UAA Convinces Police Dept. to Extend Alarm Response Policy

By Ashley Willis

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — After announcing that it would stop responding to unverified burglar alarms by May 1, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) has decided to extend its response policy until the end of the year. In February, SCSO announced that it would stop responding to alarms by March 1, citing that the department was “wasting too much time and money on false alarms,” according to a SCSO press release. The department reported spending up to 335 hours responding to 1,076 alarms — 98% of which were false — in 2012.

However, after meeting with the Utah Alarm Association (UAA), the department pushed the original March 1 deadline back to May 1, to give alarm companies time to contact their clients and update call list information. Still, the association continued to have more meetings with the department to persuade SCSO to reconsider its policy. UAA cited that unlike in bigger municipalities and metro areas, such as Salt Lake Valley, where alarm firms use contract guards to check on false alarms, alarm companies would not be able to provide responders to Summit County residents because of the county’s rural location in the hills.

“The sheriff realized that it wouldn’t be a good idea to announce that the department was going to stop responding after he realized that a guard company wouldn’t respond,” UAA At-Large Director Ed Bruerton tells SSI. “By doing that, he was going to throw the door open and say, ‘Come on in, burglars!’ Being an elected official, I don’t think he wanted to do that, so he backed off.”

Although SCSO will continue to respond to both verified and unverified burglar alarms, they will be considered low priority, The Park Record reports. Additionally, it is unclear how the county will handle alarm response in 2014.

In the meantime, Bruerton, who also owns Sandy, Utah-based Anchor Alarm, notes that UAA is doing its best to reduce false alarm rates, claiming that collectively, alarm companies in the Salt Lake area have an alarm rate of 0.21, an average of one false alarm every five years. “The alarm companies here in this area have the lowest false alarm rate in the country,” he says. “We don’t get a lot of credit for that, but we can certainly prove it from the records we’ve kept for 25 years.”

In order to keep the alarm rate low, it is imperative that alarm companies follow up on every false alarm to the best of their ability. “We don’t want to let it go until our customers get two or three of them,” Bruerton explains.

Additionally, Bruerton notes that the key to reducing alarm rates is accurately assessing false alarms. “I know what it takes to get the numbers down; you don’t just do it overnight,” he says. “The reason we’ve got such a low false alarm rate is that we measure it. I know that all companies measure what their sales departments are doing; they need to measure false alarms the same way.”

Ashley Willis is associate editor for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION. She can be reached at (310) 533-2419.

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