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Local Codes and Regulations

Frequency of False Alarms

Less than ten percent of police dispatched alarms (including security and fire alarms) actually involve a crime.  These false alarms are not only unnerving to neighbors, since they indicate a potential threat, but disturbing and costly as well.

Alarms can be accidentally triggered in a number of ways: motion detectors, acoustic and glass-break sensors can be tripped by stray animals, pets, wind or natural disasters of any sort (earthquakes, hurricanes and floods).  Many false alarms occur when systems, devices or accessories are initially installed; others happen due to human error, such as improperly turning off an alarm before entering the house.  Most home security systems allow a certain interval of time to pass during which you can enter a code to silence the alarm before the alarm signal is transmitted to a monitoring company, but the duration of time is short and can easily be wrongly estimated. 

 False Alarm Prevention and Penalties

Because of the frequency of false alarms, central monitoring stations have partnered with state and local governments, alarm associations and product and safety testing certification organizations in an effort to reduce false alarms, which has prompted alarm companies to find solutions that are beneficial to local police departments, as well as home owners/ residents. Enhanced Call Verification (“ECV”) has fast become the industry standard; in fact, some cities, like Boulder, Colorado, only allow home owners to register systems that use ECV, which means police will be respond and be dispatched only to those residences.  ECV, sometimes referred to as "multiple call verification" is simply a second (and sometimes third) layer of contacts or ways to reach you, the resident, to confirm that the alarm is, in fact, caused by an actual threat, before help is dispatched.

If you, or one of the numbers on your list, are reachable, can provide the monitoring station with the agreed upon pin/ pass-code, and turn off the alarm, then local law enforcement will not be dispatched.  Following this procedure, however, is still not foolproof.  The Montgomery County Policy in Maryland reported that in 2009 they responded to over 45,000 false alarms. Since 2002, the City of Cincinnati has on average 24,000 false alarms per year (costing its taxpayers over $500K), which is consistent with the national average.  The cost is not the only concern; false alarms can conflict with real safety concerns and interfere with law enforcement objectives.

The result is that more and more communities are imposing fines for false alarms, regardless of whether they are accidental or caused by equipment malfunction. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) passed a resolution urging municipalities and counties to require a standard for all alarm control panels, called “the SIA CP-01,” which would require all manufacturers to follow the standard. In 2009, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) backed the resolution and since then, over 50 cities have adopted it.  In a further effort to reduce false alarms, local governments are requiring that homeowners and residents license and register their alarm with the police department.  Many are going so far as to accept only certified home security systems from manufacturers who have adopted standards, such as ECV, in an attempt to reduce false alarms.

In addition, some companies invite their customers to “practice” various alarm settings and scenarios when a new system is being stalled or a new service is being implemented into an existing system.  The intent is to make sure that all members of the family are comfortable with the process of setting, resetting and silencing the alarm. 

In the case of remote or web-based monitoring that does not employ a central station, if you don’t happen to be at home when the alarm is triggered, but can verify, for example via remote video surveillance monitoring, that the alarm was an accident (caused by a pet, a fallen branch or faulty equipment), then you can still intercept the authorities from being unnecessarily dispatched.