Preventing False Alarms
What is a false alarm dispatch and why do they happen?
A false alarm occurs anytime an alarm unexpectedly goes off. Most happen by accident and are preventable. When a false alarm does happen, the security company has no way of knowing that it’s going off by mistake, so the police are still contacted and dispatched to the property. The thing with false alarms is that very few happen due to equipment failure. In fact, according to a study by the International Chiefs of Police, 80 percent of all false alarm cases occur due to human error. But how common are false alarms? They occur more than you’d expect and rake in tons of unnecessary police time and resources.
False alarms: happening in large numbers
Of course false alarms are bound to happen at least once to everyone. But in actuality, they happen at a surprisingly high rate. Of all calls that the police take that are alarm related, an upwards of 94 to 99 percent are due to false alarms. Larger cities are bound to have a high volume of false alarm instances. For example, the following cities back in 2000 provided the following instances of false alarm numbers:
- Chicago, Illinois: The city had a total of 300,000 burglary alarm calls. Only 2 percent were actual burglaries or burglar attempts, this means that 98 percent of these calls were false alarms.
- Seattle, Washington: The city had a total of 30,000 burglary alarm calls. False alarms accounted to 97.5 percent of these.
- Dekalb, Georgia: The city had a reported 144,000 burglary alarm calls. 61 percent of these were false alarms.
The costs of false alarms
Police have to respond to burglary alarm calls. It’s their duty to protect their citizens. When a false alarm call happens, there’s no way for them to know—meaning they still have to go to the property and check out the scene. A report in 2000 shows that there were 36 million false alarm calls. These cost a total of almost $2 billion in resources. It’s a costly amount that is literally spent on a mistake. Had these false alarms not happened, an estimated 35,000 police would be reassigned to other duties within their field.
Homeowners can face false alarm fines
There are some repercussions for homeowners who have a false alarm. A total of 30,000 cities now can exercise fines. Typically these fines are low for the first offense or two (typically only $25-$35 per offense). However, these fines steady go up with repeated instances (fines can then go into the hundreds of dollars per offense). Do you know if your city has a false alarm fine? You might want to check with your local police. Police are simply trying to find a way to curb the amount of false alarm burglary calls in their areas…after all, most can be avoided since they are due to user error.
Ways to reduce the possibility of a false alarm
To prevent any unnecessary fines and to simply prevent the likelihood of a false alarm occurring within your home, there are a few steps you can follow. They are simple, but can certainly improve how you use your alarm system.
- 1. Learn your security code. It’s important that you remember your alarm code. That way, you won’t have to make multiple attempts to turn off the alarm. And if you forget it completely, you’ll have to contact your alarm system provider to help you completely reset the code.
- 2. Get pet immune motion sensors. Some sensors aren’t pet-friendly. So if you do have pets, ensure you have a motion sensor that won’t go off by their slightest movements.
- 3. Shut all windows and doors before arming the alarm. When you arm your system, you have to ensure that all window or doors are properly closed (and locked to be extra safe). They have sensors that will trigger the alarm if they aren’t closed.
- 4. Turn your alarm on and off within the designated time. Every alarm gives you a certain amount of time to arm and leave a system or enter and disarm a system. Not getting in or out within the allotted time frame will trigger the alarm. So give yourself plenty of time.
- 5. Instruct your house sitter on how to use the alarm system If you have someone watching your home while you go out of town, make sure they know how to properly use your alarm system. They can easily make a mistake if you don’t walk them through the process.
- 6. Replace alarm batteries when they get low. Most alarm systems have a battery life of five years. When you feel like you are encroaching the five-year mark, make sure you replace your alarm batteries.
- 7. Be aware of bad weather. Sometimes bad weather can accidently trigger the alarm, so keep an eye on your alarm system during any type of storms or power outages. The battery backup with many systems helps reduce the likelihood of anything happening due to the weather.