The Truth Behind False Dispatch Rate

The current method of calculating false dispatch rate is inaccurate.

The alarm industry and its dealers are often confronted by police or city officials, and even by our own leaders and publications, with a so called false dispatch rate of 98%-99%.

The tone is authoritarian and/or accusatory and implies a huge number of false dispatches is proof that we are not doing enough to lower false dispatches.

There may be, or may not be a high false dispatch rate and lack of effort, but the 98%-99% charge does not prove it. This is not a false dispatch rate. It does not measure false dispatches.

Using this method, a jurisdiction that has 1000 false dispatches and 10 burglary attempts would have a false dispatch rate of 99% (90 more burglaries and the rate drops to 90%).


READ: Discover the commitment and techniques that allowed Amherst Alarm to capture its first Police Dispatch Quality Award.


If next year false dispatches were cut in half to 500, with the same 10 attempts, the rate would only drop to 98%. Cut the dispatches in half again and the rate is only down to 96%.

Suppose in our mythical jurisdiction the police put all the burglars in jail or run them out of town resulting in ZERO burglaries. Suppose the alarm dealer reduced false dispatches to just ONE. Now the so called dispatch rate will go up to 100%.

This method will always give a number in the high 90s because there are so few burlaries on locations with alarm systems. Isn’t that the whole idea of burglar alarms?

There is, of course, a widely accepted way to measure false dispatches. Those who use the 98%-99% argument are either ignorant or dishonest. The proper answer when confronted by this so called false alarm rate is, with a smile, “Isn’t that wonderful? Don’t you wish it was 100%?”

Ed Bruerton is the owner of Anchor Alarm, located in Sandy, Utah.

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