CAA Winter Conference: Dec. 5-7, San Francisco

Having grown large and important enough to rival some national events, the California Alarm Association (CAA) Winter Conference drew a record 300 people to the Crowne Plaza in San Francisco’s busy Union Square district. The strong showing was boosted by the event’s centerpiece—a gala banquet honoring George Gunning as the 2002 recipient of the George A. Weinstock Award.

Gunning was recognized for his lifetime achievement and service to the industry. Known throughout the industry as a colorful character, mentor and crusader, Gunning is a founding member of the Greater Los Angeles Security Alarm Association (GLASAA), past president of CAA, president of the Western Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA), vice president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and CEO of USA Alarm Systems Inc. in Monrovia, Calif.

Unfortunately, not everything at the conference was as jovial. Word that the Los Angeles Police Commission (LAPC) had again shifted its stance and was on the verge of implementing verified response in L.A. cast a gloomy shadow over much of the proceedings.

To combat the rising incidence of municipalities considering verified response, CAA announced it was establishing a new legal fund and urged alarm dealers to spread the news about all the positive things they contribute to their communities.

“Even though burglar captures are low, they still basically only occur when there is an alarm present,” said Les Gold of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp. “We need to find a way to bring this information to the attention of law enforcement.”

Ben Cornett of Ademco Group added, “You guys do so much for mankind and no one knows about it. We need a concerted effort to do a better job of getting that across.”

Cornett made his comments during a session entitled “Foundations for Growth: An Industry Outlook,” which featured an impressive panel of top security executives. Other participants included Panasonic‘s Frank De Fina, Ken Boyda of GE Interlogix, Bosch Security SystemsPeter Ribinski, Tom Few Sr. of Criticom Int’l and SLP Capital‘s Bill Polk.

“We will see more very large companies coming into the security alarm industry that will cross-sell their services,” predicted Few. “However, they can still be looked at as an opportunity from the monitoring and installation perspectives. They will look to us and be willing to share revenues. We have to get the message to customers that we provide much more than big fire and burg systems.”

Few cited telematics and telemedicine as two of the most promising new technology sectors for dealers, and recommended forming strong, strategic partnerships with suppliers and monitoring stations. “Choose your partners wisely, your future may depend on it.”

Other highlights of the conference included a keynote speech by Vince Lombardi Jr., son of the late, great Green Bay Packers coach, and another informal session of “Industry Incorrect.”

During his powerful presentation, Lombardi joked about how intimidating his father was—“When he told you to sit down, you didn’t look for a chair”—and detailed three steps to getting something done. They are: 1) Stress fundamentals; 2) Maintain clear communication; and 3) Get commitment from people. He also suggested telling employees, “Be fired with enthusiasm, or you will be fired with enthusiasm!”

Moderated by Alan Pepper of Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, the hourlong “Industry Incorrect” discussion barely scratched the surface of several major issues facing the industry today. In delving into verified response, the multitude of viewpoints expressed, including those of attendees, illustrated that there still exists much division within the industry.

Panelist Michael Zawinski, publisher of Security Sales & Integration, said the magazine is doing all it can to educate dealers nationwide about controversial issues like verified response. He emphasized how critical it is to provide balanced information to the majority of dealers who exist outside the reach of associations.

Bart Didden of USA Central Station disagreed, saying that it is more important that the industry appear as a unified whole to outsiders who may read trade publications. Didden also advocated the use of two-call verification, while others claimed it would move the industry more into the realm of deterrence or deflection, rather than prevention.

The 2003 CAA Winter Conference is set for Dec. 4-6 at the same location, while the 2003 CAA Summer Conference is slated for May 16-18 at the Palm Springs Hilton.

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