That no emergency actually occurred makes any false alarm a welcome situation. There is such great relief in knowing that nothing threatening really happened. Who would then be averse to a false alarm incident? When does a false alarm become unwanted?
To whom is false alarm a problem and why?
In the context of home security systems, firstly, the emergency response agencies. False alarms exhaust the resources of police, fire and other emergency personnel everywhere. Reportedly, millions of dollars and a significant amount of man-hours are wasted responding to alarm signals which are triggered merely by things such as pets roaming the house, paper falling from a table or a household member failing to disarm the alarm as he / she re-enters the house. The bigger implication is that emergency response to false alarms takes away from capabilities to respond to real, actual crisis situations.
From the American Heritage Dictionary:
- An emergency alarm, such as a fire alarm, that is set off unnecessarily.
- A signal or warning that is groundless.
In Silvercreek, California, police heads commented on the high number of false alarm calls they get from home security systems. Ninety eight percent (98%) of 172 house alarm calls in the city recorded in the first ten months of 2013 were false. (http://silvercreektribune.com/2014/03/14/sheriff-and-police-ask-for-false-alarm-relief/)
In many places now such as Albaquerque, New Mexico and Plano, Texas, they have put up False Alarm Reduction Units which enforce an ordinance that charges false alarm service fees as a cost recovery measure; yet, with this, they are able to recoup false alarm costs only partially. (www.cabq.gov) (https://alarms.plano.gov/)
Who else is affected by home security false alarms?
Related to above, the communities whose funds are misappropriated to bogus emergencies, in effect diminishing the responsiveness of local first responders. Also, the taxpayers, as it is their contributions which support the emergency service agencies.
Finally, the homeowners themselves. While for the most part false alarms are good news to them, these can potentially turn into a problem for several reasons. Homeowners run the risk of eventually ignoring false alarms if they experience these repeatedly and then not responding appropriately when an emergency situation actually occurs ? just like ‘the boy who cried wolf’. As mentioned earlier, false alarms could carry municipal fines. In some locales, homeowners who have established a track record of false alarms can be denied emergency service.
What are some ways to prevent home security false alarms from happening?
- Review the alarm system operating manual. Properly train all household members on proper system operation. Let them actually practice turning the alarm system on and off.
- Check that all doors and windows cannot be inadvertently opened by a strong breeze.Secure doors and windows before turning on alarm.
- Regularly check alarm contact switches/magnets on doors and windows for damage or looseness.
- Ensure that motion detectors are aimed away from air vents, sources of heat, fireplaces and windows.
- If the system has glass-break detectors, call the service provider to verify that these have been adjusted properly so that loud noises such as thunder or nearby construction will not set off the alarm.
- Periodically test the alarm system with the monitoring stations. Inform them of new pass codes and arming codes, and new or removed authorized users.
- Service and maintain the system (including batteries) properly.
- If the system includes a back-up battery for use during an electrical power loss, check to make sure that it is fully charged. Low battery voltage is the second most common cause of accidental alarms. Most alarm systems visually indicate a problem with the battery.
- Advise the home security system provider before any interior remodeling (including air vent repair, extensive painting, window replacement and any changes to the location of doors, walls or windows) that may affect the alarm system configuration.
- Regularly check local alarm ordinances, if any, that govern the operation of the system and ensure that all permits, fees and other required components are in compliance.
Having a home security system installed shows that the homeowner is seriously taking his / her responsibility towards property and the well-being of household members. Not to forget, though, one’s responsibility also to the community. By taking measures to reduce false alarm rates, the homeowner is freeing up time, manpower and other crucial resources intended to respond to real emergencies.It is a smart move to have a home security system installed; but smarter yet if the homeowner understands how to efficiently operate it ? for his/ her and the greater good.