Inside Guardian’s PDQ Award-Winning False Alarm Reduction Techniques
Guardian Protection earned the 2019 Police Dispatch Quality Award by exercising proven best practices to determine if police response is warranted. Here’s how.
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Batman had Robin, The Green Hornet had Kato and thousands of law enforcement officers have Guardian Protection — only the latter is much more impactful for being a real-life partner in fighting crime.
Not only is Guardian one of the nation’s largest security systems installation and monitored services providers but also among the most diligent when it comes to managing false alarms and verifying alarm signals before summoning first responders.
Guardian Protection’s consistent execution of proven best practices for the deployment and ongoing monitoring of security systems has helped it deliver on the mission to protect people and property — thereby making the firm and its associates heroes in the eyes of law enforcement and customers alike.
That commitment and posting false alarm dispatch rates of just 0.2 for its residential accounts and 1.1 on the commercial side have led to Guardian being named winner of the 2019 Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award, the company’s first such recognition in the program’s 14-year history.
Established by SIAC and Security Sales & Integration and officially endorsed by the Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response (PPVAR) and the Installation Quality (IQ) program, the PDQ Award annually recognizes a security company that best demonstrates a proactive, cooperative and successful effort in false alarm reduction strategies.
The program’s mission is to raise industrywide awareness, promote partnering with responding agencies for public safety, motivate alarm companies to be proactive and provide workable models.
“Historically and to this day, we work side-by-side with law enforcement as necessary to implement false alarm reduction tactics within our company,” says Vice President Care and Monitoring Operations Jason Bradley. “We seek input from law enforcement at the beginning of our policy-making processes rather than at the end. We begin those conversations by using our industry’s false alarm reduction best practices as a foundation, thereby adding credibility to our working together.”
Founded in 1950 as Guardian Alarm Systems of Pittsburgh and in 1991 being acquired by the Armstrong Group of Companies, Guardian Protection has grown to its present status providing a broad range of systems and services to hundreds of thousands of residential and commercial clients.
The firm operates its own monitoring center and its more than 1,000 employees along with authorized dealers serve customers spanning homes to small businesses to international corporations and large universities. Guardian is also among the most active in industry trade groups and causes, as well as within the communities it serves.
“Our success is based on our people, and we are fortunate that we have amazing team members who truly make a difference,” adds Bradley. “Their passion is the fuel that constantly drives us forward and couples with our stability of ownership.”
What drove Guardian Protection to mount a comprehensive false alarm reduction program? Why is the company proactive rather than reactive in this area?
JASON BRADLEY: You might say that false alarm reduction is in our DNA and is driven by recognizing the importance of delivering an end-user experience that exceeds expectations and an overall customer experience that makes us stand out from our competition. Fully understanding that the customer journey itself determines whether our customers will keep doing business with our brand is vital to our long-term growth and vision. Accordingly, a proactive approach to false alarm reduction is critical to achieving our goals. Guardian Protection has been, and continues to be, proactive in developing relationships with AHJs that allow meaningful exchanges of information and the opportunity to grow and improve.
One example is that we process internally each required alarm permit on behalf of the customer to ensure that the processing agency receives an application that is accurate, saving them valuable time and resources. This process has gained Guardian many valuable connections with agencies across the nation and our dedicated alarm permits department is at the center of building these credible relationships, with Prince George’s County being a fine example. Thanks to the recognized quality of our alarm permits department and the partnerships that have been developed, we are frequently approached by AHJs to partner on new processes and application methods they are considering — from Collier County Sheriff ’s department in Naples, Fla., to Charles County Sheriff ’s office, Md., just to name a few.
We are also proactive in educating our customer-facing teams on the benefits of Enhanced Call Verification [ECV] and other false alarm reduction techniques. While ECV has been a standard within our industry for many years, and we’ve become accustomed to its deployment and benefits, we encourage our team members to take the time to educate and inform callers on the benefits of ECV. Many customers, especially those new to using alarm monitoring services, may not understand the reasons and benefits of ECV.
Who are the primary people responsible for developing, implementing, fine tuning and maintaining the program? How was the mission accomplished organizationally?
BRADLEY: We expanded our circle of engagement in developing and implementing our false alarm reduction program — it has been developed and implemented primarily by the monitoring center management team but in collaboration with our sales, installation, marketing and customer care business units. Fine tuning and maintenance are consistent, concerted efforts on all our parts, each and every day! Our mission has been accomplished organizationally through the investment of time and resources in the holistic training of false alarm management so that our entire team can promote proactive alarm management.
We know this benefits our mutually shared environment. For example, we educate our customer-facing teams on the benefits of ECV and other false alarm reduction techniques. Additionally, we require every newly installed customer to participate in a seven-day mandatory orientation period — longer if the local AHJ mandates — where limited dispatch will occur unless specifically requested by a verified individual onsite. We feel that investing in these types of conversations with end users will build a more educated consumer base that will help reduce false dispatches, enhancing the reputation of our entire industry with responding agencies.
Our sales representatives demonstrate how smart home technology can not only make life easier, but how interconnected devices can help manage one’s security to ensure the best possible experience and avoid false activations. For example, geo-fencing can automatically disarm the alarm system within a certain predefined radius.
Our marketing department sends a series of email messages to the customer that are delivered in sequence to the installation experience, promoting smart functionality within Guardian’s app. Today’s technology is not only ‘cool,’ it is also very practical for false alarm management.
How do you coordinate efforts between your installation and monitoring departments/personnel? What does each side bring to the table?
BRADLEY: We increase our chance for false alarm program success by having a well-coordinated effort between our monitoring and installation teams. We start with the equipment that is installed; this means that all control panels are CP01 compliant, and we enhance this by accompanying our systems with powerful apps. Our installing technicians are required to perform end-user training upon delivery of any new system. This includes everything from local operation to the navigation of our interactive application and its many features, ensuring that the customer is comfortable with the operation of the system.
We also incorporate our “Smart Start” guide covering the usability and functionality of the system. Within the app, which is currently deployed to over 200,000 of our customers, a smart interactive feature is embedded allowing the end user to immediately receive remote notifications of alarm events, regardless of their location. This instantaneous information can be employed by the end user to make an intelligent decision as to the status of the alarm, and if deemed false, the application provides the ability for the customer to electronically notify our monitoring center accordingly. This functionality has resulted in a significant reduction of false dispatches.
Each side brings to the table key ingredients for success. The monitoring center is responsible for efficient, accurate evaluation and handling of the alarm signal. The installation team is responsible for a quality installation, from properly installed equipment to verification of signal activity to customer training.
What have been the challenges implementing the plan on the customer side? Have any problem accounts become more problematic?
BRADLEY: Challenges are always incumbent within an ever-changing dynamic environment, but challenges are welcome as improvements are derived from them. The commercial sector, for instance, tends to generate more false alarm activity given the nature of the business, caused by fluid environments and employee turnover, especially in retail establishments. But our dedicated national accounts team places a strong focus on customer partnerships, listening to their challenges, resulting in effective identification and applied solutions.
A helpful tool is our proprietary EdgePro software, which was developed by our team of application developers and provides effortless access to activity reporting. This enables loss prevention managers to access alarm activity information, including multiple locations, instantly and effectively to help manage their business. We receive very positive feedback to EdgePro, but in truth best is no feedback. That’s because our goal is for our customers not to have to be concerned or deal with false alarm fines.We have also built custom reporting for each channel of our business — residential, commercial, dealer-owned and national accounts — to account for differences within their respective ecosystems regarding alarm management.
We proactively mine this data, looking for trending at the individual account level, identifying customers with recurring activations. This data is used to proactively reach out to our customers to offer service, support and assistance to alleviate the situation. These reports are divided by business channel and branch, residential vs. commercial for example. Lastly, we utilize all ‘cancel’ alarm signal data received from both the customer’s control panel and secure mobile applications, utilizing the information to avoid unnecessary notification of AHJs.
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