A call to arms - it’s time to stand together

Saturday, January 1, 2005

I recently received an email from a source that I will leave unnamed.

The first line of the email stated, “Had enough of other associations that take your money and do nothing for you?” The sender was referring to “other” alarm associations. I took great offense to this message. With that one ill-conceived comment, the sender took a wrecking ball and waylaid decades of hard work and accomplishments on the part of alarm associations all over the United States. I am sure that my email address was on a list of thousands that received the message.

After reading the email, I felt compelled to retort in an open letter to the alarm industry. I am a 20 year alarm industry veteran, and I have been actively involved in alarm associations for the last 10 years. I have proudly served as president of the Houston Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, as vice president of the Houston Gulf Coast Alarm Association, and I currently serve as a director for the North Texas Alarm Association and as membership director for the Texas Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. My comrades are some of the best people I have ever had the pleasure to know, and some of them are my own competitors. They work long hours and travel on their own nickel for the benefit of the alarm dealers they represent. They get very little thanks and are often the targets of scrutiny and criticism; but they do not waver, they simply continue to fight the good fight.

Alarm associations exist as a group of alarm dealers and alarm industry vendors who stand united for the betterment and advancement of the alarm industry. Alarm associations nationwide have had an enormous positive impact on the alarm industry. There is no single alarm company that can address the myriad of issues that confront the industry. It is a constant and ongoing struggle. It seems that there is always some new proposed legislation waiting in the wings to threaten our livelihoods. It’s the alarm associations that are always at their respective city halls and state capitols fighting against such legislation, or fighting for positive legislation. I would have to write an entire novel to recite all the great accomplishments that I have personally witnessed on the part of our alarm association.

Today, the threat of non-response by police departments all over the country is the largest, most potent threat to our industry. I was amazed to hear at the October NTAA meeting that there are 20 cities in the United States that have adopted some form of non-response by the Police. And I’m not talking about little rural towns; I’m talking about cities like Salt Lake City and Milwaukee, Wis. It would appear that no major market is immune from this threat.

Fortunately, for the alarm industry, we have people out there like Stan Martin with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. Stan is on a crusade to reduce false alarms and fight non-response nationwide. I have immense respect for Stan and the work he has done on behalf of the industry. If you ever meet him, please shake his hand and thank him for the work he has done on your behalf.

Stan made a comment at the October NTAA meeting about the effectiveness of the California Alarm Association in the fight against non-response in Los Angeles. He further stated that ADT and Brinks have continually paid huge sums of money to fight non-response on a national level.

I appreciate the effort of ADT and Brinks to fight the battle, but they can’t do it alone. It is an extremely expensive battle to fight. It is estimated that between ADT, Brinks and the CAA, approximately $500,000 has already been spent in the fight against non-response in Los Angeles. And that’s just one city. Alarm associations desperately need your help. Please do not sit on the sidelines; I implore you to jump in the game. Your continued livelihood depends on your active participation.

At the October Board of Directors meeting of the NTAA, we were trying to figure out how to overcome what appears to be widespread alarm company apathy. One person recommended cold calling alarm dealers and making a verbal plea for them to get involved.

If I had to identify any weaknesses in alarm associations, I would say that most of them appear to be run by the “old guard” alarm companies. It seems that alarm associations, in general, receive very little participation from the newer alarm companies. I would really like to see the younger, newer alarm dealers step forward and be counted. Come to the meetings of your local and state alarm associations and let your voice be heard. I know that all alarm associations welcome their industry brethren to join and attend their meetings. I can tell you, firsthand, that there is great information to be gleaned from these meetings. We welcome any opinion and it’s really interesting to hear multiple sides of an issue. I always leave the meetings knowing more about the industry than before I arrived.

In closing, I would like to make a plea to all alarm dealers and vendors to get involved with alarm associations. Almost all local, state and national alarm associations have web sites that include applications for membership. I ask that you please consider joining us in fighting the battles that threaten our livelihood, and join us in an exchange of industry news, innovative ideas and camaraderie at the local meetings. We need your money, but, just as important, we need your support and your ideas. We’re at a crucial juncture in the history of the alarm industry where our current actions will dictate our future success, or failure. It’s time we unite for our common success.

Mark Matlock is vice president of sales and marketing for United Central Control. He can be reached through email at mmatlock@teamucc.com.