Amherst Strong-Arms False Alarms

Discover the commitment and techniques that allowed Amherst Alarm to break the ice and capture its first Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award.

What were the drivers in Amherst Alarm deciding to mount such a comprehensive false alarm reduction program?
CREENAN: We decided back in the late 1990s to participate in the IQ Certification program to set us apart from our competition. We knew that certifications would show quality to people who were considering us to provide security systems for them. The natural results of using the IQ Certification program were the reduction of false alarms, better installations and better user training.

Who are the primary people responsible for implementing and maintaining the program? How was the mission accomplished organizationally?
CREENAN: We involve all the different departments of our company to help provide better customer satisfaction. Our installation manager, Joe Schmidt, is also our IQ compliance officer. His job is to make sure we comply with all the IQ regulations and guidelines to make sure systems are installed properly. One of the things we do is meet on a regular basis to review the top false alarm offenders in the company. We work with them to reduce and identify the causes of the false alarms.

What modifications to the plan had to be made along the way and why? What are some of the areas you would still like to see improvement?
CREENAN: We are constantly looking at the products we use to make sure they don’t cause false alarms. We’re also looking at installation methods to come up with better ways for installations to reduce false alarms. We review dispatches that are made on a daily basis, identify them as either a user or equipment error, and then respond accordingly.

How costly of an undertaking was this; how did you budget for it?
CREENAN: The initial investment of achieving a quality control program was around $500. Beyond that, the cost of administering the progr
am has been very minimal and has far outweighed the previous cost we incurred from investigating false dispatches. We’ve reduced the amount of dispatches to investigate because of these new practices and procedures in place when we became IQ certified.

How difficult was it to get Amherst’s personnel to conform to the new policies and procedures?
CREENAN: We explained to everyone in the sales, service, installation and monitoring departments the benefits of using these processes. For the most part, people were already doing the right things. We only had to tweak them slightly to make them better than before.

How do you coordinate efforts between your installation and monitoring departments/personnel? What are the advantages of operating your own central rather than contracting with a third-party monitoring company?
CREENAN: Each week the department managers have a meeting where they discuss the operations of the company. They discuss product issues, review a list of the top 50 false alarm generators, and look to see if service has been provided and if there are any errors we can retrain the customer on. It doesn’t take long for them to identify any potential customer responses.

The advantage of having our own central station is speed of communications between the installation, service and monitoring departments, and that they all work together as a team so customers are handled properly and data is entered correctly. When there is a problem, we find a quick and accurate solution so that the customer gets the best service.

What role do standards and practices play in successful alarm management?
CREENAN: The CP-01 standard is in all the security panels we install and sets a standard for system configuration. The Enhanced Call Verification procedure allows dispatchers to double check if someone made a mistake with their system before notifying the police. Usually it’s a second call to the customer’s cellphone, so if there’s a problem with someone operating the system setting it off accidently, the homeowner or business owner will know if someone is supposed to be there or not.

What were the challenges in implementing the plan on the customer side? What has the feedback been?
CREENAN: The customers get extra training from us that they typically don’t get from other security system companies. Our people go through a standardized system of training to make sure the customer knows how to operate the system, how to test the system, and how to cancel a false alarm. Our customers give us very positive responses.

Go inside Amherst Alarm in this photo gallery.

What were the challenges implementing the plan on the law enforcement side?
CREENAN: We haven’t had any challenges on the law enforcement side. The observation we see is that fewer calls are being made to them. When we do call them, they have a high degree of confidence that there’s a real event they’re responding to.

What kind of feedback have you received from colleagues? Have you been able to inspire any of them to be more proactive and conscientious?
CREENAN: We’ve shared our experiences, especially with Enhanced Call Verification. Once they hear about our results, and the low dispatch rate we have, and the processes we use, they begin to see the value in these false alarm reduction processes.

(Don’t miss 14 PDQ Best Practices on the next page!)

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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