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more comments on excessive alarms - false and otherwise
November 15, 2017
more comments on excessive alarms - false and otherwise
Ken and All
    As someone who has committed over 20 years to the issue of false alarm dispatches and the impact on customers, law enforcement and the industry this thread has been interesting to follow. It is of no surprise how wide the responses are and how varied the views are. Perhaps it might help if I explain how alarm ordinances are being structured to address the issue.
    The first thing is that today's alarm ordinances allow no more than two "free" dispatches during any 12 month period. There are also a fair share that don't allow any "free" dispatches and fining commences on the first dispatch, two of these that immediately come to mind are Los Angeles, CA and Olympia, Washington. After these free dispatches are used most legislation enters into  a fining mode with fines escalating while others only allow two dispatches in a year and suspend the permit after the second.
    The industry recommends that all ordinances allow a 24 hour window where no matter how many times the alarm goes off and a dispatch request(s) occurs that it only count as one incident. This helps you to address the "runaway" alarm. 
    Fining customers is actually not as effective as one would think. There are agencies where fines escalate to as high as $1,000.00 per dispatch but most escalate no higher than a few hundred dollars. History has shown that commercial customers simply pay fines and pass the costs along to customers as a cost of doing business. On the residential side when fines reach too high they simply don't pay the fines and stop using their systems. 
    It is very interesting that jurisdictions with a history of strict enforcement of an ordinance have found that 85% of all customers have no dispatches in any 12 month period and another 7% have only one dispatch.      This leaves the problem on the shoulders of a very small number of customers and the most effective method of reducing dispatches is to suspend response to these abusers.. This allows us to more easily identify problem customers and to address them long before there is any need to suspend response.  Perhaps the oldest organized effort to address problem customers was "Target Zero" which encouraged each of us to identify our "Dirty Dozen"  users and fix them one customer at a time. This remains an excellent plan for you to address the issue within your company.  Over 25 years ago I did this in my own company and the results were astronomical, but the number one benefit was the improvement of my relationship with my customers. When you reach out to your customers you show that you are actually aware of them and that attention to details not only builds that bond but also generates service income and a better reputation for you and your company.
    Finally, in these decades that I have worked for the industry I have had the honor of attending many hundreds of industry meetings and to make presentations at most of them. Invariably I seem to always have at least one dealer proudly tell me that they do business the old fashioned way, with a handshake. Shame on any one who does business in this industry without a professionally written and current contract. In fact this entire thread of messages began with the simple question; How many dispatches are too many, and at what point should you enforce a non dispatch policy within your company?
    Hats off to Ken for raising this issue and I am thrilled that so many people have engaged in the discussion. 
Ron Walters, Director
Security Industry Alarm Coalition
another comment
    another definition of “Excessive False Alarms” copied from an existing false alarm ordinance. 
    “… It is hereby found and determined that any false alarms to summon the police department is excessive, constitutes a public nuisance, and shall be unlawful.  Civil penalties for each false alarm to summon the police department within any twenty four month (24) period may be assessed against an alarm company in amounts established by resolution by city council….”
Lee Jones
Support Services Group
Two issues.
  • False alarms
  • Excessive alarms [run-a-way]
    We all know that there are too many "false alarms" but I am still struggling with what is a false alarm?  It's too simple to say that if there isn't an actual break-in or fire or running water, it's a false alarm.  If toast burns in my office, detected by smoke detector, is that a false alarm?  How about a hair salon, hairspray sets off smoke detector; is that a false alarm?  The AHJ requires the smoke detectors and also specifies how many, where they are placed and how sensitive they need to be.  That's how it works in my office building.  
    There is a difference between faulty equipment and equipment that works exactly as it's supposed to.  The industry should not accept the AHJ's definition of a "false" alarm.  I think a revised definition will also dramatically change the statistics for false alarms.  That's my 2 cents today.
    Excessive alarms is a different issue.  Excessive alarms will not generally result in "false" alarms, at least not each time the alarm is received.  The problem with excessive, or run-a-way, alarms is that the signal comes in repeatedly every few seconds.  The central station can immediately identify the signals as run-a-way.  Even if it's not a run-a-way and it is a signal that comes in every 5 minutes, the central station will be dispatching only once, not 12 times in an hour.  
False alarms are a problem for the First Responders.  Excessive alarms is a problem for the central stations.
    The 2018 updated Contracts are just about ready for "press". [so get ahead of the crowd and order now]  I haven't made any change to the false alarm or excessive alarm provisions.  It's not too late.  Nobody likes my idea of charging the subscribers for false, excessive or every alarm?


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Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301
516 747 6700