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Poll: Should alarms be verified?

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  • Poll: Should alarms be verified?

    Take the poll on whether burglar alarms should be verified before police dispatch

  • #2
    I cant vote on this because i dont understand what you mean by verified? If you verify that its an actual alarm, then of course the cops should be dispatched, but wouldnt the very verification process allow you to determine the veracity of said alarm?


    • #3
      Where I work we had 3 posts with hold-up alarm buttons that are part of the burglar alarm system. I would not want any one to have to verify "that I need help". That alarm brings police immediately. Our alarm monitoring company would notify us for any other type burglar alarm. We would also get a readout on our alarm panel.

      Also, any alarm system is going to have its "false/nuisance type alarms" due to whatever. If your going to have your system work for you, you must treat "nuisance alarms" as part of what it takes to have an alarm system,. We have many detex doors alarms in our warehouse. Employees often try to leave via those doors; an alarm will sound telling us what door iis the problem. We then put a camera on that door and go to investigate. In our system the Security Department are the verifiers in all instances except for a hold-up alarm.


      • #4
        I am mainly asking about typical residential and small business alarm systems which alert a monitoring center based on some sort of sensor being tripped. More than 90% of the calls to police have been determined to be false alarms once they arrive on site and figure out it was a faulty sensor, a dumb user, etc. If it's a panic alarm pressed by an employee, then you can assume that it isn't in this category because basically the employee is saying "There's something bad going on here that I see and I need police". Again, I'm talking about the purely automated alarms -- where there is no on-site security department, CCTV, etc.

        Indeed many of these false alarms are nuisance alarms, but that doesn't exclude them from being a false alarm.



        • #5
          Oh yes most definitely. If some of the "less than enterprise quality" systems i have seen are the basis for police response, then i wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be some higher level of verification before you waste the time of a leo.


          • #6
            What kind of verification? The basic answer is yes. But to what degree. Our standard response for burglar alarms is to call the premises and get a code. This at least stops most user error alarms. If no answer or they don't have the code, we dispatch, though in some cases not having the code means calling contacts first.

            We never verify panic or duress alarms, and on fire alarms mostly not, but some accounts we do.

            Beyond that it becomes a problem. Video verification is too costly for most people. Many systems aren't large enough to have zone verification, meaning 2 zones must be tripped before it is considered an actual alarm.

            The bulk of our alarms are nuisance alarms rather than false alarms, which is an important distinction, though it doesn't matter to the responding agency. A nuisance alarm is an actual alarm where the system did it's job, something legitimately caused the alarm, but it wasn't a burglar. An errant animal setting tripping motion sensor, a user error, a door that doesn't latch properly. The alarm system didn't malfunction, it did what it's supposed to. This isn't a false alarm, but a nuisance alarm.

            Now we do have problems with occasional customers employees, basically high paid arrogant types, where they will trip the alarm when leaving for whatever reason, and just go. They're not on the call list, they don't care. Then the employer starts getting fines, but nothing happens. To some of them, it's a cost of doing business. That puts us all in a bad place.

            A true false alarm is caused by a malfunctioning or poorly installed system. A motion sensor to close to a heat vent. Door sensors poorly aligned from the beginning, or on steel doors with no spacers.

            The problem is do we want an employee or store owner going to check out an alarm, and confronting a burglar? Or when Joe Storeowner shows up to check the alarm armed with his pistol, and the police are on scene or show up; either response, hearing the siren or happenstance. Joe Storeowner is on his face getting patted down and cuffed until they can determine his innocence.

            It's definitely a problem, but there aren't easy solutions that are good for everyone.
            Last edited by integrator97; 09-29-2010, 01:02 PM. Reason: punctuation
            Rocket Science
            Making everything else look simple, since 1958.

            One Man's Opinion

            The Future. It isn't what it used to be.


            • #7
              This is what i was talking about. Integrator, the majority of the things you are discussing are enterprise (notice i didnt use the " ") systems. That means that they are installed and monitored in a logical (or at least logical as possible) manner. I may have misunderstood since i thought we were talking about smaller systems, that you would never recommend, that are causing alot of these false alarms.
              While in the cases you mention, they are honest, and usually corrected mistakes. In the case i was talking about, they were alarm systems installed in a home, or very small business, and left untuned, and frequently set off falsely. These are what i think are the real problem here, since arent these what cause the majority of these false alarms?


              • #8
                You would think it is just the smaller systems (small residential) that are generating the false alarms. It's not. "Enterprise" types of systems are often a lead component of false alarms or nuisance alarms. School facilities are actually one of the worst. I suspect that is because a school has a variety of users and a wide variety of use cases for its facility. Getting an automated alarm system (no on-site officers/guards/security director) to work in a complicated situation can be a nightmare. Schedule of uses change. Facility-knowledge training level varies. Non-school organizations sometimes use the facility after hours.

                Integrator97, good point that the distinction between nuisance alarm and false alarm matters inside the security/alarm industry, but doesn't really matter to law enforcement.



                • #9
                  Geoff, my experience tends to be the same, large commercial systems are the biggest problems with user created false alarms. Some of the reasons: 1) Typically is just a few people that arm and disarm on a daily basis, then some individual comes in at an odd time and doesn't remember how to operate the system or their code. 2) Multiple entrances, and a maze like building, after hours or weekends. Someone enters the front and disarms. Someone else enters the side and sees the system is off. The first person leaves and arms, not knowing the other is there. Later the 2nd person steps out of their office and trips a motion sensor. (The solution is to add multiple piezo alerts that follow the arming beeps).

                  Scottfree, there isn't much "tuning" to do on a system. Basically setting sensitivity on motion sensors and glassbreak sensors, and this is just dip switches. And based on what I've seen firsthand, there is a national company that specializes in banks, that is horrid at proper setup of security systems. I would say that poor equipment setup being the cause is no greater in either residential or commercial.

                  I would also bet lunch that equipment problems are the lesser cause of most alarms. User errors in some form comprise most alarm issues.
                  Rocket Science
                  Making everything else look simple, since 1958.

                  One Man's Opinion

                  The Future. It isn't what it used to be.


                  • #10
                    Somewhere I read that user errors cause something like 80% of false alarms, although it might have been 90%, I can't remember exactly.

                    However, errors in system design, poor selection of equipment (usually driven by cost), wiring errors/shortcuts (cost-driven), programming/configuration errors, inadequate customer training, failure to follow manufacturer instructions, equipment failure and unanticipated changes to the physical facility's environment or its usage/occupancy after system installation all figure into the false-alarm picture. Analysis of system logs, if any, should go a long way in identifying the nature of the problem (system, equipment, human) because most of these various problems will look somewhat different in terms of their occurrence patterns, especially in relationship to open/closing and other human behavior patterns.

                    One big problem is leased spaces that go through various occupancies without conducting any sort of professional review of the access, intrusion, CCTV or fire systems for appropriateness, without calling the company back to train the new occupants, etc. Having such systems in place is taken for granted as being a "plus" selling feature for the property, with no questions asked. Hey - a burglar alarm system is a burglar alarm system, right? One size fits all! "Here's your lease, the keys, instructions for setting the thermostat and the manuals for the fire/burglar/CCTV/whatever systems" is usually what it amounts to when it comes to handing off the property to the new lessor.
                    Last edited by SecTrainer; 10-11-2010, 10:25 AM.
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                    • #11
                      What about fire alarms? Here if you have 3 employees, 2 to go & check out the alarm & 1 to stand by at the panel to call the fire department you can delay calling them until the alarm has been verified. The general alarm can also be delayed until the fire is confirmed.
                      I enforce rules and regulations, not laws.
                      Security Officers. The 1st First Responders.


                      • #12
                        Here in our town the numbers are staggering. They use LEO's for ALL calls and have no security or other personnel checking prior to dispatch. I believe it's like 6k calls per year and of those 1-2 (not percent, YES THAT LOW) are not false alarms.

                        I keep posting on our local news sites to use Security to review the site first and it will cut the time wasted down greatly but what do we know...

                        Also I would say to use Armed S/O's on this... those 1-2 in our town are much MUCH higher in other towns and you can't ever be to safe but definitely to sorry.

                        EDIT: The site I work at (gov) requires all alarms, fire etc to be verified prior to notification of local fire departments. The site could burn to the ground and it wouldn't alert anyone unless a human presses a certain button or someone calls it in.. but the toxic cloud would probably kill them before they reported it. Great system, right? :P
                        Last edited by Sytx; 11-03-2010, 04:06 AM.


                        • #13
                          My Opinion:

                          It depends on the alarm, if its a fire alarm, and a large building. Then no, the FD should always be dispatched! If its a burglar alarm, and you can verify the building is clear through CCTV, or you Guards/Officers are armed and trained to secure the building on there own then yes. Security officers are there for a reason, and in my opinion, that is a part of their job. All of my Officers are well trained to deal with situations like this, most of the smaller companies in my area are not. That is where I set myself apart from my competition.
                          National Protective Agency
                          Auburn Maine


                          • #14
                            We could have gone into more depth with the question, but our simple poll software doesn't allow it.

                            My current inclination:

                            Dispatch for fire without verification
                            Dispatch for burg following verification

                            Frankly, most people are saying, yes, we should verify. But the industry is also very leery of of the big selling points of a home alarm system is that if it's tripped, police get called.

                            Now the issue is whether they will respond. Most cities have dropped the priority on burglar alarm calls. Expectations of police being there in less than 15 minutes are becoming unreasonable...if they show up at all, since some cities have implemented broadcast-and-file, which means you might receive a police presence, or you might not. It depends on what else is going on.

                            That said, most police I've spoken with say they like to respond. It means police presence in the neighborhoods and indicates to the community (and the criminals) that all potential and reported criminal activity will be taken seriously.


                            • #15
                              I just have to respond.
                              I have been on all three sides of the fence.
                              I have been a responder, LEO.
                              I have been an installer of systems.
                              I have been an accidental abuser. Whoops, set off the alarm.

                              As a cop they have this mentality if someone doesn't go to jail in handcuffs or no evidence of tampering, it was a false alarm.

                              I have also activated the alarm at my house. My bad but the alarm worked perfectly not a false alarm.

                              In my opinion a false alarm is one where there is no visibly apparent cause for the alarm system to call out. Poor installation, loose wire, environmental changes, mice chewing wire, bad panel, corrupt programming. Something has to be the cause. Period.

                              Usually the problem is located and fixed.

                              Getting back to the original poll on verification.

                              If it is a panic or fire no verification. If it is any other alarm verification should be dictated by the circumstances. Previous alarm offender, size of community and police force. Priority assigned to call. Availability of trained verification personnel.
                              I tried being reasonable, I didn't like it.




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