Do You Know Your Alarm Factor?

The term “alarm factor” is often used in different circles in the alarm industry and it can have varied meanings depending on whom you ask. Quite simply, alarm factor is a calculation of the total number of operator handled events (OHE) in a given month divided by the total average number of alarm accounts monitored in the same month.

For ease of math, if you have 7 OHEs in a month and on average you monitor 10 accounts, the alarm factor is .7. An OHE can be an intrusion or fire alarm, but it can also be an array of lower priority OHEs. It is basically any event that requires operator intervention.

The alarm factor is the major driver of predicting the workload at the central station, and it is a valuable statistic for alarm dealer customers. The monitoring center is very proactive in working with its dealers to minimize alarm traffic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is to reduce false alarms.


OHE as an Attrition Buster
Alarm dealers are encouraged to be proactive in examining their OHEs because it can help them better manage their companies. Many alarm dealers gauge customer satisfaction by how many calls they get for service, or by how many complaints they get over time. This is a reactive approach that can often lead to customers canceling service or at the very least the alarm dealer may not be aware of certain customers’ dissatisfaction with their service.

Case in point: If an alarm dealer is not closely monitoring its OHEs, the central station may be calling the customer numerous times for low battery signals or for other lower priority events. While this is not as severe as an alarm that necessitates police or fire response, it does lead to a negative customer experience, which is an attrition driver.

At the very least alarm dealers should request of their central station a list of daily OHEs, or “exclusions.”This will allow the dealer to know about every communication the central station has with its clients. Thus, alarm dealers that are conscientious about delivering quality service to their clients should be aware of their own company’s alarm factor.

Judging By the Numbers
A good alarm factor for residential accounts is .33, or one OHE about every three months. For commercial accounts, the alarm factor seems to gravitate toward around 1.3, but with diligent attention it should be around .75. We find that the alarm factor for commercial fire accounts approaches a whopping 3! There are many issues with late to test signals as well as trouble and supervisory signals that create massive traffic on commercial fire accounts. Fire alarm companies should be cognizant of these signals and take appropriate action to service their systems.

Overall, it is advisable for any alarm company to know their alarm factor and to monitor this statistic on an ongoing basis. This information is easily obtainable through the central station. Alarm companies with low alarm factors are good stewards of public services and in general have more content customer bases, meaning they generally have lower attrition.

Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control Inc., a wholesale monitoring station based in San Antonio. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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About the Author


Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control, a division of Lydia Security Monitoring Inc.

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