Playing the Name Game

THE NBFAA shook things up a little at the recent ISC West show. All of a sudden, there was a controversy going on. What was it about? The association proposed a name change. The National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association looked to change its name to the Electronic Life Safety and Systems Association.

The NBFAA is a 58-year-old, non-profit trade association, which lauds itself as being the "nation's oldest and largest organization dedicated to representing, promoting and supporting the electronic life safety, security and systems industry." Now, it motioned for a change.

"The NBFAA 50 or 60 years ago represented the industry quite well, and as technology has evolved, the name has become outdated," said Merlin Guilbeau, NBFAA executive director. "We thought that moving forward with a name change would better describe what our members do."

An association comprised of companies that install electronic life safety systems, access control, video surveillance, home automation products, commercial sound systems and alarm systems, it has far exceeded its name as a simply a burglar and fire alarm association.

Moving Forward
Since 2000, there had been talks of proceeding with a name change. And in January, things finally started rolling. A name was decided -- Electronic Life Safety and Systems Association.

Electronic life safety does not only represent fire, but security systems, as well, Guilbeau said. While many member companies are in the business of deterring crime, there are others that help protect property and life also. And the new name was decided to include all member companies, not just the fire alarm guys.

There was finally a vote for the name change the Monday before ISC West, and the news that was announced on April 6 to attendees at the show was news to all NBFAA members, as well. The association's bylaws require that all members, not just board members, must approve any bylaws change, including a name change, by a two-thirds majority vote. The final vote of the general membership was 362 for the change and 207 opposed. The vote fell 13 votes short of the 375 affirmative votes needed for a two-thirds majority. So, it was final, the name would stay. It was decided to keep the NBFAA acronym with the tag line "Electronic Life Safety, Security and Systems Professionals" underneath it.

Security Makes a Difference
If "security" had been in the name -- Electronic Life Safety and Systems Association -- it probably would have passed, Guilbeau said. There were a number of speculations of why the name change didn't pass. Obviously, there were a majority of members who thought that the name change was needed, but those 207 who opposed, weren't too keen on the idea.

"There were people who thought that 'security' should still be in the name somewhere instead of 'systems,'" Guilbeau said. "I also think that people had a tough time grasping the term 'life safety.' Many of our members see this organization as strictly composed of fire or fire-related protection products, but we'd like to get everybody to understand that it's more than that now."

Guilbeau also cited that those members who were resistant to change took this as a difficult process.

"There were some long-time members of NBFAA that had a tough time. They thought that maybe we'd be loosing our heritage which, if I had the time to talk to each one individually, I think some would understand the direction we're going and feel differently," Guilbeau said.

As a softer transition, it was decided to add the tag line underneath the NBFAA acronym to better describe what the association's members do. There needed to be more of an emphasis on the growing number of members that ranged beyond burglar and fire alarms.

"The plan all along was to take a phased approach, partly because changing a name from a marketing perspective is a big deal and we have to do it carefully," said Georgia Calaway, NBFAA director of communications.

Putting It All to Rest
Talk about this issue seems to have calmed down, but it's a discussion that's far from over.

"The term 'burglar' is outdated, and we're more than just a national organization now," Guilbeau said.

The 2,500-member organization is composed of international members, as well. And, it seems to be growing. While the fire surrounding the issue has sizzled out since the ISC West show, Guilbeau has not forgotten about it. His next steps are to get the results, present it to the board of directors and look for feedback and guidance from them.

"There's a possibility we'll revisit the issue. We'll probably organize a conference call sometime later this year to discuss it before our next board meeting, which takes place right before ISC East," Guilbeau said.

Either way, things are happening for this organization. It's moving forward and the security industry hasn't heard the last of this issue, yet. Keep your eyes and ears open for what's to come. Hopefully, there'll be some other big news to come out of ISC East.


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