Reducing False Alarms Is Everyone’s Business

With all the hoopla surrounding new and emerging products and systems – such as IP-based devices, digital video, biometrics and RFID smart cards –  it seems the burglar alarm side of the business has lost its cachet. It doesn’t help that false alarms are eating the industry alive with negativity. Mass media is riddled with such stories and many cities are reacting to false alarms without much thought or insight. As a result, some manufacturers have ceased targeting burglar alarm dealers as customers anymore, instead focusing more on access control and CCTV systems integrators.

However, no matter how exciting those other technologies may be, the fact remains that there are four-times more burglar alarms installed annually than all of the others combined! When you factor in that there are more than 30 million monitored burg alarms nationwide, there is no denying what a huge market we are talking about. And whether you install burg systems or not, consumers’ perceptions of our industry continue to be based on those systems. Consequently, the issue of false alarms affects all of us.

Recently, I was very honored to be the keynote speaker at the False Alarm Reduction Association’s (FARA) 8th annual conference in Bloomington, Minn. (see news item in June issue). FARA is primarily comprised of individuals employed by government, law enforcement and public safety agencies. Its mission is providing a forum for city and county ordinance managers to exchange information and discuss various options for false alarm reduction.

When I arrived at the conference, I was pleased to see in attendance law enforcement officials from all agency sizes. There were also software vendors present that offered unique alarm ordinance-tracking programs capable of keeping tabs on all false alarm data, including licenses, permits, dispatches, fines and more.

My two-hour presentation covered the results of our SSI/Police Survey – “Working Hand in Hand” (visit our online store by clicking here to obtain copies of the study). It was designed to point out how the majority of police want to cooperate with the alarm industry despite all the sensitive, deep-rooted false alarm issues. The presentation quickly became interactive as audience members’ hands shot up with questions and comments. The exchange was enlightening and productive.

One of the highlights of the discussion was how cities need to have effective alarm ordinance-tracking software in place that can weed out alarm companies whose customers habitually cause false alarms. In other words, those alarm companies that are apathetic and nonresponsive would be hit hard and where it hurts – in the pocketbook! They would face additional fines or possible revocation of their business licenses. As it stands, these companies have no real incentive to change because it’s their customers who are being fined.

On the other hand, responsible alarm companies that demonstrate a commitment to minimizing false alarms would be rewarded. They would receive tax incentives, rebates and/or waivers from various fees. I believe there must be this type of reciprocal relationship between a given city and the alarm companies that conduct business there.

Several law enforcement officials approached me after my presentation to express how refreshing it was to meet someone from the security industry with a fair, reasonable viewpoint. I replied that there are many levelheaded, open-minded security industry professionals who truly want to work with them.

I left the conference very impressed by the caliber of FARA’s members. I encourage anyone with an interest in public safety to investigate what FARA ( has to offer. Not only is it worthwhile for alarm company owners themselves to get involved, but also bringing FARA to the attention of local law enforcement is a way to demonstrate your interest in collaboratively solving the false alarm issue.

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