3 Ways to Stop False Alarms

So, you’ve installed an intrusion system with burglar alarms that automatically calls the police whenever it senses a break-in. Congratulations! Your business will now pay thousands in false alarm penalty fees.

But don’t worry! We have some easy ways to dramatically decrease your false alarm rate through enhanced verification processes.

Why False Alarms Are a Problem

False alarms distract law enforcement from true crimes, wasting the authorities’ time and resources. The Suffolk County police department, for example, responded to 97,000 false alarms in 2015 alone. Those alarms wasted more than 32,000 patrol hours. 98% of the San Jose Police Department’s burglar alarm calls were false alarms, throwing away $662,000 worth of policework.

These local examples are far from unique. According to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (COPS), the United States’ national rate of false alarms is 94–98%. Taxpayers paid for $1.8 billion in wasted police time and resources due to false alarms.

Consequently, municipalities across the country legislated various requirements for residential and commercial alarm systems. These local rules must be followed for the police to respond to an alarm call.

  • Domestic and commercial alarm system owners must register their address with the local police department, purchasing permits for use. Those who fail to do so will incur penalty fees for police response to alarm calls.
  • While the first one or two false alarms may let system owners off with a warning, municipalities may charge service fines for subsequent false alarms. In Suffolk County, false alarms can cost up to $500 per incident in “false alarm penalty.”
  • Some police departments even require “verification” of an alarm event before they’ll dispatch patrol officers, which we’ll explain in a moment.

3 Ways to Verify an Alarm

Alarm verification could include sound, video, or eyewitness accounts that guarantee a crime is, in fact, taking place.

  • Sound verification includes audio recordings of the monitored area that indicate unauthorized entry. Unrecognized voices, breaking doors or windows, screams or shouts — sensors can record these sounds and save the files for human verification.
  • Eyewitness verification includes a corroborating account of unauthorized access by a neighbor, who calls into the station as the alarm call comes in. The central monitoring center can also call keyholders to verify alarms. Keyholders and home owners may also verify alarms directly from the keypad in the building, if they’re on-site while an alarm occurs.
  • Video verification involves syncing a security system’s video cameras to a specific alarm panel’s “zone” of protection. When an alarm occurs, a video clip from the camera is automatically attached to the alarm and sent with the alarm to a keyholder and/or the central alarm system. This process allows for visual verification of in-progress crimes.

Alarm System Verification Protocols

An alarm panel’s automatic verification process follows several steps. Perhaps a first step would be sending a push notification of an alarm to a keyholder’s mobile device. A mobile alert system gives the keyholder up to a minute to manually verify (or cancel) the alarm. If a keyholder doesn’t respond in that time frame, the security company’s central monitoring center may manually call keyholders for verbal verification. Meanwhile, the company may review associated audio and video files to judge the alarm independently.

This multiple-step verification process by professional security monitoring companies can vastly cut down on false alarms and increase police response time. (After all, police typically respond faster to a verified crime-in-progress than to an unverified alarm.)

If you’re not sure what your security company’s verification process is, call your account representative. He or she can review the steps their security service takes to verify alarms before police notification.

If you have an Eyewitness Surveillance intrusion system synced with live video surveillance and our access control systems, then your burglar alarm sensors are synced to area-specific alarm zones. Video clips are automatically saved and sent with the alarm notification to your mobile device. You can manually review video to verify or cancel the alarm. (This automated video verification is in addition to any custom protocols you establish as part of your comprehensive security plan.)

If that interests you, then please contact us. We’d be happy to develop a customized security plan that incorporates exactly the technologies and professional security support your business needs — not a camera or a penny more.


Originally published at Eyewitness Surveillance.