ADS Wages War on False Alarms

While ADS does not stand for Accurate Dispatch Services, given Alarm Detection Systems’ history of false alarm reduction it just as well could. The security provider’s staunch approach, which includes a task force and fewer false dispatches amid baseline growth, has earned it 2007’s Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.

Mellissa Hodgetts is our in-house person in the service call center who runs reports daily to identify a problem in its infancy. She has the authority to create a service request for obvious problems and she relays the activity to Ron Buerger.

Buerger is a 10-year-plus false alarm reduction expert who is the primary person responsible for reducing false alarms from problem customers. He takes the failure to achieve solutions for problem customers as a personal challenge.

We also have a sales staff of more than 20 people who are very aware of the fact that this is a hot-button area with us, and they are diligent in getting additional phone numbers to be called before dispatch.

Our entire central station staff is 5-Diamond Certified, and is aware of the importance of making sure we are doing our due diligence in determining the validity of the call. It is a program that has been embraced company-wide, and our employees are all onboard with implementing it.

Any Costs Erased by Later Gains

What modifications to the plan had to be made along the way?

Bonifas: Customer contracts were amended stating that ADS would be implementing a second call. We also had to set our automation system up to list two phone numbers instead of just the primary one. We made a full-out effort to get reliable phone numbers from customers when we were having communications with them. We also started making two calls to the customer premises, so if they have call-waiting, and the phone is communicating with the panel, on the second call we can get through.

We try to avoid issues with a person not knowing or forgetting a passcode, as we will try to verify them by contacting an additional key holder. We will call the premises, and if we receive no answer but have a ‘cancel’ from the panel we will accept it as electronic verification.

How costly of an undertaking was this; how did you budget for it?

Bonifas: Fourteen years ago the cost was one full-time person in the field and some office time to manage the in-house false alarm data. We believed we were already suffering the expense of repeat service calls. The false alarm team concept merely shifted the problem customer to our false alarm expert from our other techs. So from a budget standpoint, we believed there would be a nominal budget impact, and we were right.

We now have six service department team leaders assigned problem customers by our on-the-road false alarm expert, and they have been trained to be experts in solving these problems as well.

Dealing With Clients, Cops, CP-01

What were the challenges in implementing the plan on the customer side?

Bonifas: As new customers become part of the ADS family, they are asked for names to call before dispatch. As far as getting information from established customers, we sent a mailing to all of our customers giving them full information on our anticipated change in process and asking them to supply us with secondary phone numbers. Customers who have given us feedback are impressed
and appreciate our efforts. 

What about the law enforcement side?

Bonifas: All law enforcement agencies were happy to hear of the second call verification. We had no problem getting any buy-in. Skeptics became believers when they saw the actual numbers improving as the program was implemented. 

What role do standards, practices and certifications play in successful alarm management?

Bonifas: CP-01 is and will be a major driver in reducing false alarms in the long run. That said, lacking an upgrade to a CP-01 panel, CP-01 will not solve the problem with some 20-million-plus legacy alarm systems. Enhanced Call Verification has the dramatic advantage of immediately impacting legacy systems, while new CP-01 systems can begin the first day the program is instituted.

Training and certification programs, such as 5-Diamond online training and certification of all central station personnel, make a major impact in more effectively verifying that an alarm signal is in fact false so we do not dispatch law enforcement.

Establishing a Model Program 

Do you believe others should use ADS’ approach?

Bonifas: Yes, we are a leader in the industry and have been more than willing to share our information with others who may want to model their improvements after ours. It is a situation that needs to be addressed by the entire industry. In fact, it is the only ethical thing to do. 

About the Author


Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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