Another article on false alarms prompts this very personal opinion. And I will point out that no alarm
industry personnel with whom I may be, correctly or otherwise, associated, necessarily shares this opinion,
nor have I consulted with any prior to publishing this article.
False Alarms. A lot of knowledgeable people in this industry spend lots of their time on this topic,
working to appease law enforcement and working towards reduction in false alarms. There is a recurring
consistent complaint from law enforcement that false alarms waste law enforcement resources and cost tax
payers money. The claim use to be that 99% of all alarms are false alarms. Apparently that number has come
down, but still we have article after article about false alarms demanding that the alarm industry do
something about it.
I can't help but wonder:
What percentage of alarms actually enable people to survive a fire?
What percentage of alarms actually help people reduce property loss?
What percentage of alarms actually scares off intruders?
What percentage of alarms actually enables law enforcement to catch illegal activity taking place?
What percentage of so called false alarms actually resulted in preventing law enforcement or
fire departments from attending to another emergency situations where life or property would have been
No doubt responding to a false alarm is a waste of time. Of course if law enforcement is only patrolling
then it shouldn't be that much of a burden. My guess is that there is an awful lot of time wasted during the
day by law enforcement and fire personnel, like all employees, so not all - and most likely very little - time
is actually dangerously diverted. I'd like to see those statistics.
Another statistic we are not likely to see quanitified is the cost of saving life and property. Our
society places the highest value on preserving and saving life. Not all societies do. You are not going to
see how much money the fire department spends responding to a fire and saving one life. Was the cost worth
it? Well, there is a cost in utilizing alarm systems, and they save lives. Why are we measuring that cost?
So what if we can't guarantee that municipal services are required every time we dispatch. That's the cost of
providing alarm services in this imperfect world. Those who use alarms apparently would prefer paying higher
taxes for emergency municipal fire and police services rather than pay for alarm systems or private security
services that would get us closer to being able to guarantee that a signal meant a real emergency situation.
Here are some additional observations and suggestions. Fire departments upset about responding to false
fire alarms? Well at least in my town, once the fire department is dispatched it will not recall its
personnel even if it gets confirmation that the alarm is a false alarm. They continue with their response,
multiple fire vehicles and a full contingency of personnel, knock on your door [if you're lucky enough to be
there to answer] and act like they didn't know it was a false alarm until you tell them to their face. They
still like to look around your house. That seems like a waste of time and resources to me. But, I am sure
someone can justify that procedure.
All this is not a reflection on the value of law enforcement and fire personnel, and the great risk they
put themselves to for their livelihood. We all appreciate their risks and contributions. But alarm systems
enable them to perform their jobs more efficiently, not less efficiently. They need to understand that it is
not them and us. There is no purpose achieved pointing their finger at the alarm industry to explain why they
are over budget or need more personnel. I think anyone could evaluate any law enforcement or fire department
operation and find waste and more. So let's not make false alarms number one on the most wanted list.
And of course the alarm industry has an interest in reducing false alarms. They waste the time of alarm
personnel as well. Subscriber training in the use of the alarm systems and the importance of immediately
reporting a false alarm before dispatch, and better equipment and installations is something that every dealer
can and should aspire to.