After the California Alarm Association’s (CAA) Spring Convention (which was originally scheduled for May 13-16 in Palm Springs) was cancelled due to the coronavirus, the organization decided to move the event online. The virtual conference took place last week, May 13-15, via Zoom. More than 250 participants registered for the 18 workshops and several CAA program presentations, and the cumulative attendance for the 21 sessions was more than 1,000.

“Our first venture into a virtual conference was a success, and we were able to deliver our message along with relevant information to our members and the industry,” said CAA President Tim Westphal, COO of Bay Alarm. “I want to thank all of our presenters who provided workshops that will have an impact on our business and industry.”

During the conference, David Vojtaskovic Jr. received the CAA Youth Scholarship, and received the award beside his father David Vojtaskovic of the El Cajon Police Department. Westphal presented the CAA Mark Shubert Award, which recognizes associate members who serve the associations, to Ben Martinez of Grand Central Station. Westphal also announced that Mike Salk of Reed Brothers Security will receive the CAA George A. Weinstock Award at the annual CAA Tribute Dinner at The Fairmont San Francisco Dec. 2-5, 2020.

The CAA announced the development of the Field Service Technician (FST) training program which offers a 24-hour online program along with 190 hours of continuing education courses. The new website with an interactive payment function and member only section were also previewed. 

One session held in the first half of the last day of the conference was on the state of the industry and the path forward. Vice President and General Manager of Resideo Connected Home Scott Harkins moderated the event, which featured Comtronics President John Campau; Loud Security President John Loud; USA Central Station Vice President of Sales Sharon Elder; ADI Vice President of Sales John Sullivan; RFI President Dee Ann Harm; and Advanced Security Systems President Chuck Petrusha as panelists.

This conversation between industry leaders explored how alarm companies can operate in the market post-coronavirus, answering questions such as: How do you protect employees and customers in the home and business? How do you manage attrition in an economic downturn? And which verticals is business booming in right now?

The conversation was based around Resideo’s ‘Five C’s for Success’ in the COVID-19 era: commit, communicate, continue, conserve and community. 

Chuck Petrusha reminded dealers to be considerate when dealing with customers who may have trouble paying their bills.

“The two words we preach in our retention program are empathy and sympathy,” Petrusha said. “Be empathetic about where they are and sympathetic about the concerns they have.”

John Loud was able to share a unique perspective about doing business in a pandemic, since Loud Security is based out of Georgia – a state which already lifted its shelter-in-place order weeks ago.

“It’s an incredibly political, volatile scenario,” Loud said. “No matter what date it is announced business will open, to some it’s too early, and to others it’s too late. Even once the decision is made for a state to open, not everyone will open their business. We’re probably at 60 percent of our normal traffic now.”

Each panelist had additional advice for security professionals as California businesses start to reopen in the near future.

“We need to keep moving that needle forward in our efforts to sell,” Elder said. “We have made our playbooks for our dealers and are helping them put together a Zoom presentation so they can do business remotely. No one is going to give you three hours of their time while they’re struggling through a pandemic. We think virtual selling is here to stay.”

Harm emphasized the importance of workforce development and keeping relationships with employees strong. Online training and cross-training will be more important than ever once business returns, she added. 

John Campau agreed. 

“This is a great opportunity right now to take very good care of our current customers and train our employees," Campau said. “We’re at full staff now and we’re not really busy, so now is the time. Online training has been available, but COVID-19 has forced us to confront these great tools in our toolbox. We’re going to come out of this better than we went in, because the blinders are off and we’re looking at all these other ways to communicate — it’s awesome.”

The CAA offered the conference in cooperation with INVISUS and Security Funding Solutions, who produced the webinars. Video of the conference is available on the members-only section of the CAA website. 

“We look forward to the time when we can gather in person, but the CAA Virtual Conference allowed us to share information and even network during our closing happy hour,” said CAA Associate Director Tim Tracy of Resideo. “I think we have proven that there is a place for webinars moving forward with the CAA.”

The CAA Winter Convention will be held Dec. 2-5, 2020, at The Fairmont San Francisco on Nob Hill. For more information, visit