A Bridge to FARA

Making up what it lacks in fanfare with tireless dedication, the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA) and its government/public safety agency members pursue knowledge, legislation and partnerships central to the cause. SSI meets with FARA presidents, past and present, and two other board members to discuss the state of false alarm reduction and relationships among responders and security providers.

The responding law enforcement community resoundingly values and seeks to strengthen partnering with the security alarm industry for the betterment of public safety. This was proven by SSI’s landmark 2011 Law Enforcement Security Industry Study of 1,300+ respondents when some 94% commended the industry for providing useful crime deterrents. And the feeling’s mutual as the research also showed that 98% of security companies place importance on relationships with law enforcement. 

Those findings are particularly gratifying for members of the False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), which since 1997 has been one of the leading organizations responsible for uniting responding agencies, security firms and end users to effectively manage and maximize the effectiveness of alarm systems. FARA is primarily comprised of persons employed by government and public safety agencies in charge of working in false alarm reduction units. Its newsletters, conferences and education serves hundreds of North American members for the exchange of information, influencing legislation and establishing relationships with others interested in false alarm reduction.

The association’s top three objectives are: 1) provide a forum for local government alarm ordinance managers to exchange information on successful false alarm reduction programs; 2) serve as a clearinghouse for agencies seeking to reduce false alarms; and 3) foster an environment of cooperation among public safety, the alarm industry and the alarm user. FARA is also a founding partner with SSI and the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) in the Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) program.

Despite its important purpose, dedicated participants and meaningful work it does, FARA’s limited funds and unglamorous, utilitarian nature have resulted in a relatively low profile. To lend the organization and especially its message more of the attention and credit it deserves, SSI interviewed four of the group’s most prominent associates while taking part in this year’s FARA Training Symposium in Albuquerque, N.M.

Addressing the alarm management issues were: Debbie Hansen, false alarm reduction coordinator, Naperville (Ill.) Police Department; Amy Lowe, alarm coordinator , emergency communications center, Lynchburg, Va.; Gerry Miller, supervisor, alarm program communications center, Peel Regional Police, Brampton, Ontario, Canada; and Kerri McDonald, alarm enforcement unit, Riverside (Calif.) Police Department. McDonald took over for Miller this year as the association’s president, while Hansen and Lowe are also FARA board members.

Heartening as the recent research may be, reducing false alarms/dispatches and fortifying the alarm company-user-responder circle remains a crucial and ongoing mission. Read on to discover the key trends, technologies, challenges and opportunities affecting this sometimes delicate balance from the intimate vantage point of these highly engaged public servants.

Kerri, what initiatives are you looking at as FARA’s new president?

Kerri McDonald: I’ve been involved in FARA for numerous years, most recently as chair of the Training Certification Committee. FARA is going to still be looking at false alarm reduction efforts, how we can contribute, what the association can do as a whole to look at new ways to reduce alarms, any new methods out there. That’s always our main focus and main goal. Then to increase our membership, create awareness, build the partnership and relationships. And to keep that going with the alarm industry, the alarm user, software vendors, anyone and everyone with a vested interest in false alarm reduction. We’re looking toward developing our false fire alarm reduction efforts — putting out publications, manuals and guides pertaining not just to burglary, which we already have, but also fire.

What is the value you get from belonging to FARA?

Amy Lowe: It’s invaluable. I get the networking with people. Mainly, though, I get to discuss a lot of the issues I’m having because I am the only person who does the alarms where I am. I find out things others are doing that’s working for them. I can then share that with upper command and tell them these are the things these jurisdictions are doing; can we try to implement this or can we try to do this? That one’s really big for me. Then, of course, you gain friendships. You also learn about new agencies. I get to use all that to incorporate into my program.

Let’s talk about some of the challenges with alarm management and permitting you face in your local jurisdictions.

Debbie Hansen: I am very fortunate that we’ve had an alarm ordinance [in Naperville, Ill.] since the 1980s. So when I took the job over six years ago, there were many things in place already that were helping to reduce false alarms. I was able to continue with those things that had been established. Then, of course, with what I’ve been learning through FARA we’ve changed our ordinance. We’ve updated it. We’ve changed our software, just different things to make it even a better a program, and see better results in reducing false alarms.

McDonald: Riverside [Calif.] has been pretty consistent over the years. I’ve been in the alarm unit for a little over 12 years now. We have seen some reduction. We had an ordinance revision in 2008. From that we saw around a 15% to 16% reduction in false alarms. Unfortunately, I haven’t brought up the statistics yet this year, but we were happy with those results. Before the changes in our ordinance went into effect we were right around 10,000 alarm responses in one year. We had dropped down to a little over 8,000.

I have gone out to several association meetings in California, with the Inland Empire Alarm Association and the Orange County Alarm Association chapters of the California Alarm Association. I work with them, keep in continual contact. There are still some key players we need to bring in but as a whole we’ve established a good relationship. Anything that would arise in my city or any assistance they may need, we consult each other, ask each other questions and have really fostered a good relationship.

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About the Author


Scott Goldfine is the marketing director for Elite Interactive Solutions. He is the former editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He can be reached at [email protected].

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