology during the next two to five years than we have during the past 10. We will see more integrating of technologies as we move toward object orientation and instantaneous communication of that information,” said Judd.

The conference climaxed with a banquet naming beloved, veteran industry figure Bill Moody as the recipient of the Stanley C. Lott Award. Although Moody was unable to attend, a quartet of his colleagues—Charlie Darsch, Bob Bonifas, Bart Didden and Cecil Hogan—accepted the honor from CSAA President Mel Mahler and Executive Director Steve Doyle on his behalf.

In keeping with the good cheer and spirit of unity, Bonifas, a CSAA past president, and Hogan, current National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) president, embraced and declared that all past transgressions between the two organizations were history and that they were eager to begin a new era of working together.

The 2003 CSAA Annual Meeting is scheduled for Oct. 17-22 at the Manele Bay Hotel in Lanai, Hawaii.

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