Preparing to Celebrate 75 Years of Industry Innovation

Preparing to Celebrate 75 Years of Industry Innovation
Jillian Bateman — February 8, 2023

For 75 years, the electronic security and life safety industry has benefitted from the leadership and cohesion that ESA has provided. Marking its beginnings in 1948 as the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), the Association has remained ever committed to its vision – “to be indispensable and relevant in an ever-changing industry.” 

The NBFAA changed its name officially in 2009 to the Electronic Security Association, but never changed in its mission to catalyze the industry forward and advance professionally. The name change was reflective of the attempt to modernize the perception and provide a broader representation of the various security solutions being implemented. Growing well beyond the bounds of traditional burglar and fire alarms, ESA’s member and associate member rosters now span many more technology categories to include access control, video surveillance, cyber, and more. 

Not All Training is Created Equal 

ESA members represent more than 70% of the commercial and residential market. Keeping these professional security integrators and installers on the cutting edge of newly emerging technologies has always been a top priority for the Association. Their National Training School (NTS) was established in 1985 – a time well before virtual or on-demand trainings even existed, and all classes were presented in-person. The formats may have evolved over time thanks to the internet, but the Association’s NTS certification programs have always been – and continue to be – based on rigorous curriculum and real-world experience to ensure all certification holders meet a level of excellence in their fields. The NTS School continually adds new classes to include intrusion, video surveillance, access control, and fire & life safety which fulfill needed certifications and licensing requirements.  


Where the Industry Gathers 

Merlin Guilbeau, who has diligently and loyally served as the Association’s Executive Director & CEO since 2002, notes that “In addition to NTS, ESA’s annual conference, the Electronic Security Expo (ESX) also hosts cutting-edge education sessions for both members and non-members to gain new insight on the technologies that are evolving.

“ESX provides a viable venue for new manufacturers and service providers to engage with the channel. This is especially beneficial for professional installers as they have opportunity to walk the show floor to see new technologies firsthand.” 


Peer-Driven Networking Groups 

In addition, ESA’s Executive Management Professionals (EMP) Group fosters an environment where peers can tackle issues such as company valuation, financing, business model development, mergers and acquisitions, human capital development, executive leadership, change management, and more.

 “This is a really safe place for members to interact in small groups or virtual roundtables. Company owners can connect with others and learn with them in a non-competitive environment,” Guilbeau adds.

“This ability for them to network with their peers is a huge benefit.” The Association has always served to help its members grow their businesses. In addition to the training and networking opportunities ESA facilitates for its members, it has also honored that commitment to business growth via other programs it offers that keep an eye to their financial challenges.  

Industry Specific Insurance Program 

To that end, the decision was made in 2003 by the Association to take over a million dollars out of reserves and invest in establishing an insurance program available to members in a stable and affordable manner. Called Security America, the program offers general liability and cyber liability coverage to help member business owners manage their costs without having to pivot to changing premium costs. As Guilbeau points out, “It’s tough as a business owner to project costs and budget for future years when you can’t even figure out the insurance market. Sometimes there are big increases that you didn’t cause. Our goal is to bring stable affordable coverage to members so they can count on knowing what their premiums would be.” 


ESA Takes the Charge on the Legislative & Advocacy Landscape 

Advocacy has also been a critically important role that the Association has led the way on. ESA stays on top of all the issues pertinent to the industry, and offers member companies comprehensive advocacy and legislative reports, which include resources and information on legislative and regulatory issues at the local, state and federal level. ESA has long been known for its commitment to being the electronic security and life safety industry ‘watchdog,’ and provides timely information to members on legislative or regulatory proposals that could impact their businesses. 


Save BIG with the Power of Membership 

Additionally, ESA helps members where it counts, improving their business’s overall bottom-line. The Members Savings Program is another ESA benefit that enables members to save thousands of dollars per year through its buying group alliance, which is made up of over 150 associations. ESA is able to negotiate national pricing on many products and services that its members use. 


ESA is Growing 

The security industry has, without question, continued to grow, evolve and advance over these 75 years since its Association was first founded. Since its beginnings back in 1948, the Association continues to attract more members – its roster is now approximately 2,000 strong and growing.  


A Look at ESA’s Beginnings 

It would be remiss to look back over the Association’s 75 year history without crediting its origins to the industry pioneers who created it. It was in 1947 when Morris Weinstock and Ben Call of Call’s Police Signal Corp., located in Boston, met and decided to hire an advertising firm to send letters to 165 U.S. independent alarm companies to ask if they would be interested in forming an Association to serve the alarm industry.  

The alliance was put forth because, in the early 1930s, Morris F. Weinstock worked in his father’s butcher shop in Cleveland, Ohio. When crime was becoming an issue for the family business – to the point that Morris’ father slept in the shop with a gun – Weinstock used the skills he acquired from technical school to design a way for the family to alert each other quickly in the event of emergency. The system consisted of a doorbell button under the butcher shop counter that rang a bell in the family home behind the store. Demand for this type of security protection surged, and in short order, other merchants started asking for systems like the one he had installed. The small business soon became well known in Cleveland. Ben Call realized he was onto something important. That is what triggered the call from Ben to Weinstock and moved the initiative to form a cohesive alliance to support the industry’s growth and vision forward. 

Roughly 20 companies committed to attending the initial National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) meeting in Chicago in 1948. Finally, small independent companies in the industry during its infancy met and interacted. Ben Call served as the first President of the NBFAA in 1948 and, in 1955, Weinstock was named NBFAA president. 




The Industry’s Most Prestigious Award 

In honor of all that Weinstock did to unify and advance the security industry, the Morris F. Weinstock Person of the Year Award program – considered to be the most esteemed honor in the electronic security and life safety industry – launched in 1970 and, since then, has honored so many other icons who have helped move the industry forward. 

The industry has indeed moved forward impressively, innovatively, and formidably over these last 75 years since the Association was first formed in 1948. It has always served as a beacon of light, enabling the industry to see a clear path ahead for growth and advancement. The Association’s efforts, combined with those of its members, and associate members which are comprised of industry manufacturers and distributors, and all the countless volunteers who have so generously given of their time and leadership abilities over the years to further the industry, have all made the celebration of this, ESA’s 75th Anniversary, one that the industry can collectively celebrate and look back on with pride.  

Happy 75 Years of Service, ESA!