False alarms have plagued the home security industry for decades. Monitronics and other alarm companies are keenly aware of the problem. In many places, too many false alarms results can result in losing a monitoring license or the ability to sell systems.
Certain industry trade associations such as the Security Industry Alarm Coalition have helped to develop policies and procedures to minimize false alarms. These types of groups actively solicit police and fire department participation to develop strategies and methods to deal with the problem.
There are certain things that Monitronics and their users can do to reduce the risk of false dispatch. Education along with certain other practices and procedures has helped companies and individuals to address better the false alarm issue.
Security Industry Alarm Coalition
SIAC is a Delaware corporation with corporate offices in Dallas Texas. The company explicitly tries to bring together all the North American alarm companies to devise ways to reduce false dispatches.
The company has close ties to Canadian and U.S. security alarm trade associations. The Board of Directors has two members from each of the major alarm organizations in Canada and the United States: CANASA (Canadian Security Association), CSAA (Central Station Alarm Association), ESA (Electronic Security Association) and the SIA (Security Industry Alarm Association).
SIAC works closely and frequently liaises with law enforcement entities throughout both countries.
False alarms are one of the major challenges for home security and other alarm companies. Police and fire departments expend significant man-hours and money responding to false alarms.
Many cities and towns have enacted stringent laws related to false alarms. If you want your alarm tied directly to a police department, you must meet certain standards and usually have heavy fines after a certain number of false alarms, for example, per month or year.
Some municipalities require monitoring centers to be licensed and will fine the homeowner and sometimes monitoring center in the event of too many false alarms.
Causes of False Alarms
The reasons for false alarms have changed over the past few decades. Changes in technology have had a positive impact on reducing the number times police and fire departments respond to non-emergencies due to alarms going off.
Less than 20 years ago, the main causes of false alarms were:
- Equipment Quality
- Improper Installation of Equipment
- Misapplication of Equipment
- User Errors
False alarms occur with far less frequency but nevertheless still cause major problems for cities and towns. The main causes of false alarms today are:
- Improper Installation of Equipment
- Misapplication of Equipment
As you can see, the technology has improved but the human factor remains the greatest problem associated with false alarms.
Industry False Alarm Reduction Strategies
Monitronics has been recognized several times by SIAC and other industry and local police and fire departments for their work on limiting false alarms. Monitronics has been able to do several things that have helped them achieve an excellent record in terms of minimizing false alarms:
- Redundant and Simple User Guides
- Equipment Standards
- Better and More Thorough Installer Training
- Better and More Through Service Training
- Improved Monitoring Standards and Practices
- Higher Dispatch/Operator Personnel Standards
- Monitoring Center Training Programs
Individual False Alarm Strategies
Monitronics, along with SIAC, have developed and present classes and training on helping home security system owners prevent false alarms. Dealers, especially in municipalities where costly fines and other sanctions may be imposed if too many false alarms are received, often will provide this training as part of the installation package.
There are some steps that owners can take to help reduce the number of false alarms:
- Thorough Understanding of the System
- Memorize the Cancellation Code
- Make sure the Owner Meets the Police or Fire at the Residence when an Alarm Activates
- Keep All Doors and Windows Locked
- Close Communication with the Monitoring and Alarm Company
Proactive False Alarm Prevention
One of the strategies above, close communication with the monitoring and alarm company, is probably the most important point. If changes take place in sensor or detector placement, users, and other activities or events that may affect your system, coordinating with the Monitronics dealer or monitoring center will reduce the risks of false alarms.
You should contact Monitronics before doing or implementing any of the following:
- Introducing a New Pet into the House
- Adding New Users
- Changing Emergency Contact Numbers
- Constant or Unexplained False Alarms
Educating users to these points will reduce the risk of dispatching police or fire inappropriately.
Common Alarm Ordnance Practices
Police and town councils often will enact certain ordinances and practices to curtail and minimize false alarms. The SIAC, in conjunction with police, fire and city officials from across North America, have developed basic policy standards for use by towns when developing false dispatch regulations.
Most cities divide alarm ordinances into two parts: responsibilities of the alarm user and responsibilities of the alarm company.
The alarm user has several duties common to most laws. The catch-all phrase concerns “maintaining the premises and alarm system in a way that will reduce or eliminate false alarms.” This allows blatant violators that neglect their systems to be held accountable.
Other requirements usually include obtaining a permit and renewing the license annually. Most cities also require the user to respond or send a representative if an alarm is activated, and no one is at home.
The alarm company also must obtain a permit for monitoring in most locations. This can be a city, county, state licenses and sometimes all three. The monitoring center must provide and keep current a 24/7 contact number and alternate number, to the police and fire departments.
Frequently cities will specify the minimum types and ratings of equipment. Security Industry Association (SIA) standards are most often cited. Monitronics and most home security companies easily meet these standards by using major manufacturer’s equipment. Sometimes, however, smaller companies may use imported sensors or control panels that may not meet SIA standards.
Certain training and inspection requirements are usually part of the local alarm installation code also. The alarm company must follow certain verification steps before requesting dispatch of the local authorities. Verification of panic alarm activation usually is not required, however.
Not all ordinances in effect currently allow recorded messages sent to police or fire dispatch centers from monitoring centers. Towns need a live operator contact the relevant emergency service.
There is a variety of sanctions imposed on violators of alarm dispatch laws. Most of the laws give the users a certain number of false alarms before imposing a fine. The number varies, but between four and six false alarms is average before users or companies are issued a summons or fine.
After a certain number of false alarms, most cities will impose a relatively hefty fine and will refuse to respond and any more alarm activations. The license for the alarm may also be revoked.
False alarms have been the bane of the home security industry for years. The growth of the home security industry has made the false alarm problem more acute for cities and towns.
Home security companies like Monitronics continually strive to develop new methods of reducing false dispatches. New regulations and codes are being enacted by cities every year to control what used to be a small problem.
Technology has helped. However, education remains the best way to reduce false alarms. Industry associations, companies, and ultimately users must all work together to reduce the expense and waste of manpower caused by repeated false alarms.
Monitronics is now owned by Brinks. Check out our review of the Brinks home security system.
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