The New Jersey Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NJBFAA) is voting next week on whether to continue to be a chapter of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. The vote will be held Aug. 11, 6 p.m., at The PNC Bank Arts Center Reception Center in Holmdel, N.J. Members must vote at the Aug. 11 meeting; emailed votes will not be accepted. [See NJBFAA details on Aug. 11 special meeting.]
According to NJBFAA President Chris Mack, the need to vote on whether to stay a member grew out of frustrations that many of the NJBFAA's dealers were having with the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association. The dealers said that the national association wasn't responding to their needs and cited what they called a "lack of action on the International Residential Code (IRC) R-213 issue."
The IRC R-213 code issue pertains to low-voltage smoke detectors. The code, which was developed by the International Code Council, and which potentially affects all U.S. states and cities, essentially stops alarm dealers from installing low voltage smoke detectors in conjunction with residential security systems, thereby moving the smoke detector business into the high-voltage (110VAC) units area.
"This is probably the biggest piece of legislation that I can remember that directly affects all of our members," explained Mack. "For some reason it really took effect in New Jersey; they started enforcing it right away."
Without the help of the NBFAA, the NJBFAA has gone on to try to address and overturn this code on its own by hiring an independent consultant. The chapter's own efforts – which could benefit alarm dealers across the nation – could prove successful next year in a 2010 revision of the code.
"It's been a growing problem for the last five years where the guys are asking what the national is doing for us," said Mack. "They're also not happy with the dues. A lot of the members want to know where those [national] dues are going. We've been having trouble explaining what they're doing [with the dues].
After years of such questions from members, the board finally faced a realization: It would have to put the issue up to a majority vote so the NJBFAA members could decide whether the national affiliation was something they wished to continue. Mack notes that next week's vote is not an end-of-time decision; historically some state chapters have left the national association and then decided to come back later.
Like most chapters, dealers join the local chapter, and from their dues to the local chapter the NJBFAA chapter pays the NBFAA for national member dues. As it stands right now, there is no option for an alarm company to be a member solely of the NJBFAA and not the NBFAA. Mack noted, however, that even if next week's vote decides that the NJBFAA will not be a state chapter of the NBFAA, individual dealers will still have the opportunity to join the national on their own.
The potential loss of the New Jersey chapter from the national association could significantly impact the membership of the NBFAA. According to NJBFAA President Chris Mack, the chapter is the third largest of the NBFAA's state groups. Mack said the chapter has its own very good training program and that member meetings are involved, with members focusing on industry issues and chapter programs.
While a loss of NJBFAA could significantly drop the NBFAA membership rosters, the NJBFAA thinks that because of its active, involved members and its established training program, New Jersey members shouldn't see detrimental effects to going independent.
"We're a very proactive chapter, and we're in many ways very self sufficient," said Mack. "Our training is outstanding. If the national (NBFAA) is in the picture, it would be great. If they're not in the picture, we will still make the chapter great."
The NBFAA clearly doesn't want to lose one of its top chapters, and NBFAA President Mike Miller has publicly stated that the national doesn't want to lose the NJBFAA.
"As you know, many times, the strong perspectives of one or two people can influence the way an entire group is lead and we hope, by communicating directly to the members of New Jersey on the importance of being affiliated with a national organization, we can provide an alternate viewpoint," said Miller. "Regarding the IRC code, I can only say that we made every effort to assist New Jersey with the code but we cannot control how our efforts were represented. Apparently, our role and the assistance we provided has not been fully disseminated to the membership. As you pointed out, New Jersey is a large state chapter and very important to us. We greatly appreciate each of our chapters and are very responsive to their requests when they make their needs known. We hope the majority of the membership will agree that being affiliated is better than running solo."
Both Miller and NBFAA Executive Director Merlin Guilbeau are expected to be at the Aug. 11 meeting to campaign to New Jersey members that they keep the chapter in the national association.