Guidelines can reduce false-alarm costs
By working in cooperation with alarm companies, law-enforcement entities can reduce the number of dispatches associated with false alarms by half, according to speakers at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials last month in Las Vegas.
For public-safety entities, dispatching personnel and equipment to respond to false alarms is a significant issue, because it requires using resources when no response is needed — something most entities want to especially avoid in the current economic climate, when many are faced with tight budgets and fewer resources.
The alarm industry is trying to help the cause by working with law enforcement to reduce the number of false alarms that result in public-safety dispatches, said Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC).
One way to reduce the number of false-alarm dispatches is to require security companies to follow enhanced call verification guidelines, also known as two-call verification. When a security monitoring center receives an alarm, the standard procedure is to make a call to the premise, Martin said. SIAC recommends the security company make a second call to the cell phone of someone in charge of the facility before calling law enforcement to make a dispatch.
“It’s amazing how many times a customer knows why they don’t require a dispatch,” Martin said. “The second call is only delaying the call to the center by less than a minute. And 30-second-to-1-minute delays are not going to get you there any quicker, because [alarm dispatches] aren’t priority-one calls in most areas.”
Such an approach can reduce false-alarm dispatch by between 50% and 70%, Martin said. In Boulder, Colo., the two-call strategy resulted in a 67% reduction in false-alarm dispatches, said Glen Mowery, SIAC law-enforcement liaison representative and former deputy chief from Charlotte/Mecklenburg (N.C.) Police Department.
Commercial buildings typically generate three times as many false alarms as residential properties, and 80% of those alarms are caused by user error — “just people making dumb mistakes,” Martin said. Other key causes of false alarms include an improper use of a security application — for example, putting the wrong sensor in the wrong place — and power-related issues, as many backup battery systems are not maintained properly.
Many of these issues can be remedied, but some commercial property owners simply view fines associated with false-alarm dispatches to be “a cost of doing business,” Martin said. To combat this perception, SIAC recommends rules that include escalating fines for false-alarm dispatches to the same premise, with chronic abusers subject to not receiving public-safety response at all.
“Once people know they’re going to lose response, they take corrective action, and that is what’s necessary,” Martin said, noting that response should be reinstated when the corrective action is taken in the security system in question.