What are the Best Ways to Prevent False Alarms?

There are many "best" ways to prevent false alarms. The key to stopping false security system alarms is to follow a set of recommended practices. You must be careful when using your alarm system to avoid making a mistake and causing a false alarm. Remember, a false alarm can be very costly!

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A false alarm refers to any alarm on a security system that results in an unnecessary response by the local authorities. With that in mind, false alarms can really only occur on a security system that is set up with monitoring service and connectivity with a central monitoring station. You might have an unnecessary alarm on an unmonitored or a self-monitored system, but it wouldn't be considered a "false alarm", due to the fact that no unnecessary dispatch from the local authorities ever occurred.

When an alarm occurs on a system with central monitoring service, the system sends out a signal using its alarm monitoring communicator. This signal is ultimately received by a trained operator at the central station. The operator will then follow the instructions listed on the end user's account to respond to the signal. Most users have their central station accounts set up so that an operator will attempt to call the end user when an alarm comes through. The end user must provide their false alarm passcode to verify that everything is alright and no dispatch is required. If the central station operator is unable to contact the user, or if the user is unable to provide the proper false alarm passcode on file with the monitoring station, then dispatch will occur. And if this dispatch was unneeded, then the alarm would be considered a false alarm. It's also worth mentioning that dispatch will also occur if the user speaks their verbal duress code at any time while on the line with the central station operator, even if they also provide their false alarm passcode. Accidentally saying the verbal duress code would therefore cause a false alarm.

False alarms are something that should be avoided at all costs. They waste the time and resources of the local authorities. Repeated false alarms may cause the local authorities to refuse to respond to the location. This is unfortunate if at a later time, there is a true emergency. Many jurisdictions enforce fines and penalties for false alarms. These fines and penalties may be assessed to the end user and/or their monitoring company, depending on the jurisdiction. Alarm Grid passes on any false alarm fines to the end user, as we give customers all the resources they need to prevent most false alarms.

Below are some best practices for preventing false alarms. Please note that this list will be updated as we become aware of more practices for false alarm prevention.

Store all central station Caller ID phone numbers in any phone that may be contacted by the central station. This is important for recognizing that the numbers are not telemarketers and/or SPAM or Robo calls. If possible, the numbers should be designated to go through, even if the phone is in "Do Not Disturb" mode. Keep the phone off of "silent" so that no incoming calls from the central station are missed. Alarm Grid customers receiving central station monitoring service from Criticom Monitoring Services (CMS) can find the CMS phone numbers listed in this blog post. If you are not an Alarm Grid customer, be sure to ask you alarm dealer for the numbers of the monitoring station.

Always remember the false alarm passcode for the central station account. Choose a password that you, as well as all other individuals who may be called prior to dispatch, will be able to remember. In some cases, it may be wise to write down the false alarm passcode and store it somewhere that can be quickly accessed, in case you are ever in a fluster with a central station call and experiencing a lapse of memory. Just remember that if an intruder is able to access this passcode and know what it is, then your security will be compromised. And NEVER confuse your false alarm passcode with your verbal duress code.

Know the Master Code or a valid user code for your system so that you can disarm at the panel or a keypad. Make sure that everyone permitted to use the security system knows a valid code or has their own. Never confuse a user code with the emergency duress code. Entering the duress code at any time will result in immediate emergency dispatch. The duress code is a 4-digit code used at the system or keypad, and is different from the Verbal Duress Code that you may speak to the central station operator. If you are not sure if your system has a duress code programmed, check with your alarm company.

Set all Entry Delays and Exit Delays appropriately. Know how they are set for your system so that you do not accidentally trigger an alarm from waiting too long to disarm your system or while you are leaving the premises after arming. For more information on Entry Delays and Exit Delays, please see this helpful guide.

Properly test your system to ensure that no sensors may become faulted by accident. This is commonly referred to as a "Walk Test". This is particularly important for motion detection sensors, as they are often the most prone to causing false alarms. If you are using motion sensors for pet immunity, then make sure to test this feature by having your pets walk around the room to see if they trigger any alarms. Make sure to properly install motion sensors so that they are not activated by non-human activity. Remember to always place your system on test mode prior to testing. Perform regular system tests in case any sensors shift or adjust positions over time.

Use motion sensors on the lowest sensitivity setting possible to prevent unwanted activation. Increasing the pulse count for a Passive Infrared (PIR) motion sensor will decrease its sensitivity. Check the instruction manual for your motion sensor to see if this is possible.

Use a security system approved by the Security Industry Association (SIA) for false alarm prevention. Most systems will allow you to configure reporting settings so that they are in compliance with the recommendations of the SIA. Adjust the settings accordingly so that false alarms are prevented. Your monitoring company should be able to help you with this, if necessary.

Use false alarm prevention features, such as Auto-Stay Arming, alarm reporting delay, etc. Check the manual for your system to find out if these features are available. Ask your alarm monitoring company about additional features you can set up on your system to prevent false alarms.

Never use a central station monitored security system without giving the central station at least some method for contacting you when an alarm occurs. If your phone number changes, be sure you notify your alarm company immediately so that their records can be updated. Many false alarms are the result of the central station being REQUIRED to dispatch when an alarm occurs and they can't get in touch with anyone to verify whether it is false. Always have a pre-dispatch call list with accurate contact information set up on your account.

Make sure that any doors with sensors attached are not accidentally left ajar. A loose door that swings open can cause a false alarm on a system.

Do not allow children or irresponsible adults to operate or "play with" a security system. A security system is not a toy. Teach children about the system so that they are not tempted to start fiddling with an alarm panel, sensor, or security system keypad.

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