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False Alarms in Security Systems

No area in the security industry has been more controversial or misunderstood as the issue of false alarms. First it is important that we define what a false alarm is. This is not easily done because each group seems to have its own definition. Some examples are:

Alarm Company - A false alarm is the activation of the alarm system under circumstances where it should not have activated. (i.e. equipment malfunction.)

Property Owner - A false alarm is when I do something incorrectly that results in the activation of the alarm system. (i.e.” I went to get the paper and forgot to turn off the alarm” or “The cleaning lady came and I forgot to leave the alarm off.” or “I left the dog inside and it tripped the motion detector.”)

Police Department - A false alarm is when an alarm monitoring company requests police response to a location and no burglary or attempted burglary has transpired.

Each group is correct from their own perspective, and that is what makes any discussion of false alarms difficult. Perhaps a better way to talk about the issue is to better describe each situation. Rather than trying to identify them all in terms that have mutually exclusive meanings.

Alarm Company - Alarm Malfunction

An Alarm Malfunction is the activation of the alarm system under circumstances where it should not have activated. (i.e. equipment malfunction.) Equipment malfunction could be for several reasons:

The electronic equipment is “bad” and has ceased to operate correctly

The electronic equipment was installed incorrectly.

    a) installed in an area that is a “hostile” environment

    b) wired incorrectly

The system was designed incorrectly and the equipment is programmed incorrectly for the intended use.

 

Property Owner - Alarm User Error

An Alarm User Error is when an alarm user does something incorrectly that results in the activation of the alarm system. (i.e.” I went to get the paper and forgot to turn off the alarm” or “The cleaning lady came and I forgot to leave the alarm off.” or “I left the dog inside and it tripped the motion detector.”) In this case the alarm has functioned as it is intended to but has activated because the user did not follow the correct procedure to disarm the alarm system either prior to the event or took too long to disarm the alarm system after entry.

 

Police Department- Unnecessary Police Response

An Unnecessary Police Response is when an alarm monitoring company or an individual requests police response to a location as a result of an automatic burglar alarm signal and no crime or attempted crime has transpired. False alarms reported to police is a serious problem increasingly leading to de-prioritization and fines. Learn more about this problem and the fines that can be charged for it in False Alarm Fines and User Fees.

Using a neighborhood based alarm monitoring service can help with false alarms reported to police by having the people you know and trust looking out for you and verifying alarm triggers. iGuard Alarm monitoring service works to combat the problem using signal routing technology to cheaply monitor your home security. When your alarm is triggered, the neighbors, friends, and family you specify are immediately notified of the trigger alarm and location.

This neighborhood based approach means reports can be verified of suspicious activity before reporting to the police. Crime drops and response heightens when communities get involved in looking out for each other.

False Alarm Fines and User Fees 

As time goes on more and more municipal governments are feeling the pinch of reduced revenues to fund police and fire department activities. Some have started to assess false alarm fines for the unnecessary police response as well as user fees for having an alarm system.

Some cities are assessing the fines to the alarm companies as fees but most cities bill directly to the customer. Since these fees are not built into the monitoring or installation fee structure of the alarm company, invariably the fines are paid for by the alarm user.

We are seeing it happen in the Pacific Northwest, and across the country. And if not fined, police response to alarm reports from central stations are getting de-prioritized since they are so often false alarms. As a result, response times went from 15-20 minutes to anywhere from half hour to five hours to not at all.

However, having a security system which has citizen verification of a burglary or suspicious activity changes everything. A verified report is taken far more seriously than a central station automated report without anyone to verify what is happening at your home.

iGuard Alarm monitoring service is neighborhood based, where your neighbors, friends and family look out for your home. People you know and trust verify any triggered alarms, and report the suspicious activity as a verified report to the authorities. It's called signal routing, where you get to choose who is notified by text, email, or phone when your home alarm is triggered.

Neighborhood based alarm monitoring can dramatically improve home security results, while returning control to you and your community to stamp out crime. Police are in favor of community members looking out for each other, as it reduces crime and the problem of automatically triggered false alarms