Time to Rally Our Frontline Troops in the False Alarm Battle

Although it may not be making front-page news, make no mistake about it, the alarm industry has its own war brewing on the home front. The enemy is the false alarm, or more precisely the false dispatch, and the frontline soldier is the alarm installer.

While we can probably thank the international war on terrorism for bringing this issue to the forefront, it has been around for more than a decade. Only now, false dispatches have to be dealt with, and dealt with swiftly.

This month, we are putting our calculators and schematics aside to take a serious look at what the alarm dealer can do to help bring this problem under control.

Resources Are Out ThereAccording to the April 2002 Security Sales & Integration Security Scanner(r) Web poll, more than half of us believe that the majority of alarm dealers are not doing enough to combat false alarms. This battle will not be won with a magic bullet, but can be fought with a variety of available tools and resources.

Many standards and programs have already been put into place. For example, there is the UL ANSI/SIA CP-01 control panel standard from the Security Industry Association (SIA), and the Installation Quality (IQ) Certification operational guidelines program from the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA).

Other relevant organizations include the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Law Enforcement and Security Alliance (LESA). Other programs of note are the Coordinated Alarm Reduction Effort (CARE, which is being turned into the Security Industry Alarm Coalition [SIAC]), Model States and Model Cities.

New Panels Can Help

Most major panel manufacturers now have at least one brand that has incorporated the ANSI/SIA CP-01 false alarm standard to a UL-Listed panel. These panels now include many significant false alarm reduction features.

Some of these features are remote audible exit/entry delay; swinger shutdown; cross-zoning; recent closing transmission; double hit timer; communications delay; exit fault audible; stable power up; auto stay; cancel verification; and exit delay reset.

However, the feedback I get from the field is that dealers, either due to disregard or lack of understanding, are not using many of these new capabilities. Yes, features like adding a remote exit/entry delay audible take extra installation time and money, but, if it is not done, customers may soon be paying more for monitoring and dispatching.

NBFAA Pushes IQ Program

The NBFAA-promoted IQ program – which has evolved with input from organizations such as the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), SIA, AIREF and IACP – currently has 120 member companies.

IQ Guidelines Make Sense

The IQ program provides the alarm dealer with many valuable and proven guidelines, as summarized below.

Company policies – Form an IQ Quality Control Team to identify, prevent and/or eliminate false alarms. Encourage standardization of system indicators and operation. Create a policy for affirming test mode operation.

User Training – Provides user instruction on operating and accidental alarm procedures. Assist customer in filling out the “IQ Certification Checklist.” Show and provide user with testing procedure documents. Give the customer a five-day “training period” option in which the central station will not dispatch.

Employee Training – Provides ongoing training programs for the sales staff and train-the-trainer program for those training end users.

System Design – Have a trained system designer. Provide an equipment checklist for sales personnel. Identify all power-consuming devices. Design specially for the presence of pets.

Equipment – Equipment to be UL Listed, FM- or IRI-approved, or equivalent. Install per manufacturer’s specifications. Panic and medical alarms to be audible with double button devices. Use false alarm controls per UL ANSI/SIA CP-01 standard.

Installation – Installation, including grounding, must be per UL, FM, NFPA and NEC standards and codes.

Perform a complete test of the system, including backup power operations, after installation. Use the IQ Certification Checklist at the end of each installation.

Monitoring – System monitored by IQ-certified company. All signals prudently verified by central station (CS) before police dispatch. Establish CS/installation company communications in order to investigate alarm conditions.

End-User Training Is Key

As we have seen from FARA statistics, user error accounts for as much as 70 percent of all false alarms. It has been identified by several surveys that adequate and complete user training is needed to reduce false alarms.

Simply showing a customer how to enter their alarm code should not be considered satisfactory end-user training.  So how do we properly train the end user?

First, the alarm company must have a consistent and ongoing train-the-trainer program. The person responsible for training the end user, often the installer, must understand and be able to implement consistent end-user training.

This involves basics such as explaining the objective; giving visual and audible demonstrations; having the user perform various hands-on system operational exercises; providing support material and handouts; asking timely and pertinent questions to see if the material is comprehended; and collecting a completed training evaluation form. Take a look at the 12-step program outlined on this page.

A prepared trainer can expect to spend 30 minutes to 60 minutes on a typical residential training presentation. An unprepared trainer may actually spend more time training the customer, and omit important information. Today, there are training organizations such as TrainKing (www.trainking.com) that can supplement a dealer’s end-user training via the Internet and online training modules.

Remember, a well-trained end user will feel confident about their system, use it the way it was designed, and, most of all, be a happy customer.

Bob Dolph is based in Orlando, Fla., and has served in various technical management and advisory positions in the security industry for 25 years. He is currently a training and products consultant. To share tips or ask questions about installation or troubleshooting, E-mail Dolph at [email protected].

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