September 2, 2011 - 1:17 pm
False alarms from home security systems are much more prevalent than you might imagine. The New York Times estimates that as many as 97 percent of cases where police are dispatched to the scene of a burglary turn out to be false alarms. This means that less than 5 percent of the time alarms are actually set off by burglars or intruders.
The scope of the problem
False alarms are not only a headache for you and your neighbors, they are also extremely costly to your local government. Every time a false alarm goes off, local governments must improperly allocate tax dollars, time and resources. As an example, the Seattle police department recently estimated it spends about $1 million every year responding to false alarms. This is a huge waste of money and resources, and a massive misuse of firefighters’ and police efforts.
In an effort to crack down on this problem, many cities around the country have implemented false alarm programs. These programs aim to educate citizens and reduce the occurrence of false alarms. Other cities have implemented fines for repeat false alarm offenders, which usually range from $200 to $500.
Causes of false alarms
While it is true that improper installation or faulty equipment can sometimes be the culprit, these instances are actually rare. In most cases, your home security provider will detect these problems before a false alarm occurs.
False alarms are, in fact, mostly caused by human error and carelessness. The three main causes are improper system arming, disarming and lack of user training, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Here is a more detailed breakdown of the causes of false alarms by percentages:
* In 49 percent of cases the wrong code was entered.
* In 26 percent of the cases users ran out of delay times.
* Twenty-six percent of individuals accidentally armed their system in “away” mode instead of “stay” mode and then remained in the home.
* Sixteen percent of the time users mistakenly thought the system was in “ready” mode.
However, you should not let false alarm statistics keep you from purchasing or using a home security system. There are a number of steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of a false alarm.
Ways to reduce false alarms
1. Properly train all users
Ensure that everyone who regularly enters the home (family members, trusted friends, nannies, maids, etc.) is trained to properly use the alarm. Before giving out the code to anyone, make sure that they are reliable and know how to use your system, even if they have an alarm system of their own. Your system may work differently. In particular, ensure that all users fully understand the “stay” and “away” functions.
2. Test the system regularly
Test your system regularly to ensure it functions properly. Most security companies can test your security system for you. Simply call the monitoring center and they can walk you through the process. It is a good idea to have them test your system once every six months.
Since faulty batteries can cause a false alarm, you will also want to check the batteries in your system every few months. If your system says that you have low battery voltage, don’t arm the system until you have replaced them.
3. Working with motion detectors
Many people neglect to address issues in their home that could potentially cause false alarms. It is important to acknowledge these risks and take the proper precautions to try and prevent them. First of all, you will want to keep household pets confined to certain areas so they don’t set off motion detectors.
It is also important to keep home decor that hangs, such as plants or hanging lights, away from motion detectors so they don’t set them off. Lastly, make sure that all windows and doors remain locked at all times. Alarms are sometimes caused by unlocked windows or doors being opened by family members or friends.