Reduce False Alarms
Listed below are the top-six cost-free ways to reduce false alarm dispatches by up to 50%!
- 1. Instruct Alarm Users How to Operate the Alarm System Properly
- 2. Initiate a Fourteen Day Familiarization Period for New Installations
- 3. Introduce a Multiple-Call Cancellation Procedure
- 4. Standardize Authorized Passcodes Using Keypad Pin Numbers
- 5. Cancel After Alarm = No Dispatch
- 6. Cover Smoke Detectors During Construction
False alarms are some of the most serious, most costly, and most frustrating problems facing the alarm community today. They cause a nuisance for neighbors and are frustrating for everyone concerned. Both the security industry and the consumer must be cognizant of the problems that frequent false alarms cause and the burdens they place on the resources of all emergency responding agencies.
All of us must work together and make every effort to help alleviate the stigma that false alarms and false dispatches bring to the alarm community. Or, we will face ever-increasing false alarm charges from the effected municipalities and risk losing our credibility entirely. Without our joint action, the response by the authorities to alarm system activations will become less urgent and, consequently, less effective in providing the protection for customers that we all require and expect.
As concerned security specialists, we thought that addressing this industry-wide problem with some prevention suggestions might be of interest to you.
We want to thank you in advance for your cooperation and your assistance in trying to focus on, and potentially curb, the problem of false alarms.
All alarm users should be instructed on how to operate (“arm,” “disarm,” and “reset,” or “silence”) the alarm system properly. This includes all those who are going to use the alarm system, such as: friends, relatives, key holders, responsible children, maintenance personnel, permanent and temporary employees, etc. It would be helpful to provide the customer with oral and written instructions regarding the operation of the alarm system, when the system in installed.
A Well Informed User Makes Fewer Mistakes
- The Operator’s Manual for the alarm system should be read and retained in convenient files with other important papers. If the customer loses their manual, they can get another one by downloading it from PanelGuides.com.
- The Monitoring Central Station should be told about all modifications at the monitored property. These changes include: new or disconnected phone numbers, names, key holder information, personnel, equipment, business hours, Opening/Closing times, Authorized Passcodes, 911 addresses, etc.
- The alarm security professionals should be contacted before any remodeling is done at the premises, before phone systems are changed, before skylights are installed, before spray painting is started, before scheduled fumigation is performed, etc.
- The Monitoring Central Station should be notified, if the premises will be unoccupied for a prolonged period of time. All phone numbers of where the customer can be reached should be left with the Monitoring Central Station in the event of an emergency at the premises.
- Pets should be relegated to a portion of the premises that has no motion detection devices, or under carpet mats.
- If ceiling fans are installed in the wrong place(s), they can cause motion devices to trip accidentally.
- Children should not be allowed to “play with” the keypad(s), medical pendants, portable panic device(s), or any other portion or component of the alarm system.
- Motion sensors located in problematic area should be “bypassed” before the alarm system is engaged. Examples: when a fireplace is in use, decorations or plants are suspended in the room, windows are open, fans or space heaters are operating, balloons are in the area, etc.
- Within the business environment, make sure that a telephone is accessible, and within hearing distance, to all employees who will “arm” and “disarm” the alarm system. This way, personnel can answer the telephone in the event the Monitoring Central Station calls the premises at the time of an alarm activation. Additionally, be sure that everyone has HSMC’s correct phone number.
HSMC has found that when all new, monitored customers are set up with a “familiarization period” for (14) fourteen days after the installation of, or owner transfer of, an alarm system, fewer false alarms are transmitted afterwards.
This “grace period” gives the Customer, and other users, a chance to become accustomed with all aspects of the system and its operation without fear of repercussions from false alarms. During this (14) fourteen day period, no signals received at the Monitoring Central Station would be dispatched to the authorities.
Alarm Dealers are urged to incorporate this procedure into their over-all false alarm prevention planning.
False Alarm Prevention Tips for Alarm Dealers:
- Annually “Test and Inspect” the entire alarm system. Call the Monitoring Central Station before and after testing - or before and after working on any monitored alarm system.
- Recommend that alarm system users themselves test their alarm system throughout the year to be sure that it transmits signals properly and instruct them to call the Monitoring Central Station before and after testing!
- Enlist the aid of the alarm system end-user to notify you immediately, if the system does not seem to be working properly.
- Our proprietary software validates incoming Caller ID, which enables HSMC to verify that received alarms are originating from the premises and not from other locations. However, this will only work when a customer hasn’t “line blocked” their phone number, which prevents the transmission of their Caller ID to our Central Station. Line blocking can be de-activated on outbound alarm signals transmitted via the control panel by programming “1182,” then the Central Station Receiver “800” number. (Please check your local telephone service provider for the line blocking de-activation code in your area.)
- Whenever possible, install alarm systems that meet SIA Control Panel Standard CP-01.
- Arrange to have the Monitoring Central Station notify the customers via fax or email after each dispatched alarm. This will give the customer(s) the opportunity to arrange for repairs (if necessary) and/or get the problem(s) corrected themselves.
- Upgrade outmoded alarm equipment.
- If the owner of an alarm system is selling their property, it is critical that the Alarm Dealer and the Monitoring Central Station are notified before the “closing.” That way a determination can be made regarding the future monitoring of the system, and all necessary arrangements can be made beforehand for the transfer of services to the new owner. Conversely, if the new owners do not wish to have the system monitored, provisions can be made for its disconnection.
- Show all users how to disable the panel and/or how to locate and disconnect the RJ31X Telephone Jack, in the event of an extreme alarm system malfunction.
- Refrain from installing “One Plus Duress” alarms.
- Arrange to have the system send an automatic “Scheduled System Test” to the Monitoring Central Station.
See: Scheduled System Tests
- Regularly change the batteries on all wireless, monitored alarm equipment.
- Refrain from installing any “single action” panic or duress buttons.
A “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedure,” also known as “Enhanced Caller Verification” (ECV), is an industry-wide initiative, which establishes alarm response protocols for Monitoring Central Stations. By adopting these protocols for dispatching, we can improve the service we provide to the community and support law enforcement efforts to reduce crime … and lessen false alarm dispatches. These efforts ensure that public safety policy continues to consider the crime deterrent effect of alarm systems and the services we provide. The concept of a “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedure” has been endorsed by innumerable Regional and National Security Companies, Law Enforcement Agencies, and the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA).
HSMC can work with you, the Alarm Dealer, to establish practices wherein we would arrange the customer’s call list priorities to reflect a “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedure.” This would entail making a second (or third or fourth, etc.) call to additional telephone numbers at the time of an alarm activation before requesting a response from law enforcement agencies.
For homeowners, many inadvertent alarm activations take place when leaving the home. A secondary call to their cell number, for instance, will allow them to return to the property and reset the alarm. For business owners, alarms occur as employees leave the property or are caused by after-hours cleaning and service personnel. A call to the owner’s cell phone, or home number, gives the business owner an opportunity to cancel the activation. In both instances, the “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedure” would have eliminated the request for police response.
The normal practice is to dispatch the authorities and then to contact the key holder(s). In many instances, however, the key holder knows the cause of the alarm and recognizes that the situation does not require police response. Unfortunately, when we call back the Police Department to abort the run, the P.D. might not be able to cancel – thus causing extra work for their department and possibly creating false alarm charges for the customer!
Studies have shown that when an Alarm Dealer endorses the “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedure” protocols, 40 - 50 percent of the alarm signals, that traditionally would have been dispatched under typical “premises only” verification, did not need to be dispatched because the signal was verified by a contact on the second call.
This process, of applying “Multiple Call Cancellation Procedures” for burglary codes (as an example), can be done “globally” for all of your customers, or can be applied to individual customers only. Either way, this proactive procedure will reduce alarm dispatches significantly.
Consider standardizing the verification process for your customers by using the “Arm/Disarm” number as their Authorized Passcode, or Personal Identification Numbers (PIN). This vital information, and any other Passcodes that the customer may be using, should be given to the Monitoring Central Station, when the account is placed on-line.
- It might be helpful to maintain and control all “Arm/Disarm” codes in the alarm control panel for the customer.
- It is important for all users to know the appropriate, and most current, identifying Authorized Passcode or Personal Identification Number (PIN) in case the alarm trips in error. Please advise customers to answer the phone, if the Monitoring Central Station calls the property at the time of an alarm activation. Then, the customer should be ready to present the appropriate Authorized Passcode.
- Make the customer aware of whom to call in the event the alarm system is tripped by mistake and suggest that they review alarm cancellation procedures using Authorized Passcodes with everyone, who might use the alarm system.
Another procedural change that would diminish false alarm dispatches is to consider a “Cancel” code after an alarm notification a situation which requires no police response. This procedure can be initiated if the Alarm Dealer programs the control panel to transmit a signal to the Monitoring Central Station indicating that an “authorized user” has disarmed the system after an alarm … then no dispatch to the police would occur.
This procedure would be implemented for all such programmed alarm systems handled by the Monitoring Central Station - even if there is no answer at the premises when the Central calls the premises to verify.
The Customer Should Be Made Aware of the Following:
- All smoke detectors at a premises need to be covered during any construction to prevent their contamination and to prevent them from subsequently sending false alarms.
- Smoke detectors should be installed outside of each sleeping area and placed on each additional level of the home. Battery-powered units should be tested monthly and batteries replaced annually.
- When cooking, always use a kitchen exhaust fan to avoid activating any smoke detectors in the area.
- If there is an excessive amount of smoke in the building, (Example: from burned toast, from a backed-up fireplace or furnace, etc.) but there is no need for the Fire Department, please advise all residential customers to call the Monitoring Central Station immediately! In that way, the customer may be able to avoid an unnecessary dispatch to the Fire Department.
- Fire extinguishers must be: readily available, large enough to control the fire at hand, the correct type of extinguisher for the specific type of fire, and in working order - fully charged.
- Buy and position fire extinguishers for particularly vulnerable rooms in the house, such as: the kitchen, the workshop, the garage, or a room with a fireplace.
- Plan escape routes from the building and devise a “Personalized Escape Plan” for everyone at the premises. If an escape ladder must be used, be sure everyone knows how to use it ahead of time.
- If evacuation from the premises is necessary, once outside - stay there! Do not re-enter the building!