One of the greatest fears that customers have about installing monitored security revolves around creating false alarms. In fact, the thought of having the police or fire department show up unnecessarily discourages many families from installing this valuable equipment at all! Of course, we strongly recommend taking simple steps towards reducing false alarms, rather than skipping out on installing an alarm entirely. In this post, we share some of our top tips to help you accomplish this important goal.
To start, we’ll explain how we define false alarms, as well as the potential consequences. From there, we’ll look at a few specific areas you can address to help cut down on the risk of a false alarm. For example, we’ll show you how proper alarm design can go a long way towards reducing false alarms. Then, we’ll examine proper alarm equipment maintenance. Finally, we’ll turn our focus to using advanced monitoring features to guard against unwanted emergency dispatches. Now, let’s dive in with a “primer” on false alarms.
Defining False Alarms
At its core, the term “false alarm” describes a situation in which our central station receives an alarm without a true emergency occurring. While a simple concept, this can take a few forms. Often, false alarms get created by system equipment malfunctions. Older motion detectors and smoke detectors often start going into “alarm” mode with no danger present. Similarly, door contacts that get rusty or old enough to “stick” in the frame can also create these events. These instances represent “true” false alarms, as the alarm situation arises with no security sensor activity whatsoever.
We also have alarms that we call “nuisance alarms.” This type of false alarm involves alarm activity, but no actual emergency. For example, an animal activating a motion detector represents a popular style of nuisance alarm. If you cook and activate a smoke detector, this also falls under this category. While these situations obviously do not merit an emergency dispatch, they also happen as a result of your alarm working correctly.
Finally, the idea of a false alarm generally also includes a police or fire department response. In fact, many communities charge alarm customers for false alarm dispatches if they happen too frequently. Therefore, we’ll also show you how you can quickly ensure that your false and nuisance security system activations do not create this unwanted excitement. Let’s check out some ways that desiging your alarm mindfully can lessen your risk of false alarms.
Proper Security System Design
In addition to sensor malfunctions, some false alarms happen due to improper security system design. This rings especially true with motion detector placement. The name “motion detector” would leave many to believe that these sensors do exactly what their name implies: detect motion. However, the vast majority of motion detectors on security systems are passive infrared (or “PIR”) detectors. Rather than detecting motion, these detectors “sense” the presence of motion through a rapid change in a room’s heat. Therefore, placing them in areas that look at windows, or rooms with many windows such as sunrooms, can cause issues when the sun rises or emerges from behind a cloud and quickly heats up a room.
Additionally, customers with pets must be especially mindful of how they design their alarms. Modern motion detectors often have “pet immune” features that keep smaller pets from causing false alarms. However, these detectors only account for pets on the ground. Even small cats and dogs jumping up on couches or running up and down stairs can still cause issues if you install motion detectors near these areas. Therefore, we must remain careful even when installing modern detectors meant to help with reducing false alarms. Next up, let’s see how proper alarm equipment maintenance can also help curb your false alarm risk.
Maintaining Your Alarm Equipment
After time, security system components may work less consistently than they did upon installation. Keeping alarm contacts well-maintained can keep this time at bay for as long as possible. Additionally, testing equipment can also let you know when you do need to replace any sensors. To maintain alarm equipment, we recommend cleaning around the sensors and making sure that covers are tight. Dirty sensors can lead to decreased functionality and a greater chance for a false alarm. Take extra care to clean around motion detectors, even taking the cover off to clean. Occasionally, bugs make their way inside motion detectors, which leads to many false alarms.
We recommend that you call up your alarm company to conduct a system test. When our customers do so, we put the alarm on “test” mode. This allows us to watch alarm signals come through, without these signals activating a central station response. With your alarm in test mode, arm your security system. Then, activate your alarm by opening all of your doors and walking in front of your motion detectors. We can verify that each sensor creates a unique alarm.
Additionally, we can verify that your alarm sends reliable and accurate information to the central station. Some false alarms occur due to a malfunction with your security panel itself, and not the contacts in the field. Testing your alarm can help you spot problems in both your sensors and your alarm panel before you receive a false alarm (and potentially a police visit). Last but certainly not least, let’s see how your alarm monitoring itself can help with reducing false alarms.
Taking Advantage of Advanced Monitoring Tactics
The previous tips in this post have focused on ways to stop false alarms from happening at all. However, we also offer a couple unique ways to stop the police from showing up after an alarm activation takes place. For starters, the central station that we use, Rapid Response Monitoring, sends out an alert through their Rapid SMS app upon receiving an alarm. At that point, you can easily cancel the alarm or, if desired, confirm that you want an emergency dispatch. This ability allows you to lessen the chaos created by an alarm that you know to be caused by anything other than an emergency.
Additionally, our cellular dialer, powered by Alarm.com, also provides some unique monitoring options that allow you to cancel a dispatch due to a false alarm. Upon receiving an alarm actication, you’ll receive a notification about the alarm with the opportunity to confirm or cancel any related dispatch. Additionally, the Alarm.com app allows you to control your security system remotely and even check on alarm events after the fact if you miss them. If doing so reveals an alarm event that you believe to be a false alarm, you can quickly call our central station and cancel the police or fire station dispatch at that point. Both of these options give you the opportunity to quickly and effectively keep a false alarm from turning into an unecessary response from the authorities.
Putting it All Together and Reducing False Alarms
We hope that this post helps you with reducing false alarms. Additionally, please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions that this post creates for you. We will happily answer any security-related inquiries you may have. Moreover, we also encourage you to take advantage of our free site survey program. We offer complimentary security audits and equipment quotes to both new and existing customers alike. During our visit, we’ll address any security concerns you may have. Furthermore, we can make suggestions based on our observations as well.
Perhaps you already have an alarm in place, but want to cut down on your chances of receiving a false alarm. Or, maybe you do not have an alarm in place and want to get started on the right foot. Either way, we are here to help! Together, we can create a security system with everything you need to keep your home and family safe and secure, with as little risk of false alarms as possible.