Strike a pose at the conclusion of a gala evening in which Esinstadt was presented

Dealers are fed up and they’re not going to take it anymore! That sentiment and a call for more proactivity was expressed and shared as some 150 dealers and vendors gathered for the annual California Alarm Association (CAA) Winter Conference Dec. 6-8 at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco’s Union Square district. The three-day event included board meetings, seminars, exhibits, a roundtable discussion, an “Industry Incorrect” session and the presentation of the George A. Weinstock Award.

Throughout the course of the conference, attendees lamented that the false alarm problem has caused security dealers to assume a defensive position. It was suggested that the industry fight back against law enforcement and other detractors who dwell on the majority of alarm signals being false by emphasizing how important the legitimate alarms are in protecting people and property. Some of the more vocal participants urged dealers to stop talking about meeting with police and fire chiefs and actually set up appointments to deliver the message that alarm dealers are conscientious professionals who provide a valuable public good.

“Establish better relationships with municipalities, city councils and police departments to develop a rapport and eliminate no-response policies. It’s incumbent upon alarm companies to be proactive here,” stressed Lessing Gold of Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp. A few people provided testimonials about meeting with city officials, saying how positive and productive the meetings proved to be. Bart Didden, in his final CAA appearance as president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), told those assembled: “You have to believe in your heart that no one does it better than us; no one installs the equipment better, and AHJs [authorities having jurisdiction] and everyone else knows it. You are the best at what you do.”

Several other important issues were addressed during the board meeting. Gold warned that alarm companies would soon have to pay employees much more to keep pace with a rise in guard wages and training due to the events of Sept. 11, 2001. He also pointed out that companies will have to be much more careful how they employ technology as biometrics and other new products become widely used.

Attendees were also updated on the ongoing effort to establish a Western Burglar and Fire Alarm Alliance (WBFAA) apprenticeship program. CAA Past President George Gunning said approval for the program was expected within the next couple of months and that the first participants could be enrolled by spring 2002. However, he added, the response has been less than hoped for and funding remains a paramount issue. The program was developed in reaction to legislation known as AB1087, which, when passed, will impose stringent requirements and certification for installing fire alarm systems in California.

Fortunately, according to CAA legislative advocate Alan Edelstein, AB1087 will not be as crippling to the alarm industry as first feared. He said some language has been worked into the bill that excludes certain types of work. Additionally, they are striving to get it to stipulate that it is acceptable for security installers to pull conduit for alarm systems. “Alarm dealers really need to work with their local city councils so they understand how you operate so you aren’t blindsided when they cut municipal funds. Get to know your legislators; otherwise you could be hit with new taxes or other unfavorable decisions,” he recommended.

Renowned author and speaker Ed Rigsbee delivered the keynote presentation, “PartnerShift: How to Profit From the Partnering Trend,” and mediated a roundtable discussion of pressing industry issues. In his speech, the animated Rigsbee detailed what he calls the total organizational partnering system, consisting of leadership, employees, customers, suppliers, and strategic alliances—all brought together to form winning synergistic relationships. During the roundtable, Rigsbee helped participants crystallize the methods CAA and other industry associations can use to overcome apathy and pull in fresh members. Some of the top member benefits cited were networking, product knowledge, mentoring, seminars, credibility and publicity.

By far and away, the highlight of the conference was the gala dinner and presentation of the George A. Weinstock Award to CAA Associates Director Harvey Eisenstadt. The black-tie event, which was hosted by former Security Industry Association (SIA) Executive Director Ron Spiller, was an equal parts uproarious and poignant affair that drew top security professionals from around the country. The honor, which was first bestowed upon Weinstock in 1999, and then Spiller in 2000, recognizes an individual for a lifetime of dedicated service to CAA and the industry. “For more than 20 years, he [Eisenstadt] has worked diligently and selflessly on behalf of the CAA and in particular the associate membership,” said CAA President Patty Hartman.

As always, The City by the Bay proved to be an extremely hospitable host for the conference, even if the hotel was less than enthralling. Visitors were greeted by mild temperatures in the 50s-60s, some showers and the familiar clang of trolley cars. The biggest letdown was that the park central to Union Square was closed off and being refurbished. However, that did not deter the swarming masses from partaking in the area’s famous shopping. It was announced that, beginning in 2002 through 2004, the CAA Winter Conference would be held at the nearby Crown Plaza Hotel.

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