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Best Practices for Creating a Quick Alarm Response

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When shopping for alarm systems, customers generally ask two different types of questions. The first type of question revolves around equipment offerings and installation advice. Our post on Smart Security System Design takes a good look at those aspects of security system installation. The second type of question has to do with how the central station and local authorities will act if their alarm is activated. After all, designing and installing a security system does very little good if the alarm response is inefficient or slow.

In this post, we share some valuable tips and tricks to create an effective response to a potential emergency. We’ll begin by showing you how taking advantage of modern technology can potentially increase reaction time to your alarm system. Furthermore, we’ll share how to keep your information as precise and current as possible to help the central station and local authorities respond to your alarm. Finally, we’ll share tips for maintaining and testing your security system. Doing so will ensure that your equipment itself is always ready to provide a quick and accurate alarm response. Let’s begin by detailing one of the latest security innovations on the market, aimed at creating quicker alarm response times.

Alarm.com's "Smart Signal" feature open on a smart phone.

The ability to immediately verify or cancel an alarm can lead to a more efficient response to a potential emergency.

Verify Alarm Events for Quicker Police Response

One reason for a delayed police response to a central station call lies in the potential for false alarms Remember that when your alarm activates, the central station attempts to contact the owner to check on the situation. This allows alarm owners to quickly cancel false alarms. It also allows them to ask for a police response if needed. However, this initial phone call often goes unanswered. At this point, the central station calls the local police with an “unverified” alarm report. Unverified alarm reports often take a back seat to other emergency calls.

In our recent post detailing New Alarm.com Features, we shared a new way to increase alarm response times. Alarm.com’s “Smart Signal” feature allows you to immediately verify an alarm on your cell phone. An alarm activation will send a prompt (pictured) to your cell phone. Cancelling the alarm ensures that your local police do not receive an unverified alarm that soon turns into a false alarm call. Reducing false alarms at your address can also lead to a better alarm response when you actually need one. Verifying the alarm will create a potentially expedited response, as the police are now replying to an actual request for help. Now let’s look at a tip that can help the police once they arrive on site.

Provide Local Authorities with the Proper Information

When responding to an alarm, authorities face a few potential obstacles and inconveniences upon arrival. For one, they need a means to enter the home if necessary. You may well have a hidden spare key, a code for a keypad lock, or other information that can provide a pain-free entry. We encourage our alarm customers to pass along any such relevant information to us. We can provide the central station with any details you may wish for them to have. In turn, the central station will relay these notes to the police dispatcher upon calling. This will make any alarm response from the authorities much easier to conduct.

A Kidde keysafe box with keys inside

If you have a lock box for spare keys, such as this one by Kidde, consider having your alarm central station pass the unlocking code to police for easier entry into your home.

Additionally, remember that when police investigate an alarm event, they do so with an armed security system on the premises. This means that walking through your property will likely cause the alarm to sound during their walkthrough. Providing the alarm code for the central station to give your local police department can solve this issue. Disarming the alarm system can help the authorities conduct their search in peace and quiet. At this point, we’ve focused on ways to ensure an effective alarm response from authorities. Now let’s look at a step that focuses on getting family or friends to respond to an alarm as quickly as possible.

Maintain Your Contact List Carefully

In addition to dispatching the police, your central station will also alert other individuals to an alarm event. Alarm customers fill out a “call list” upon installing their security system. The central station generally calls the individuals on this list they reach someone. We can change this list at our customers’ request at any time, and we recommend making occasional changes. Our Vacation Security To-Do List, for example, discusses the idea of updating your call list to include house-sitters and neighbors that can check on your home for you, rather than having the central station call friends and family who are vacationing with you.

Carefully maintaining your contact list helps create an effective alarm response in a couple different ways. For starters, you want knowledge of an alarm at your home to spread as quickly as possible. After time, call lists often end up with outdated phone numbers and information. If the central station calls out-of-service numbers before reaching anyone, this delays your knowledge of the issue.

Additionally, remember that the central station stops calling through the list after reaching somebody. Make sure that you maintain a call list that only includes individuals who can help you in an emergency. Also make sure that if you change phone numbers, everyone on your call list has your updated information. Of course, you may not have your call list memorized at all times. We encourage customers to call their alarm company every now and then to check on their call list and make changes as needed. Let’s look at another tip we give customers to ensure a proper alarm response in an emergency.

Test Your Alarm System Regularly

We discussed the importance of testing your alarm system in our Five Tips for Security System Management. All too often (and especially with older systems) a break-in fails to trigger the proper alarm response because of a faulty device or a malfunction in a system’s communication to the central station. To perform a system test, we recommend that you first call the company that installed your alarm. Tell them that you wish to test your security system. At this point your alarm will be on “test” mode, ensuring that the police will not be called during your test.

A road sign reading "TEST"

Periodically testing your alarm system can help ensure its proper operation when you need it most.

If you simply wish to test the system’s communication with the central station, you can do so by activating a panic button at this point. Let the siren sound for at least 30 seconds before disarming the alarm. After the siren has sounded for at least 30 seconds, call the same number you called to put the system on test and ask if any signals went through. If you wish to test individual sensors, proceed by arming your security system and waiting for the “arming” countdown. Once the system is fully armed, activate all of the alarm system components, again allowing the alarm to sound for at least 30 seconds. Your alarm company can then tell you which system contacts sent a signal to the panel during your test. We recommend testing your alarm system every month to ensure a proper alarm response during an actual emergency.

Making Your Alarm Response as Effective as Possible

We hope that this post has given you some ideas to maximize any alarm response you may need. Perhaps you have an alarm system in place and now have new ideas for increasing its effectiveness. Or maybe you are in the market for an alarm and wish to ensure efficient monitoring of your security system. Either way, we encourage you to contact us with any questions or comments you may have about this post. We’re happy to offer advice and answer questions. Additionally, we offer free site surveys in the event that you’d like us to assess your security needs. Together, we can put together a complete security plan that covers both the equipment you need and a plan for keeping it monitored efficiently. We’ve been securing homes and businesses for over thirty years, and would be happy to help make your property as secure as possible.