False alarms are a major problem for today’s local authorities. According to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments responded to over 2,238,000 false alarms in 2012, equaling one out of every 12 calls received. That means that one out of 12 times that the authorities respond, they’re wasting their time and costing the city millions of dollars in unnecessary resources.
What the Government Does to Prevent False Alarms
Due to the cost associated with these false alarms, many cities have taken measures to prevent false alarms and allow police officers to focus on more urgent issues. For example, in many cities, you must register your alarm system or obtain an alarm permit from your city police department in order for them to respond to your alarm system when it is triggered. This is typically a yearly fee between $10 and $50 and is designed to discourage police response to false alarms. If an alarm system owner does not have a permit, in many cases, the police will not respond to the alarm. However, your alarm system monitoring company will still contact you directly in the event of a break in, and you in turn can contact the police if the trigger is a real one.
In addition, if you own a permit and do set off a false alarm, you typically will be charged for each occurrence. These are charges that municipalities are billing to your alarm system company for wasting their resources, and your alarm system company passes these charges on to you.
Reducing false alarms not only benefits the police department but is also good news for anyone who owns an alarm system. Since so many resources are needed to respond to each alarm, less false alarms means a quicker response time from police in the event of a real emergency; when the authorities aren’t wasting time chasing imaginary intruders, they can use their time more efficiently.
What You Can Do to Prevent False Alarms
There are a number of things that can trigger a false alarm, and most can be prevented with a little knowledge or infrastructure improvements. Here’s how to prevent false alarms from occurring on your property.
Install your System Correctly
When you’re installing your system on your own, prevent any errors by aligning all sensors correctly and programming the system to communicate effectively with the monitoring company. Be sure to double-check the instructions when installing your own security system, or to consult with a professional or customer service representative.
Prevent User Mistakes
Though your alarm system installation team should train users on how to use their system or provide detailed instructions, many times a false alarm can be triggered because the user does not know how to disarm it. Make sure you familiarize yourself with your system before arming it for the first time, and communicate those instructions to everyone in your household who will be utilizing the system. A particularly confusing feature of alarm systems is the “alarm away” vs. “alarm stay” setting. “Alarm away” will activate all sensors in the home include indoor motion sensors. “Alarm stay” will only arm perimeter sensors, allowing you to roam freely within your home without setting off any false alarms.
Repair Defective Equipment
While your alarm system company may guarantee your equipment, there’s always a chance that it is not functioning correctly. This can mean that your alarm is triggered when it shouldn’t be, or that sensors are sending off alarm signals when there is nothing to be alarmed about. If you suspect that this is the problem, contact your alarm system company to repair or replace the faulty equipment.
Replace Low Batteries
Sometimes, if your power is cutting in and out, your alarm system can inadvertently be triggered. Since many components of an alarm system are powered by batteries, make sure to replace any low batteries to prevent this from happening. When available, set reminders on your alarm system’s notification center to alert you when the batteries are running low.
Consider your Pets (and Unwanted Animal Visitors)
Motion sensors, both indoor and outdoor, are sometimes sensitive enough to be triggered by rodents or large insects, and your pet can also be a reason that your sensors are being triggered. Talk to your alarm system company about pet-friendly sensors so that your dog or cat does not accidentally set off the motion detectors in the middle of the night. If you have a rodent or insect problem, contact your alarm system company to let them know that there is a risk your alarm will be set off by your unwanted guests to get suggestions on actions to take (I would recommend calling an exterminator first then calling your provider…).
Limit your Home Decorations
Just like pets can trigger motion detectors so too can balloons, streamers, banners and other decorations that might get in the way of sensors. When decorating for a holiday or a party, choose locations away from motion sensors, or deactivate your motion sensors during the time that the decorations will be installed. Take them down when no longer needed and reactivate your motion sensors.
Fix Shaky Doors and Windows
Your alarm system is activated when the connection between your door and the sensor connected to its frame is interrupted. High winds or loose windows can give your alarm system the impression that your doors or windows have been opened, triggering the alarm. Sturdy locks and sufficient sealing along your entryways can help prevent this.
Use a Remote or Mobile Access to Deactivate your Alarm
Because of the risk of user error, forgotten alarm codes, or accidental triggers, a remote or mobile deactivation option is useful to quickly disarm a sounding alarm. Most modern alarm systems offer a mobile app or keychain remote that allows users to disarm alarms with the touch of button.
By taking these extra measures to prevent false alarms, you can significantly decrease the amount of resources that are wasted on responding to false alarms, and save yourself the time and money that each false alarm consumes. Install your system correctly, make sure all users are well-trained on arming and disarming the system, set alerts for faulty equipment or low batteries, limit items that can trigger motion sensors, and utilize mobile controls when available.
If you’re in the market to purchase an alarm system for your home or small business, keep these tips in mind, and be sure to ask your preferred provider’s customer service representative for other ways to use their system properly to prevent false alarms.