Across the US we are seeing more cities, town and counties implementing alarm system registration requirements and false alarm fines. That means you, the wise and enlightened homeowner with a monitored alarm, need to make sure your system is registered anywhere it’s required, and that you are doing everything you can to avoid false alarms. Three recent new articles make the point.
Home-security systems provide comfort to home and business owners, but the alarm calls can cost police departments hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources. At least 94 percent of the security-alarm calls are false, according to national authorities. At a time when agencies are searching for ways to trim costs, many Valley cities have taken action to curb false-alarm calls. Peoria is among the latest to tackle the problem.
A Common Problem
The issue has grown as more people install security systems. In the past decade, the number of security-alarm systems in homes and businesses doubled from about 17 million to 34 million, according to Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, a national industry group. The Texas-based coalition formed in 2003 to address the high rate of false alarms. “It was and still is a serious issue,” Martin said.
What Causes False Alarms
Human error is often the culprit. An employee may enter the wrong code or a homeowner forgets to close a window before the security system is activated. Cities nationwide have clamped down. Starting next month, Los Angeles will charge at least $151 for the first false alarm. Martin said better education for owners on handling alarm systems and enhanced verification [calling two numbers to verify an alarm prior to dispatching police] have helped lower the number of alarms going off or getting routed to police. Local and national officials credit double verification alone for a 25 to 40 percent drop in the number of alarm calls to police.
What Other Cities Do
Still, false alarms continue to account for 94 to 98 percent of all alarms, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Across Arizona, in the past five or six years, cities including Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, Gilbert and Tucson have passed laws to address the problem. Starting in 2010, alarm owners in Phoenix are allowed one false-alarm response without a fine, instead of two, within a one-year period. Phoenix also requires enhanced verification. Early numbers show success. Phoenix saw about 6,000 fewer false alarms, or a 14 percent drop from fiscal year 2010 to 2011. Still, the city had 37,000 false alarms last fiscal year. The city pegs the savings at more than half a million dollars. “It’s not just the cost, it’s also about having our police officers freed up to respond to real emergencies in the community,” Patti Rea, unit manager of the Phoenix Police Department’s code-enforcement unit, said.
Adams County, Mississippi
Homeowners who set off their home security systems but don’t let authorities know it was a false alarm could soon face fines. The Natchez Democrat reports the board of supervisors adopted last week an ordinance that would levy a fine against homeowners the third time the sheriff’s office or the Natchez Police Department has to respond to a false alarm on their property. The ordinance states that if the sheriff’s office has to respond to three false alarms on the same site within a year, the owner of the site will be fined $10. The fine would increase to $25 with five or more false alarm calls.
Fairlawn, New Jersey
Borough manager Tom Metzler will propose to council Tuesday another revenue generation mechanism for the borough: security system registration. While he declined to provide estimated cost figures, Metzler said that under the ordinance anyone who has a security system would pay an annual registration fee and be subject to fines if their system malfunctions repeatedly, forcing police to unnecessarily rush to their address and waste borough resources.
Good Alarm Systems Make Good Neighbors
There is currently no requirement for residents to register their alarm system, and while fines are imposed after two warnings, they are not tiered based on the number of violations. In addition to generating revenue and providing the borough with valuable emergency contact information on residents, the proposed ordinance would potentially improve the quality of life for the neighbors of an individual with a malfunctioning alarm system. “[The neighbors] are calling us complaining because there’s an audible alarm going off all night,” said Metzler, who experienced the complaints firsthand when he worked as a dispatcher. “If we have a registration, we can call next of kin and say, ‘Hey, we need you to go in and shut this alarm off.’”
What You Can Do – False Alarm Reduction Tips
- Make sure the system is properly grounded, if an old-school system with the “box in the basement.” A self-enclosed system (such as the GE Simon XT sold by FrontPoint) does not require grounding.
- Make sure there are surge protectors on both the alarm system and your phone line – if you still have an alarm system that requires a phone line! Cellular monitoring is safer and more reliable.
- Repair loosing fitting doors and windows. But remember, modern sensors (especially the wireless variety) are more forgiving in this regard. You don’t need to use door and window contacts with wide gap allowances.
- Make sure contacts are firmly anchored. Most sensors being installed today are wireless – and small. The best companies provide the best adhesive.
- Make sure the battery backup is charged. Loudon County recommends alarm system batteries be able to hold a charge for at least four hours, and that’s the basic requirement of any equipment listed by UL (Underwriters Laboratories). The GE Security Simon XT has a 24-hour rechargeable backup battery, just like every GE Security control unit.
Of course, once your alarm system is registered, your best protection against false alarm fines is to reduce the false alarms themselves. That’s where having advanced features (such asnotifications, remote arming/disarming, and video services)can make a tremendous difference in your favor. You also want equipment that is tested and proven for false alarm reduction: demand UL-listed equipment, and be sure to ask your company about CP01 compliance for your system’s ease of use (required in some states). As the leader in wireless home security and the #1 ranked alarm company in the US, FrontPointknows all about false alarm reduction. We use GE Security equipment, which meets the most stringent requirements. Plus, we’ll help you get your permit, if you need one, and then we’ll work with you so your system works – when you need it to.