Britain’s False Alarm Solution Provides Lesson for America

Ever since I was a child growing up in Great Britain, I have been told, “What America does today — we will be doing tomorrow.” So why is it that the first time we get a lead it has to be in false alarms and wasting police time?

We Brits have always been complacent and waited until our backs were against the wall before fighting back. However, when we do fight back — watch out, we bite and bite hard.

Along with others, I have been campaigning for years to get false alarm rates down. With false alarms and subsequent wasted police time running at 98 percent, I could see the police biting back. In this case, the bite was a long time coming, but boy has it sunk its teeth in. The alarm industry is reeling and like a typical British bulldog, the police will not let go now.

We could have avoided all this — all it takes is the use of good quality equipment, competent installers and well-trained users. It is apparently too much to ask. The real problem lies in the fact that we are good at fitting systems, but very poor at selling them so the trend is to go in cheap and cut your quality accordingly. Anything that was not essential — like the best equipment, training installers and training customers — was put on the back burner, and we have paid the price. The price is DD243, the blueprint for eliminating false alarms in Britain.

British Police Tire of False Alarms
Like their stateside counterparts, the police in Britain have always been happy to respond to a break-in when there has been proof, as with a witness or with CCTV evidence. But these calls were not an issue. It is the automatic alarm blasting off for no apparent reason that gets the police all fired up and hopping mad. That is the target for DD243.

To fight the problem of detectors activating randomly, it was decided that the police would only respond if more than one detector activated (the second “confirming” the first) within a given time window. To beef up the rule, we are not allowed to put two similar detectors covering the same area. This is to eliminate environmental problems like bright lights, cold drafts and falling objects.

The theory here is that if there is a genuine intruder, they will move around and trip two or more detectors giving a “confirmed” alarm. If the area was deemed “high security,” then two detectors could cover the same area provided they were of different technologies, i.e. a passive and a glass break detector, or passive and ultrasonic.

New Ways to Design Systems
Probably the biggest cause of false alarms comes during entry. Lost keys and using another entrance, forgotten codes, straying off the entry route, and more than one person entering together all contribute to false alarms at entry time.

Key fobs, proximity readers and the ability to unset from outside the building were added to the acceptable methods list, as long as it was set up in such a way that the confirmation system was removed upon entry.

This has meant a very radical rethink on the part of the installer to find new ways of designing systems, particularly where the entry door leads straight to the main risk area, like a one-room cigarette or spirits shop (liquor store). But there are ways of doing it and still complying with the requirements of DD243.

It is much the same at alarm setting time, another hot spot for false alarms. To eliminate the problems, the system can now only be set by a deliberate act on the part of the user. Here, we are looking at setting by a “push-to-set” button on the outside or a microswitched shunt lock on the final door. Time setting is no longer acceptable because the users find too many ways to foul the procedure like dashing back in for car keys or handbags or to answer the phone.

DD243 is a tough requirement. It has raised a lot of adverse comments and a lot of antagonism from installers and customers alike. But at the end of the day does it work? The answer so far is yes. The police have already noted a 30.1-percent drop in false alarm calls and although it will be some time before significant figures are available, it looks on the face of things that DD243 has had the desired effect.

If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

Security Is Our Business, Too

For professionals who recommend, buy and install all types of electronic security equipment, a free subscription to Commercial Integrator + Security Sales & Integration is like having a consultant on call. You’ll find an ideal balance of technology and business coverage, with installation tips and techniques for products and updates on how to add to your bottom line.

A FREE subscription to the top resource for security and integration industry will prove to be invaluable.

Subscribe Today!

Get Our Newsletters