Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) Evolves Into the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST)
By Kirk MacDowell, MacGuard Security Advisors and past Chair, AIREF
Something important happened in 2020 and it occurred without fanfare. The AIREF Board of Directors did something admirable. They reexamined their existing mission, looked at common issues impacting the industry and unanimously voted to change the entire direction of AIREF — essentially ending their own mission, thus moving the organization to a completely new structure.
The Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST), a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization was designed to promote careers in the physical security technology and life safety industry. AIREF couldn’t be more proud. FAST’s birth was the passing of AIREF. As the industry continues to transform, AIREF believed it must as well.
AIREF had always worked across industry organizations to provide funding for research and educational projects for the betterment of the industry. However in the past few years, industry associations, think tanks, private research companies and associate members had taken more interest in providing these studies, so AIREF’s Board of Directors was seeking a new direction.
When ESA’s CEO Merlin Guilbeau and SIA’s CEO Don Erickson approached the AIREF board with the concept of FAST, the AIREF board was intrigued. ESA and SIA developed a working task force. With many meetings and hard work, the task force chaired by industry veteran Steve Firestone, ultimately presented the findings to the AIREF Board who approved the new mission unanimously.
Essentially, the board fired themselves for the betterment of the industry, but this selfless act began a new chapter. Over the years, AIREF provided guidance, thought leadership and well-developed industry reports that were used by law enforcement, trade associations, the alarm industry, academia and the media.
Serving on the AIREF board was a privilege and industry icons whether living or deceased all played an integral part in the success of AIREF. Leaders such as Spiller, Bitton, Lenander, Gold, McDonald, Knott, Rubin, Soloway, Orvis, Needham, N. Poulson, Gray, Foell, Devine, Doyle, Martin, Whitehurst, Ohm, Mabry, Goldfine, Lees, Boyda, Weinstock, Flagg, McFadden, Knox, D’Ascoli, Reitman, Baird, Smith, Guilbeau all played a key role under the leadership of past chairs, Charlie Darsch (Sentrol), Leo Guthart (Ademco), Peter Michel (Brinks) and John Jennings (Safeguard).
The industry owes a debt of thanks for not only what the board and AIREF accomplished, but for the insight of knowing that by stepping down, they gave birth to the needs of our industry. As AIREF’s last Chairperson before the transition to FAST, I am honored to have served with many of these talented leaders. Thank you for your dedication, leadership and love for our industry.
The Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST), a new 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization is designed to promote careers in the physical security technology and life safety industry. Created through a partnership of ESA and SIA – the industry’s leading associations – FAST will connect passionate, innovative professionals with new opportunities in electronic security and life safety.
For more information on FAST, visit advancingsecurity.org