‘Walk the Walk’ With False Alarms

OK, so you have seen a lot of talk lately about reducing false alarms. The security industry has been going through a considerable evolution with reference to reducing false alarms.

The manufacturers have responded to all of this talk and now it is up to you, the security dealer, integrator and user, to “walk the walk” and apply the many new technology options that are available to help increase the false alarm immunity of electronic security.

Technology No Longer Touchy

One of the key areas of increasing false alarm immunity has been in the design of motion sensors. Of course, the challenge with reducing false alarms is to reduce the false alarms but not to sacrifice timely and accurate alarm catches.

I can remember years ago, when ultrasonic motion detection was commonly used, an alarm dealer bragging about how few false alarms he had while other dealers had many from this very temperamental technology. With these ultrasonic detectors you could turn a dial to adjust the sensitivity. The more a customer complained about false alarms, the more the dealer adjusted the sensitivity down until — you guessed it — the customer had what we call an alarm miss or no alarm. 

A similar story I recently heard was a tech who was fed up with a falsing alarm door and decided to stop the problem by taking a wire and shunting out the door contact.  Hopefully, most of our readers will find both of these actions foolish and highly liable. This is not the path we want to take and, fortunately, with today’s new false alarm immunity technology, we have some great choices available.

Alarm sales professionals must stand firm in telling customers that if they want a reliable alarm system then a few extra dollars for a more intelligent detector, or a CP-01 compliant alarm control panel, will save them in the long run with false alarm fines. 

Sensors Become More Immune

Manufacturing engineers have taken a serious look at the variety of natural elements such as temperature, white light and radio frequency interference (RFI), and come up with some very ingenious configurations. Again it is up to you to put these technologies to use.

One example is the Professional Series Intrusion Detectors from Bosch. They use internal analysis in the motion sensors to detect things like dual technology of PIR and microwave, short-/long-range PIR, temperature of the room, and white light. This sophisticated analysis helps the device decide whether it is an actual intruder, a rodent, or someone trying to fool it into thinking it is a false alarm. Bosch has a good demo video at its Web site for you and your prospects and customers.

Another motion sensor manufacturer that has recently done some very impressive work is Aleph America. The company has introduced some new microprocessor technologies that have eliminated false alarm noise-creating amplifier circuits. The manufacturer has also reduced the parts count in its devices up to 70 percent.  Additionally, the walk test indicator LED is kind of a PIR Swiss Army Knife in that it also acts as a photocell for white light sensing, room light levels and RFI detection. Additionally, these new detectors only draw 700 microamps. 

What the CP-01 Standard Does

According to false alarm statistics, the biggest area of false alarms is arming and disarming the alarm panel. What are you doing to make life easier for the customer when they arm and disarm their alarm systems? Do you at least offer them the option of purchasing alarm panels with CP-01 features? I have been finding more and more dealers solely offering CP-01 panels. In fact, in some states that is all you can sell now.

What is the big deal about CP-01? Simply put, it directly addresses many of the features and operations in alarm control panels that can lead to false alarms. Some of the CP-01 features include:

  • 60-second exit delay with different sounds to warn last 10 seconds
  • Automatic exit delay restart upon re-entry
  • Recent closing signal if alarm is within two minutes of exiting
  • Support remote annunciation
  • Local alarm on an exit error
  • 30-second entry delay with different sounds to warn last 10 seconds
  • Prewarning silence after first digit entered on keypad
  • Cancel message window after abort window (five minutes)
  • No single-action buttons (HUA, panic, fire, etc.)
  • Exterior system acknowledgement
  • 60-second “no alarm transmitted” window on power restoral
  • Swinger shutdown with swinger trouble signal sent
  • Cross-zoning feature
  • Elimination of 1+ duress sequences
  • “Test in Progress” feature
  • New simple instruction cards

    How many of these do you and your customers practice? Are you walking the walk? Many years ago I went to the practice of using wireless remote devices to arm and disarm alarm systems. This, along with an external local sounder, has made it much easier for everyone in my family to arm/disarm the alarm system. As an integrator, I have taken every opportunity to integrate alarm control panels into access systems so that the first authorized person in and the last out arm and disarm the area via their access control system. 

    Review Monitoring Practices

    Let’s think of some other communication technologies to be applied to reduce false alarms. You will notice in the CP-01 standards there are new signals for letting the central station know the customer is having trouble arming or disarming. Are these being programmed in the panel and being used at the central?

    What about two-call verification? Some states, like Florida, now require it. Almost every person has a cell phone. Are they being listed as the second call for verifying an alarm? Again, simple, but are you doing it?

    I especially like new-concept panels such as the NAPCO Freedom configuration. This panel has the unique design of working with a door lock sensor, so when you unlock the door you turn off the system. The next level in which I expect to see more activity this year is using a biometric as a token for alarm control. 

    Training Is as Critical as Technology

    Though we have been talking about many technology areas for reducing false alarms there is one big area that is actually low tech and very much needed. This key area that needs to be constantly addressed is customer training. 

    Does your company have a structured training program for its staff and your customers? As I have preached in the past, don’t assume that a technical expert is automatically a good trainer. Make sure to train your staff on how to train your customers. Make sure you have good quality, easy-to-understand instructions for your customers. You will notice that one of the CP-01 standards is simple instruction cards. Use them in your training with the customer.

    I hope you have gotten the idea here on walking the walk with new false immunity technology. There are many other features coming into play such as Internet reporting, video event recording, and delivery to the customer with alarm message texting and video. However, as we have seen here, we can all take both high- and low-tech steps in reducing false alarms.

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