On the Brink’s of No False Alarms
“We recognized the business necessity to reduce false alarms. We’re a company that has always worked to control false alarms. [Plus] it’s good corporate citizenship to partner with law enforcement,” says Carole Vanyo, senior vice president of customer operations for Brink’s Home Security. That mentality, program execution and outstanding reduction in false alarm dispatches has resulted in the company winning the second annual Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.
The Irving, Texas-headquartered national alarm systems and services provider was notified of the PDQ honor earlier this year when it was jointly announced by the program’s organizers: the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and Security Sales & Integration.
Brink’s was subsequently recognized for its accomplishment with the official award presentation at SSI’s SAMMY Awards March 27 in Las Vegas, and later during a ceremony conducted by FARA and local law enforcement leaders in Montgomery County, Md., the region where the company achieved an astounding false dispatch rate of .17.
It was eight years ago when Brink’s — a name synonymous with security since starting out as a delivery operation in 1859 and that today serves in excess of a million (primarily residential) customers throughout North America — became more serious than ever about false alarms.
“What happened was an increasing focus and intensity of our efforts,” continues Vanyo. “In looking at the drivers of customer disconnects, we identified key indicators, one of which was dispatch satisfaction and activity. This, coupled with the desire to improve agency and industry relationships, intensified our efforts.”
Established in 2005 (Pittsburgh’s Vector Security was the initial recipient), 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.
With that in mind, Brink’s reveals how it created, implemented and continues to maintain its award-winning program. In addition, the alarm coordinator serving the jurisdiction where Brink’s notched such great success lends perspective from the law enforcement side. Finally, in a sidebar, PDQ runner-up Alarm Detection Systems (ADS) of Aurora, Ill., discusses its approach and formation of a False Alarm Reduction Team.
Intensive Approach to False Alarms Carries Over to Entry
When it comes to submission-based award programs, the saying “You have to be in it to win it” rings true. However, just entering, no matter how worthy the applicant, provides no guarantee of recognition. As most “A” students learn in school, you have to give the teacher, or in this case the judges, what they are looking for. That means studying the judging criteria and providing as much detailed supporting material as possible to make your case.
This strategy was not lost on Brink’s, which clearly did its homework and submitted a voluminous, three-ring binder packed with all the relevant materials needed to address each and every aspect of its comprehensive false alarm reduction regimen. The company tabbed 11 separate sections that included examples and explanations of all its practices.
When considered along with Brink’s proven and impressive results, its well-organized presentation served as a reflection of just how serious — company-wide — it is about false alarm reduction. Ultimately, this complete package won over the three-judge PDQ Award panel.
“We’re involved in alarm reduction efforts on a lot of fronts, and felt the overall company resources dedicated to alarm reduction made entering a worthwhile pursuit,” explains Vanyo. “We’re very pleased to win. It reflects well on our employees and the initiatives we’ve undertaken. It’s been a long, sustained effort and the award is a nice culmination that tells our people ‘good job.’”
Team Effort, Dedicated Personnel Lend Power to Program
In addition to Vanyo, the primary people responsible for developing, implementing and fine tuning the firm’s false alarm program include Chris Cage, former vice president and general counsel who recently moved over to Brink’s parent company; Kathleen Schraufnagel, who works on permitting, government and ordinance issues; and Jay Autry and Darin Anderson on the monitoring and permitting side of the business.
Vanyo also credits the company’s product development group, which tests new panels and ensures specific features get built in, as well as technical operations for assuring systems are installed properly and that customers know how to use them.
“It’s an ongoing effort,” she adds. “We don’t consider the mission to be finished. Issues are identified during the course of doing business and we address them and move on. We participate in solutions to problems that arise industry-wide, always looking to get involved early and be part of the team that crafts how to proceed.”
To that end, one of the unique approaches Brink’s has taken to reduce false alarms is the commitment of two positions to work on these issues with local governments. Resources and time are dedicated nationally and to local jurisdictions like Montgomery County. Staff members in these roles also participate in organizations like the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), SIAC and FARA.
Full Complement of Proven Practices Are Deployed
In its submission materials, Brink’s went to painstaking lengths to illustrate how it meets or exceeds the demanding requirements of the PDQ Award, which is graded according to the qualifications set forth in 14 different categories.
These areas include various levels of customer training, communication and false alarm counseling/discipline, technicians being NTS Level I or II (or equivalent) certified, installing SIA CP-01 compliant control panels, employing Enhanced Call Verification (ECV), demonstrating good relations with law enforcement and proof of a low dispatch rate.
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