Cancel/Abort Can Increase Risks to Unsuspecting Alarm System Subscribers

The policies and procedures according to which a central station monitors a household burglar alarm system need to be disclosed.

Cancel/Abort Can Increase Risks to Unsuspecting Alarm System Subscribers

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Do subscribers have a right to know how their alarm systems are monitored? Of course they do!

The policies and procedures according to which a central station monitors a household burglar alarm system need to be disclosed to the subscriber by the alarm contractor.

By way of example, think about a central station-monitored burglar alarm system that is activated in a home. The subscriber eventually wakes up and turns off her alarm system, believing it must be a false alarm.

The UL-1981-listed central station automation software at the central station receives a burglar alarm signal from the sliding glass doors in the basement of the protected premises.

A Cancel/Abort signal follows this. Thereafter, based upon the way in which the account is set up as standard at the central station, this alarm is never directed to a central station operator because the Cancel/Abort signal overrides the need for an operator to verify the alarm and/or take any other action.

In my opinion, Cancel/Abort is an effective way to help minimize false alarms. Yet, the danger here is if the activation is not a false alarm, and an authorized user errantly disarms their system (within the Cancel/Abort window period) — an action that creates no verification by the central station.

Resultantly, there is no police department response (based upon a Cancel/Abort signal). Then, the subscriber could be faced with an intruder who heard the alarm audibly activate and then shut off within 30 to 60 seconds.

Alarm System Provides No Deterrent

If the intruder does not immediately leave, he or she might think that the burglar alarm system malfunctioned. Conversely, the intruder might believe that the alarm system provides no deterrent, and thus continue on with burglarious criminality.

In the meantime, the subscriber is not aware of the threat and lets her guard down. This potentially exposes not only her but also her family to inadvertently coming face to face with the perpetrator.

Notably, this is not because the homeowner went down to see if there was an actual intrusion event. Many subscribers’ instinct is that an activation must be a false alarm. In actuality, subscribers should let the police respond so that they can investigate what the cause of the alarm system activation was.

Not doing so amounts to trusting in guesswork. If the activation were not erroneous, the intruder could be on his or her way to the upstairs area, looking for the master bedroom.

If the subscriber is tragically assaulted, raped and/or killed, a forensic investigation of the alarm system will likely reveal that the subscriber contracted with an alarm company for 24-hour/365-day UL-listed central station alarm monitoring. But with Cancel/Abort, if the alarm is disarmed within a certain limited period of time, that level of protection cannot be practically achieved.

Conversely, if an alarm signal is handled by a central station operator, to the extent that no one answers the phone, the line is busy or the proper code is not provided to the central station operator, police dispatch would take place.

The verbiage “Cancel/Abort” is not subsumed within the four corners of the installation and monitoring contract. Thus, the typical subscriber assumes that the central station would take prudent action in verifying the alarm.

Timely Response to Disarming

Given that, oftentimes, subscribers are of the belief that, when their alarm system activates, their timely response to disarming the system equates to the alarm signal not having sufficient time to transmit to the central station, this does not raise any concern for them.

That said, the salient issue here is that what the subscriber doesn’t know may dramatically increase their risk of being victimized by the criminal element.

Likewise, an alarm contractor cannot assume that Cancel/Abort protocols are commonly known to consumers and/or that their subscribers understand the inherent risks of a central station not requiring that all received alarm signals be verified.

The professional and technical community in the alarm and central station industry should never dismiss the possibility of an actual intrusion event, despite receiving a Cancel/Abort condition. Doing so might create increased risk for the unsuspecting subscriber.

Despite receiving a Cancel/Abort condition, UL-listed central stations should rigorously verify every alarm signal received. Not doing so may create a recipe for disaster, especially since this policy and procedure is not disclosed to the consumer in writing to enable them to make informed decisions.

Click here to check out our comprehensive central station monitoring guide!

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About the Author

Contact:

Jeffrey D. Zwirn, CPP, CFPS, CFE, FACFEI, CHS-IV, SET, CCI, FASI&T, MBAT, writes Security Sales & Integration’s “Security Science” column. He is also president of IDS Research and Development, an alarm and security consultation, expert witness and training authority providing nationwide services on all issues related to alarm and security matters. He can be reached at 800-353-0733.

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