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Thread: Preventing False Alarms

  1. #1

    Preventing False Alarms

    False alarms are a problem that effects everybody. If you have a security alarm then false alarms can be annoying, frightening and even expensive when your local police jurisdiction fines for excessive false alarms. Even if you don’t have a security alarm, false alarms waste police officer resources, delaying real emergency response times and costing tax payers money. Here are some steps you can take to prevent false alarms from your security alarm.

    Video Verification

    Modern security alarms have camera features that allow you and/or your central monitoring station to quickly see video or still pictures of exactly what was happening when the alarm was triggered. This enables a much more informed decision of whether to dispatch the police in response to the alarm. Video verification works 2 ways, the video can be sent to your mobile phone or the video can be sent your central monitoring station.

    Video clips or still images can be sent directly to your mobile phone when an alarm occurs or even when a door is opened, triggering the entry countdown. This is called “self verification”. There are 2 advantages to sending the video directly to you.

    -You have inherent knowledge of who is allowed on your property are how things are supposed to look when everything is OK. The central station operator doesn’t have that knowledge. You can make a better decision whether to dispatch the police.
    -If you want, your alarm system can send you video as soon as the entry delay begins instead of waiting until the alarm goes off. This gives you a 30, 45 or 60 second jump on deciding whether that person is supposed to be there or whether they’ve kicked in your door and are trying to steal as much as they can while your alarm system is waiting for you to enter your code.

    The big disadvantage of relying on self verification is that you aren’t always available to receive the video clip and decide whether to dispatch the police. That’s why we have central stations in the first place.

    The alternative to self verification is central station verification. This means video clips or still pictures are sent to your central monitoring station so the operator handling your alarm sees a picture of what happened before they dispatch police. Central station verification has 1 big advantage.

    -The central station is always ready to respond. That’s what they do. That’s why we pay for central station monitoring. If the operator sees someone breaking and entering they can dispatch the police with a “verified alarm” or “verified burglary in progress”.

    The disadvantages of central station verification are the advantages of self verification as stated above – 1) the central station operator has no inherent knowledge of who is supposed to be there or how things are supposed to look and 2) they aren’t alerted until after an alarm occurs. They have to base their decision on whether they see something suspicious, such as guys in ski masks or a door busted open. In general they’re going to dispatch the police if they see a person at all and that person doesn’t provide the alarm password because the operator lacks that inherent knowledge of who is supposed to be there. However, you can bet a couple of guys in ski masks will get responded to more hastily by the police than an apparent dog walker dropping off the dogs who didn’t hear the alarm beeping when they opened the door.

    The good news is you don’t have to pick between self verification and central station verification. You can have both. Modern systems can send the video clip or picture to both you and your central monitoring station.

    A critical choice you have to make is whether you want the operator to dispatch when an alarm occurs and they don’t see anyone in the video. If you’re using video verification to prevent false alarms then your policy should be to not dispatching unless you or the operator sees a person or evidence of an intrusion in the video. If your policy is not to dispatch unless you’ve seen video of a burglary in progress then it’s possible to miss an actual burglary because the intruder manages to avoid the camera. Think carefully about how you want this to work when designing your system.

    Audio Verification (2-way voice)

    Modern security alarms usually have a feature called 2-way voice. With 2-way voice, the central station operator can talk to whoever triggered the alarm via a speaker phone built into the alarm control panel. They can listen in with the speakerphone for noises that sound suspicious. If they hear people walking around and ignoring the alarm, or worse shuffling things around and breaking your belongings, they can dispatch the police with a “verified alarm” just like when they saw something suspicious using video verification.

    There are 2 advantages to audio verification.

    -The operator can use the live 2-way voice call to talk to the person who triggered the alarm and ask for their password. This is invaluable in a world where nobody has a land line telephone anymore with which to call the premises.
    -It’s inexpensive. Video verification isn’t outrageously expensive either but audio verification or 2-way voice often adds little to no additional cost to your cellular security alarm.

    Video verification of a break-in is obviously more accurate than audio verification, humans can see better than they can hear. With video verification the operator can see video footage or camera shots of the moment when the alarm occurred while with 2-way voice the operator can only hear what’s happening after they connect the 2-way voice call, not at the moment the alarm occurred.

    The good news is, once again, you don’t have to choose between video verification and audio verification. You can have both! If you goal is to prevent false alarms then you should have both.

    Maintain Your Alarm System

    This seems like a given but all too often people let their alarm system waste away into false alarm machines. It’s an electronic and mechanical system. It needs to be maintained. Security maintenance isn’t hard and it doesn’t take much time.

    -Dust your motion detectors. Don’t let them accumulate cobwebs. Don’t even let spiderwebs accumulate near them because the spiders themselves can trip motion sensors if they wander on the lens.
    -Don’t use motion detectors if you have cats. If you must, then use dual technology PIR microwave motion detectors, not just regular PIR motion detectors. They cost more but they’ll save you a lot of headaches.
    -Test each of your sensors monthly. Open and close or trigger every sensor and make sure it registers properly on the alarm control panel.
    -Look for visible signs of wear and tear. If you see a sensor beginning to fall off the door frame or wall then fix it, or call your alarm provider and ask them to fix it. If you just leave it as is you’ll regret it when the sensor finally falls down some day while the system is armed.

    Teach Guests How To Use It

    Teach your family members, roommates, employees and guests who may need to use it how to use it. If someone will need to come to your house or business and disarm the alarm then make sure they know how to do it. Don’t just give them a code and expect them to figure it out. Many false alarms occur with guests or employees frantically trying to remember the alarm code or figure out how to use the system. They’re supposed to be there but they weren’t taught how to use the system. Unfortunately, we have to dispatch the police because we have no way of knowing whether they’re an intruder.

    Why Should You Care?

    Aside from the personal guilt you’ll certainly feel knowing you’ve wasted police resources, the biggest reason for most people is money. Police departments charge fines for excessive false alarms. These fines can get expensive. Here are the fines some of the police jurisdictions near our office in Columbus, Ohio charge for false alarms.

    Columbus, OH
    Gahanna, OH
    New Albany, OH
    Powell, OH
    Reynoldsburg, OH
    Westerville, OH
    Whitehall, OH $100 – $800 per false alarm
    $50 – $350 per false alarm
    $25 – $50 per false alarm
    $25 – $150 per false alarm
    $25 per false alarm
    $50 – $100 per false alarm
    $25 – $100 per false alarm

    If money doesn’t motivate you then police response time should. According to Videofied, their case studies have shown that police responded around 4 times faster to video verified alarms than they did to unverified alarms. 4 times faster! Granted, Videofied is a video alarm manufacturer and they’re financially motivated to showcase the examples that make their product look good but common sense says police are going to respond faster to a verified burglary in progress than an unverified alarm which is 96% likely to be a false alarm. COPS want to make arrests, not rush out to a an empty house to find nothing.

    Across the country more and more police jurisdictions are implementing alarm verification policies where they either formally prioritize verified alarms over unverified alarms or even refuse to dispatch an officer at all unless the alarm is verified. Currently, in central Ohio, none of the nearby jurisdictions have put alarm verification policies in place but you can bet they will soon. Akron, Ohio is one of the first cities in Ohio to implement an alarm verification policy. It’s making waves but it’s just the beginning.


    Make 2014 the year you commit to reducing or preventing false alarms from your security system. Maintain your alarm system. Talk to your security alarm provider about adding audio and/or video verification to your existing alarm system. If they won’t do it, find an alarm provider to will. I’ll give you a hint, suretyCAM will.

    Written by Ryan Boder and originally posted at:

  2. #2
    I had a sensor malfunction and it set off the alarm. Because it was a door alarm we thought we might be a genuine problem. We had video tied to the alarm which I was able to access via while on the phone with central monitoring. I was able to verify that the door was fine.

  3. #3
    Great thread. Thank you.

    I know that not all CSs that have ADC pass-through are capable of doing two-way voice verification. I guess some CSs probably can't do video verification either. It would be nice if there was a list of capabilities for each of the ADC capable CSs.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2014
    See the monitoring options thread (it shows which are 2way voice capable, and which are not)....and you can call and inquire also...

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