Seems like only yesterday a group of industry icons the likes of the late Ray Eller and Keith Ladd, as well as Patrick Egan and other important advocates gathered in an informal setting to discuss the future of the burglar and fire alarm industry. The year was 1982 and that think tank morphed into the creation of the Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (PBFAA)—now one of the largest and most influential organizations in the industry.
It’s only befitting that an organization with the track record of PBFAA host this year’s ESX show in Baltimore. PBFAA has always been one to rally support around industry causes and many state associations in advocacy of promoting professional and the highest level of business acumen.
“PBFAA has been the consummate diplomat in industry affairs,” said Dale Eller, executive director and the owner of ITZ Solutions! as well as NBFAA’s director of education and standards. (Dale’s father Ray was an original founder of the association). “While we haven’t had some of the burning issues other associations had, we’ve always rallied around common causes and really made a difference,” he said.
Based in Erie, Pa., the organization has been quick to champion causes for the industry on a national level, while at the same time racking up a fine list of its own ‘firsts.’ For example, PBFAA was one of the first charter chapter members of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and the first to hold National Training School Level I technician training; as well as one of the first to produce a comprehensive award-winning newsletter covering its five regions.
Education first and foremost
Educating members continues to be a goal for PBFAA just as it was in its infancy, and ESX is the perfect place for members to get the training they need, continued Eller, who added that more PBFAA members are beginning to embrace IT and networking concepts and as such education becomes even more paramount. “Right now, as far as who is getting into IP and IT, it seems smaller firms with one to five employees are not embracing it; while medium to larger companies we queried had the opposite response—they are embracing the technology.”
Whether it’s the large national companies, one- and two-man shops, or everyone in-between, the PBFAA has found common ground for all its members, according to Phil Kline, president of PBFAA and also the president of Security First Inc. in Shillington, Pa.
“We’ve really been representative of all the member companies, and that’s contributed to our success,” continued Kline. “We represent the single owners up to the ADTs of the world and have a knack for getting everyone’s viewpoints in our efforts,” he said. “We’re a strong organization and have stayed strong over the years. We continue to grow, and that’s really saying something, considering the current state of the economy,” he said.
Kline said an urgent effort of the organization over the past two years has been to draft state alarm licensing. “It’s in the hands of a state representative who understands our cause and we expect it will be introduced in the house sometime soon. This will be an important part of our efforts at the PBFAA general membership meeting at ESX—updating members on licensing and rallying support around this cause,” he said.
Another issue currently facing PBFAA and on the agenda for discussion at ESX is the recently passed Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act which requires security contractors to be registered with the state (see “Hot Topics” story on these pages).
“We are really pushing for additional membership involvement in our licensing cause and also, for support of an exclusion for the industry in the Home Improvement Consumer Act,” said Amy Simpson, PBFAA vice president and annual meeting chair for ESX. Simpson is vice president and district manager for Vector Security in Philadelphia.
“We need everyone’s support now more than ever, especially with the licensing moving forward in the legislature,” she said. “That will be a big focus for us at the ESX meeting—drumming up support and member involvement,” she said.
While the organization has always been fortunate to have the involvement of the majority of its members, what with the recession, job cuts and skyrocketing costs, PBFAA has had to get the word out to get more members to take an active role, Simpson said.
“Licensing is extremely important because it unites the organization and puts us in charge of determining how we are classified in the state,” she continued. “For example, a couple years ago it looked like we (security) might be included in a bill for licensing electricians but it didn’t go anywhere. We want to establish ourselves before someone outside the industry does,” she said.
The PBFAA continues to provide tangible value to its members in education and training and important issues as pending legislation. Without the efforts of its original founders, and many of those still around today as well as the new constituents, suffice to say the story here would be quite different and perhaps not as upbeat.
Two topics will be on the tips of tongues at the ESX show and the PBFAA membership meeting—the recently passed Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act and pending state alarm licensing. The Board of Directors and Membership of the PBFAA strongly oppose the inclusion of the alarm industry in the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act and seeks to have legislation introduced to amend the current Act to remove the alarm industry.
Pending alarm licensing will also be on the agenda at ESX and PBFAA plans to hold a Special Membership meeting to discuss the status of legislation and rally support on June 25th at 11 a.m., immediately following the 10:30 Board of Directors meeting. Visit for details.