In the 1980s, "The A-Team" burst into TV viewers' living rooms to bring thugs to their knees when no one else could. Our industry has its own version of "The A-Team," only in this case the bad guys are false alarms and the mission is keeping unwanted dispatches from intruding on some of those same living rooms. The "A" stands for Alarm Detection Systems (ADS), and the grade it received in winning the 2007 Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.
The Aurora, Ill.-based security and fire installation, alarm monitoring and services provider has managed to slice its dispatches as a result of false alarms from what they were when it was only one-third its current size. The company's comprehensive commitment to false alarm reduction led a three-judge panel - one member apiece from program organizers the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and Security Sales & Integration — to recognize ADS for its special achievement.
Established in 2005 (Pittsburgh's Vector Security was the initial recipient; Brink's Home Security captured the 2006 honor), the PDQ program aims to stem the false alarm problem by recognizing those installing and monitoring companies that follow established industry practices and partner with law enforcement to achieve the highest quality in police dispatch requests. The goal is to raise industry-wide awareness, motivate alarm companies to be proactive and provide models that work for others to follow.
A runner-up for the 2006 PDQ Award (this year's runner-up was Custom Alarm), ADS and President/CEO Robert Bonifas have reputations as key proponents of proactive and effective alarm management practices. Family owned and operated since its founding more than 40 years ago, ADS protects homes and businesses throughout Northern Illinois and neighboring states against the threats of burglary, fire and medical emergencies, as well as low temperature and flood damage.
Bonifas, who was inducted into the Security Sales & Integration Hall of Fame in 2004, is a past president of both the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) and Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), and co-founder of the Security Network of America (SNA). In 1992, he chaired one of the original false alarm committees. It focused on three "Model Cities," including Elgin, Ill., which is part of ADS' territory.
How serious is ADS about false alarms? Enough to invest in at least one full-time false alarm reduction professional for 14 years, and to currently have several employees assisting on its False Alarm Reduction Team. Today, the company averages 15 fewer false alarms per day despite tripling its size. Its average number of false alarm dispatches per alarm site during 2007 was just .44.
ADS has implemented several other proven best practices, including clear, ongoing communications and training for customers and its own employees; use of SIA CP-01 compliant alarm control panels; deployment of Enhanced Call Verification (ECV); identification and immediate follow-up of problem accounts; frequent account updates; and development of a working partnership with responding law enforcement and firefighters.
In the following Q&A, Mr. B. (Bonifas) discusses how this methodology has been executed so spectacularly and why his "A-Team" feels no pity when it comes to thwarting false alarms.
First Step Is Taking Responsibility
What were the drivers in deciding to mount such a comprehensive false alarm reduction program?
Bonifas: We feel very strongly that being responsible for the dispatches made starts with the alarm company. We want to make every effort and have the police departments we work with want to continue to work in a cooperative way, and that takes some additional effort on our part. With police and fire resources stretched as far as they are, it's a responsible act for an alarm company to make an additional call or two and try to determine the validity of the situation.
We also believed that finding somewhat permanent solutions to problem customers would reduce our costs in the long run and history has proven us right.
Who are the people responsible for developing, implementing, fine tuning and maintaining the program?
Bonifas: We have three primary people who manage this program. Rick Raper, our central station manager, in addition to focusing his staff on making multiple call verification as effective as possible, is responsible to enter false alarm problem accounts identified by his central station personnel on the service log as a repeat false alarm problem.