Prevent false alarms

Don’t cry wolf! 10 ways to prevent false alarms

February 20, 2015

Be a responsible alarm user

Have you ever heard an alarm sounding in your neighborhood? Did you check to see what was happening – or did you assume it was a mistake?

Your false alarm can annoy your neighbors. If your alarm system “cries wolf” too many times, an alarm triggered by an actual emergency could be ignored.

In responding to a false alarm, Public Safety dispatch consumes time and resources that could be used to pursue actual emergencies. The response could create a hazard for the responding officer and for others. For these reasons your city or county may have an ordinance requiring a fine for excessive false alarm dispatches. A few cities have enacted ordinances that call for no response at all.

10 ways to prevent false alarms

  • This is one of the primary causes of false alarms – people who have a key but don’t know how to use the alarm. Everyone who has access to your premises should know how to use the alarm. All persons who will be turning the alarm system on or off should be shown how to check for unsecured doors and windows, how to arm the alarm and exit, what to do if the user forgets something and needs to re-enter, how to contact the monitoring station, how to cancel an alarm caused by user error and how to contact the alarm company if assistance is needed. Your account number and password will be needed in the event that the user has to contact the monitoring station or your alarm company.
  • If someone has a key, they should also have a code. If someone has a key to your home or business, that person should also have the code for the alarm system.
  • Have problems fixed immediately. If you discover a problem like a loose door or window sensor or a damaged door or window, make sure to call your alarm company to have the problem resolved before you use the system.
  • Keep your contact info updated at the monitoring station. If you change a contact phone number or person, make sure to pass the information along to your monitoring station or alarm company.
  • Think about how your pets might affect the alarm. Make sure your alarm company knows about any pets when designing your system. Your motion detector may interpret your pet as an intruder. Notify your alarm company if you acquire any new furry friends. Remember that rodents and other unwanted critters can cause a problem too.
  • Notify your alarm company about any remodeling. Always let your alarm company know about any new remodeling project that can affect the alarm system.
  • Make sure your alarm system batteries are fresh. The battery in your alarm system’s control box should be replaced every 3 years or so. A low battery can trigger a false alarm in the event of a power glitch or power failure.
  • Watch for items that could affect your motion detector. As an example, a new display in a business or floating balloons can cause false alarms.
  • Make sure to check with your alarm company if you move furniture or install new drapes. Major changes in your interior layout could affect your motion detector’s coverage or sensitivity.
  • Ask your alarm company for ECV or Enhanced Call Verification. ECV is a procedure where up to two user phone numbers are called prior to public safety dispatch. A common cause of false alarms is user errors and this procedure has been statistically proven to reduce false alarm calls.

A technology that has been around for a number of years is the “dual-technology” detector. This type of detector employs two kinds of technology for sensing an intruder – for instance, a microwave motion sensor and a passive infrared (body heat) sensor. This type of motion detector is often used in warehouses and other less controllable environments. Another example is a sensor that detects the audio signature of a breaking window coupled with the vibration caused by the breaking glass. Both technologies must trigger simultaneously to create an actual alarm.

If you want to be at the cutting-edge of false alarm prevention technology, talk to your alarm company about video or audio verification. These features allow your monitoring office to see or listen-in to your location following the triggering of your alarm. Also ask about “cross-zoning” of motion detectors or other sensors.

Common sense and care goes a long way toward preventing false alarms. Be a responsible alarm user!


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