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    False Alarms Are A Serious Problem For Everyone!

    That bears repeating: False alarms are a serious problem for everyone. 

    What is a false alarm?  A false alarm is a notification of an alarm to a law enforcement agency,or other emergency responder, when the responding authority finds no evidence of a criminal offense or emergency at the alarm location.

    You may think that false alarms are a concern to only those who subscribe to commercial monitoring services but that is not the case.  This problem does indeed affect everyone, it doesn't matter whether your alarm system is monitored or not, in fact, it doesn't even matter whether you have an alarm system at all.


    • In 2000 the cost of police dispatch to false alarm activations was estimated to be $ 1.8 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B). 1
    • Between 94 and 98 percent of alarm activations are false alarms.1


    • In many areas police response time has slowed, in other areas response can be discretionary or there may be no response at all if the alarm is not verified.
    • Some large cities have instituted or are studying "No Response" policies as government attorneys have concluded that the police can legally refuse to respond to alarms.

    Some municipalities, faced with these costs and budget constraints, have instituted alarm permitting fees and fines for false alarms. The financial costs are, of course, ultimately borne by every taxpayer. The cost in personal security resulting from a delayed police response to a real emergency affects everyone.

    So who is responsible for all these false alarms and what can be done?


    • User errors account for over 76 percent of false alarms. 2
    • Installation problems, equipment failures and environmental factors account for the balance. 2

    We'll concentrate on the 76 plus percent here and save the remainder for Part II of this article.  Keypad related errors and user movement after the system is armed account for nearly all user errors.  Let's take a look at a breakdown of these errors:

    Keypad Related:

      1. Forgotten codes

      2. Authorized entry but without a code

      3. Error entering code

      4. Time lapsed while entering code

      5. Time lapsed while exiting

      6. Armed, exited and re-entered

    User Movement After Arming:

      1. Exited while perimeter was armed

      2. Set alarm with door ajar or window open

      3. User movement in area protected by motion detector

      4. Pet movement in area protected by motion detector

      5. Other movement in area protected by motion detector (draperies, plants, holiday decorations, etc moved by air currents)

      6. Other movement in area protected by motion detector (insects or rodents)

    Finally some good news.  As you can see from the foregoing, it's not going to take rocket science to get that false alarm rate down.  All that should be required is spending a few minutes to review the alarm system user guide so you know how to use the system and observing a few simple steps to prevent the occurrence of the common errors listed above.

    False alarm prevention tips:

      1. Educate yourself and others who use the alarm on its proper operation.

      2. Memorize your code and your monitoring company password; do not write them down near the keypad.  If you're having difficulty remembering them, change them (or ask your alarm company to change them) to something you can easily remember.

      3. Ensure that everyone that has a key to your home has been instructed on the proper operation of the system, has the code and password, is familiar with alarm cancellation procedures and is on your monitoring company's list of authorized personnel.

      4. If you are uncomfortable with the Entry/Exit times and feel rushed, change them or ask your alarm company to change them to allow you sufficient time.

      5. Repair any loose fitting windows and doors and make sure they are secure before arming your system.

      6. Restrict all access, including pets, to any area with active motion detector protection.

      7. Do not place curtains, plants, seasonal decorations, balloons or other objects that might be subject to movement by drafts from fans, heaters or air conditioners in areas with motion detector protection.

      8. Test your system each month.  Notify your monitoring company before the test, then test according to manufacturers instructions, notify the monitoring company when the test is completed.  If the system is not operating properly, inform your alarm company.

      9. Replace the standby battery or call your alarm company whenever the system indicates battery trouble.

      10. Have your alarm company service the system on a regular basis.   

    Studies have demonstrated that burglar alarm systems provide a public safety benefit by deterring crime.  According to a recent FBI report, homes without alarm systems are three times more likely to be broken into than homes with alarm systems and when a burglary does occur, losses are substantially less when the home has a security system.  Additionally, an alarm system can provide a sense of security and peace of mind that is invaluable.  However, along with these very significant benefits have come false alarms that waste resources and diminish the effectiveness of the alarm systems.  Unmonitored (local) systems are not exempt; they can cause a false dispatch as neighbors call the police to report the alarm or to complain about the noise.

    Do your part to reduce false alarms by being educated on the proper usage of your alarm system.  If you need a manual for your system just let us know.  If you have questions about your system, help is available on the forum, that's what we're all about.   

    Not Calling the Police (First)  Blackstone, Hakim & Spiegel
    National Study of False Alarms  SIA – STAT Resources

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