An alarm system can bring you a sense of security and peace of mind and is effective with proper installation, adequate training and regular maintenance.
Poorly used, installed or maintained systems can cause significant problems for the consumer and public safety officials alike. Therefore, it is important for alarm users to do their homework before buying and installing an alarm system.
For More Information on how to avoid false alarms visit the FARA Alarm User Site
User Training Video
NESA worked with the North Texas Alarm Association, Texas Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and the False Alarm Reduction Association to create a video that can be used to train alarm users about false alarms.
What is a False Alarm?
- For A Burglar or Holdup Alarm: A false alarm is notification of an alarm to law enforcement when the responding authority finds no evidence of criminal offense or attempted criminal offense.
- For a Fire Alarm: The activation of any fire alarm system which results in a response by the fire department and which is caused by the negligence or intentional misuse of the fire alarm system by the owner, its employees, agents or any other activation of a fire alarm system not caused by heat, smoke or fire.
False Alarms Are A Problem
- Cost You: False alarms cost system users $$$.
- Waste: False alarms waste valuable public safety resources.
- Delay Response: False alarms can delay response when you really need it.
- Complacency: Frequent false alarms tend to make responders complacent. Complacency leads to carelessness. Carelessness injures law enforcement & firefighters.
- Cry Wolf: Can desensitize the community to actual incidents and lead occupants and others to ignore the alarm when it goes off.
- Can discourage use of alarms: False alarms make owners reluctant to use their system, exposing their home, facility or business to fire and property damage.
How Can I Reduce False Alarms?
There are several successful false alarm reduction techniques that have been proven to reduce the likelihood of false alarms.
Train all Users
Educate all alarm system users on the proper use of the alarm system.
Fix Any Problems
Schedule a service call if the alarm is not working properly.
Use ECV - Enhanced Call Verification
ECV is an alarm monitoring procedure requiring that a minimum of two calls be made to two different alarm user telephone numbers prior to requesting public safety dispatch. Typically, one of the phone numbers is the alarm user’s cell phone.
Update Contact Info
Make sure the contact numbers on file with your alarm company are always up to date. Be proactive and add your alarm company’s phone number to your cell phone contact list.
If You Give Them A Key - Give Them the Codes
To avoid false alarms, ensure that persons with access to your location (Scheduled workers, Maintenance, Cleaners/Cleaning Crews, House or Pet Sitters & Landscapers) have the proper temporary codes and passwords for your alarm system.
This is an alarm monitoring technique that requires more than one zone in your burglar alarm system to fault or trip before public safety is notified. For example, a perimeter and an interior motion alarm would both have to trip within a specified period of time in order to summon public safety. In this situation, if an interior motion trips but the perimeter does not, the alarm company will not request a public safety dispatch.
Follow the ANSI/SIA Control Panel Standard (CP-01)
CP-01 is a standard that addresses the settings on control panels to avoid the most common cause of false alarms; user error. Alarm users should ask their alarm companies to use panels that comply with CP-01.
Take Care With Pets
Talk to your alarm company about installing pet friendly devices or changing your system design to accommodate pets.
Check On Any Displays
Always ensure that hanging or moving decorations will not activate motion detectors, especially when heating systems come on.
Take Care When Rearranging
Before rearranging your furniture or putting up the new spring curtains or drapes, first determine whether the design change would interfere with the operation of your motion detectors.
Check Before Remodeling
Always contact your alarm company prior to starting any remodeling project. You need to work with your alarm company to make sure the remodeling process does not cause false alarms and that your system will continue to work properly after the work is completed.
Check Your Batteries
Like all batteries, your backup has a useful life of about 3 to 5 years, but that life may be shortened if you have had several power outages. Your system battery should be checked annually, or after any storm related false alarm, by an alarm technician and replaced when needed.
Use Video or Audio Verification
When utilized in an electronic security application, it allows the monitoring center to either “hear” or “see” into the protected premise to determine if an intruder is present.
False Alarm Questions & Answers
Here are some common questions and answers
Should Storms Cause A False Alarm?
Power surges and lightning strikes should not cause false alarms! False alarms caused by lightning strikes are controllable through the proper grounding of alarm systems and the use of power AND phone line surge suppressors. Use of surge suppressors greatly reduces false alarms by redirecting and dissipating electrical current to the ground. Power outages or interruption of power should not cause false alarms!
How Should I Use Duress, Hold-Up & Panic Alarms?
Duress, hold-up and panic alarms are designed to allow alarm users to activate the system under specific emergency situations when they are unable to dial 9-1-1. These types of alarms generally result in a heightened response, sometimes with lights and sirens, due to a raised likelihood of a criminal event in progress. Therefore, activating these types of alarms in non-emergency situations could result in stiff penalties and fines to the alarm user. It is very important that alarm users understand that activation of these types of alarms in non-emergency or improper situations may place law enforcement officers, alarm users and the general public at increased risk.
When NOT to use your duress, hold-up or panic alarm:
- When you need fire or medical assistance
- To check to see how long it takes law enforcement officers to respond
- When someone has shoplifted merchandise
- To report a fight in the parking lot
- When an underage person attempts to buy alcohol
- To report that a vehicle has been stolen
- Any other circumstance in which you are not in a life-threatening or emergency situation
When it is appropriate to use your duress, hold-up or panic alarm:
- In emergency situations when you are unable to dial 9-1-1 for law enforcement assistance
- During a robbery or hold-up in progress
- When you are physically threatened
What is Video Verification?
Video is typically transmitted to the monitoring center when another security device in the protected premise has been activated. It is often used to determine who (if anyone) is at the protected premise when the premise is breached. It has also been effective in outdoor applications where audio verification and other technologies are not as effective.
Video can also be sent to an alarm users cell phone to allow the user to see what is going on. This allows the user to cancel an alarm if they know it is a false alarm.
What Is Audio Verification?
There are three major methods being utilized in the market today:
- Listen-in Audio: When a security device has been activated, such as a door contact or motion detector, etc., the listen-in device is also turned on to allow the monitoring center to hear what is happening at the protected premises.
- Two-Way Audio: A hands free communication session takes place between the alarm user and monitoring center to assist in determining the cause of an alarm activation in the protected premise. This method is most commonly used with the alarm user’s keypad.
- Impact Activated Audio: Sounds are transmitted to the monitoring center from the protected premise by an audio sensor, which is capable of hearing the sounds of an actual intrusion as it is taking place. This is different from the listen-in capability in that no other security device needs to be activated for this technology to function.
How Can Disasters Impact Alarm Systems?
If you are required to evacuate due to a disaster, do you have a plan in place to avoid potential false alarms from your alarm system? Taking a few simple steps before a disaster occurs, will help to avoid potential problems and the uncertainty that comes when you are required to make quick decisions in the face of a disaster.
- If you install a generator to prepare for power outages, discuss with your alarm company how to connect the alarm system, as well as the procedures to follow before a disaster occurs.
- Ensure that your contact list and information is always kept current. You should contact your alarm company at least once per year to update.
If you relocate in an emergency, contact your alarm company with phone numbers of where you can be reached and provide them with the phone number of a contact person outside the immediate area, if available.
What Is Your Identity Password?
When an alarm activation occurs and the alarm company calls, the alarm operator will ask, “What is your password?” Few customers will answer this question correctly on the first try. Your Identity Password is the word you gave your alarm company when you had the system installed, which identifies you to the alarm company as an authorized alarm user. It should be a word that is familiar to you and can easily be recalled. The Identity Password may be called a passcode, password, personal identification code (PIC) or personal identification number (PIN) by your alarm company. Your Identity Password is NOT your entry/exit code.
What Is Your Entry/Exit Code?
When your alarm system was installed, the installer asked you to select a secret entry/exit code – the sequence of numbers (usually 4 digits) that you press into the keypad to arm or disarm your system. You probably selected a number that would be easy to remember for you and others who would be using your system. When the alarm company calls, this may be the first number that you recall because you use it so frequently, but it is not your Identity Password. Remember, it is a secret code that only you and other authorized users of your alarm system know. The entry/exit code cannot identify you as an authorized user to the alarm monitoring company, because it is not on file with them.