NBFAA nixes AAA program

Irked, Florida splits from the NBFAA
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Saturday, November 1, 2003

WASHINGTON - At its annual meeting held here during the National Summit on Security show in early October, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association voted to discontinue its Affiliated Alarm Association program effective Dec. 31, 2004.

According to NBFAA Executive Director Merlin Guilbeau, the board made the decision after analyzing whether the AAA program had met the goals set forth when it was created a few years ago.

“AAA was created three or four years ago to help states that didn’t have chapters yet so that a small state that wasn’t very well organized could come into the association and use the AAA program as a stepping stone to eventually gain chartered state status,” Guilbeau said. “What has happened is that several states began to use the AAA program to downgrade their status because some of them felt as though their members shouldn’t have to join both. It began to hurt the chartered state program.”

As a CSA, state organizations get exclusive rights to NBFAA products, such as NTS training, Guilbeau said. The association also agrees that neither the state or national chapters will accept members unless they are members of both organizations. Members of AAA chapters are not required to also be members of NBFAA.

Guilbeau places the blame for these downgrades squarely at the feet of NBFAA.

“There was really no incentive built in to the program for them to ever leave AAA status and go to chartered status,” he said.

The decision to discontinue the program has met mixed reaction among those states that currently participate in a AAA capacity. Five states – Arizona, Florida, Nevada New Hampshire and Massachusetts – face a decision in the next year about whether they will upgrade to CSA status or drop out of NBFAA altogether. Three of those states became AAA chapters by downgrading.

One of those downgraded associations, the Alarm Association of Florida, has already made its decision clear. On Oct. 3, the association sent a letter to NBFAA’s executive committee that effectively severed ties with the national organization.

“As a result of this horrendous business decision, the AAF Executive Committee, via teleconference, has reluctantly directed our staff to notify NBFAA of our intention to disassociate the state of Florida from further participation with them,” AAF President Ron Toole wrote in the letter.

The main reason for this course of action, according to AAF Vice President Roy Pollack, was the feeling that AAF’s members would lose the ability to choose whether they join NBFAA.

“Our members do not want to be forced into paying double dues,” Pollack said. “They want to make their own decisions. If they want to join, they’ll join. If not, they won’t.”

Despite AAF’s decision, Guilbeau said he hopes all NBFAA’s chapters will see the value in being members and in turn promote that value to their state-level members.

“There are a few states that felt as though we were trying to send a message that we didn’t want them involved, and that’s not the case,” he said. “We want chapters involved in all 50 states and we’re going to work hard to get that.”

Guilbeau added that in October, he had meetings with representatives from four states that have never had NBFAA chapters, either AAA or CSA.

The Massachusetts Systems Contractors Association, formerly the Massachusetts Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, has not yet made its decision on whether to upgrade its status to CSA, according to Wells Sampson of American Alarm & Communications, who is also a member of MSCA’s legislative committee.

“We were concerned about it, so we’re going to be reviewing that in our next board meeting in November,” he said.

Sampson said he thinks the motivation to halt the program comes down to one thing – money.

“It sounds like it’s really finances at the bottom of it. Will the AAA states be willing to pay the added amount, even though a lot of their members are already paying pretty high membership fees? I think that’s part of the gripe, from what I’ve heard,” he said. “It’s a dollars and cents thing, that’s what it seems like it all comes down to.”

Because of how dues are set up for state associations, there is no clear-cut number or formula to determine the price difference between AAA status and CSA status, said Dr. Rick Ostopowicz, communications director for NBFAA.

However, unlike AAF, MSCA may be interested in continuing its relationship with NBFAA.

“There’s really no interest in being separate from NBFAA. It’s important that we continue to cooperate,” Sampson said. “We have all the reasons in the world to work together with NBFAA.”

Pollack said AAF, which boasts more than 600 members, will not officially urge its members to join or not join the NBFAA now that the association has severed ties with the national organization. He also stressed that the association will continue to operate as it has, providing necessary services and guidance to its members.

“We’re so strong and we have such a good organization that we don’t need the NBFAA because we don’t do their training and we don’t need them for those kinds of things,” he said.

Guilbeau said Florida’s decision is unfortunate, but that he believes NBFAA will demonstrate to those in the alarm industry the value of membership. The association has also begun a review of its CSA program to determine how best to serve its members.

“We feel the association will be much better off with just one program that’s equally fair to all states,” Guilbeau said. “The charter program itself is not going to go away. It’s being looked at and studied. It’s almost 13 years old, so it’s time for it to be reviewed to see if we can’t develop an even better product.”