by Ándria Morgan - MarCom Specialist
George P. Gunning passed away on February 14, 2019, leaving behind a tremendous legacy in the electronic security and life safety industry.
Gunning was an active member of the security industry for 40 years, where he held leadership positions in local, state and national trade associations. He received many awards like the Morris F. Weinstock Person of the Year and George A. Weinstock Lifetime Achievement awards. In 2009, he was inducted into Security Sales & Integration’s Industry Hall of Fame.
“George was like a father to me, and he would always tell me one thing,” says Mike Miller, who served on Gunning’s executive committee during his NBFAA (now ESA) presidency. “He would say, ‘Mikey remember all of your stakeholders.’ Always reminding us that we are to think of not only ourselves but our customers, volunteers, employees and more.”
This was evident in the fact that he believed the association agenda should come from the shared goals and objectives of member companies and the association would only grow and prosper as an organization if it served their business needs.
“George knew no limitations. He uprooted himself from the North East, planted new roots in California and started a new business,” says ESA President, Chris Mosley. “He was charismatic, determined, committed, passionate — and a very successful businessman and leader in our industry. He will be missed by all.”
George came to the security industry from the photographic printing trade when his son and nephew asked him to invest, help manage and develop computer software programs for the security and fire alarm business they were acquiring.
In 1998 Gunning and CAA Past President Frank Burke merged their companies and formed USA Alarm Systems, Inc, where Gunning served as CEO of USA Alarm Systems in Monrovia, CA, a UL listed fire installing company and a full-service integrated systems company.
"George endeared himself to the alarm industry, with this passion it ultimately led him to his vision — the development of the Apprenticeship Program," says Burke. "Yes, George spoke bluntly not to hurt but to clarify what many wanted to say but never felt comfortable to say. George and I did not always agree however, at the end of the day we always shook hands or hugged and said I’ll see you tomorrow."
Gunning spent many years helping to bring professional status to the security and fire industry through state licensing and supporting the development of ongoing training.
He served as the sole industry representative on the Los Angeles Burglar Alarm Task Force which rejected verified response and adopted an alarm policy in line with the model ordinance.
“In the beginning, I kind of equated him to a cantankerous, broken down, jalopy, says Dave Koenig. “Yet, the more I worked with him, the more I realized that he was a powerful, smooth running race car — I grew to appreciate his relentless efforts on behalf of the industry.”
In 2001, the California Alarm Association (CAA) and California Automatic Fire Alarm Association (CAFAA) formed a joint effort under the Western Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA) to jointly sponsor a fire/life safety technician apprenticeship program to satisfy the mandate of California state law. Gunning was the founding chairman of the WBFAA Unilateral Apprenticeship and Training Committee which launched the apprenticeship program.
"Having served with George for many years on the executive committee was truly an experience I will never forget," says Marshall Marinace. "He made an everlasting impact on our industry and association. He was a great family man, friend and mentor and will surely be missed by all."
In 2006, Gunning was sworn in as the 37th president of the NBFAA, serving a two-year term until 2008.
“In the two years that George took the helm as ESA president, he accomplished far too much to list. He was the epitome of ‘lead by example,’” says Merlin Guilbeau, ESA CEO. “He was always willing to help someone in need with a smile and a great sense of humor. I know I speak for many, when I say he will be missed, not only for his great leadership and admirable dedication, but for the place he earned in all of our hearts as a friend and a true example of a man with a tremendous enthusiasm for all that he did.”
Gunning believed that anybody that ran a security company should be a member of the NBFAA and other local and state professional trade associations. He saw the benefit in attending meetings and conventions to advance and promote the growth of all companies and the industry.
“My first year on the executive committee of ESA was when George became President,” says John Knox. “His nickname for me was ‘Johnny boy’ and if anyone else had greeted me that way I would had been angered, but George truly cared about me. I will always cherish the memories of working with him, because he was a strong-willed leader and would fight to the end for what he thought was right. Our industry is better today because George was a part of it.”
George understood the need to expand the labor pool, to attract the very best technicians, and to provide a mechanism to introduce and train on new products, technologies and applications. So, in October of 2006, the NBFAA concluded negotiations with the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship. As a result, a four-year, 8,000-hour apprenticeship program was approved by the federal government.
He didn’t stop there. With the drive and vision of a person half his age he inspired the creation for what is now the Electronic Security Expo (ESX).
In 2008, the NBFAA and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) — now The Monitoring Association (TMA) — joined forces to produce the most significant national training and education conference in the United States, hosting its inaugural event in Nashville.
“The accomplishment of ESX is a product of the vision and steadfast commitment of George Gunning who was one of the real drivers behind the event,” says Merlin Guilbeau.
The expo was created to be different because the event was to provide valuable information for both large and small companies. It’s mission was to be an event for the industry, by the industry, funneling profits back into the associations to support important initiatives for integrators and monitoring professionals.
“George always challenged conventional wisdom and encouraged everyone around him to strive to be their best,” says George DeMarco, ESX Chairman.
Gunning’s passion and vision are now embedded as a part of ESA and the industry’s DNA, we are all the better for having known him. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Helen, and the entire family —including his work family at USA Alarm Systems.
"George my Friend: It took 20 years for you to say 'we,' it took but a moment to say 'I Love You,' it will take forever to say 'Goodbye,'" Burke concludes.