Exclusive Q&A: Merlin Guilbeau on the Future of the NBFAA

NBFAA's Merlin Guilbeau talks about a possible name change, membership reciprocity and other top association concerns

On Jan. 26, 2006, the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) met with 51 attendees for a strategic summit. At issue was the very future of the association, which has overcome a number of challenges in the past, including financial difficulties and the loss of some chartered state associations.

As part of the strategic summit, the organization revisited its mission statement, reviewed its board of directors structure, and developed new technology focus groups. As part of the discussion, the NBFAA has even proposed changing its name, feeling that the "burglar and fire" emphasis no longer reflects the diversified nature of today's dealer and integrator companies. The newly proposed name, "Electronic Life Safety & Systems Association", will go to the membership for approval.

According to Merlin Guilbeau, the association's executive director, 2005 was a year of change for the association, as it was able to regain its financial footing, establish lobbying efforts and begin to establish the organization as the leading organization for security systems dealers and integrators.

On Friday, Feb. 3, 2006, SecurityInfoWatch.com caught up with Guilbeau by phone from the organization's Dallas-area offices to get a full report. The interview with him appears below:

SIW: You've recently published a report on the strategic summit that has been sent to members, and the first thing it covers is the rephrasing of the organization's vision statement. In terms of the changes in the vision statement, is the vision of the NBFAA changing or is it just refocusing?

Guilbeau: I guess the statement itself has changed somewhat from what was approved back in fall of 2003. We are now able to say it in a much more concise manner and probably in a more focused effort.

The old one says "Through the anticipation of socioeconomic, technological and environmental changes and their effects on the industry, this association will become the go-to entity for services guidance and information."

Many people feel as though, for our segment of the industry, we are the 'go-to' entity. Over the last 3 or 4 years, we have stabilized ourselves financially. We're in a much better position. Now we need to assume much more of a leadership role and we need to lead the electronic life safety and security industry and systems integrators. By doing that we'll benefit not only our members but the consumers and overall public safety.

SIW: This report mentions that you're proposing a new name as the Electronic Life Safety and Systems Association. What does that proposed named change reflect in terms of the overall shift in the organization?

I think it reflects what the industry has seen over the years. Back in 1948 when the association was first formed, it was known as the national burglar alarm association. Some years later -- I think it was the early 1950s -- they added the word fire to the name. And for many years the industry has been known as a burglar alarm or security industry. But quite frankly it's now much more than that.

There is much more than burglar alarms in terms of providing security and safety to consumers and the public. So we wanted to bring the name more in line with how technology is reflected today and how the terms that are used.

Our members do much more than just burglar alarms. They do fire alarm systems, which are known as electronic life safety. They do telephone systems, home theater systems, and of course video surveillance and access control. Those are all things that are being referred to as systems. So we felt like that it encompassed a much broader scope of what our members do, rather than just burglar and fire.

SIW: When we spoke in January before the NBFAA summit, you had mentioned that the NBFAA did not want to lose its focus on security. How did the strategic summit reflect that desire to keep security as the primary focus of the organization?

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