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More on challenging false alarm fines
July 29, 2019
More on challenging false alarm fines from article on July 22, 2019
            Ron Spiller, former Executive Director of SIA and all around great guy,  said it best many years ago. In 99.9% of all alarm trips the system is doing exactly what it was designed to do. No one has ever disproved that user error is by far the largest cause of false trips. 
            Truthfully, we have found the proper way to address the issue and thanks to SIAC most ordinances include this solution. Punish the violators (abusers) by suspending their response until they either fix the problem or are trained to properly use their alarms. Actually statistics provided by law enforcement show that roughly 10% of the systems are causing over 80% of the dispatches. If those problem systems are addressed law enforcement is happy, the non-problem users are happy and the industry is happy.
            There are many alarm companies that are even more proactive with their problem accounts so they won't have their customers response suspended. All companies need to be more proactive with their problem accounts. It's not really that big of a deal. A good start is to contact every customer who has a dispatch, determine if it was an actual event and if not attempt to identify what caused the trip. This "new" concept has only been around since the early 80's. It was called Project Zero. Long before working for SIAC I actually owned an alarm company and we employed this process and reduced our dispatches by 90%.
            Foul weather alarms are most often the result of old system batteries. Today's systems have many capabilities, most of which drain the batteries. Do you have an active battery replacement process? Most battery manufacturers recommend that the system battery should be replaced after no more than 3 years. It's a good source of revenue, puts you in front of your customers and provides an opportunity to renew contracts and offer new technologies such as video (which also reduces dispatches).
            I could go on and on but the simple truth is that all our efforts should first be to address the abusers. I promise you'll be shocked at how well it works for such a small investment.
  Ron Walters (Ret.)
            Lee Jones, can you go find another industry to bug for a while….?
Steve Sopkin,l President
Mijac Alarm
            This is a problem that will likely NEVER be resolved.  If you recall, just a few years back, I got into a kerfuffle with that alarm code enforcement "detective" from Arizona.  It is a proven fact, that about 85% of all false alarms are end user caused.  I lost a customer because of an insane ordinance in Lyndhurst, NJ.  (This goes back to my flap with Det. Johnny Codestudier.) 
            I installed a burg/fire system in a woman's home in December of that year.  I gave her explicit instructions about not having to change any batteries until a "low battery" signal was displayed on the console, in about five years.  The following October during "Fire Prevention Month," she forgot the instructions and removed her Carbon Monoxide detector from her basement ceiling to change the battery (that didn't need changing.)  It caused a "Tamper Signal" to be sent to the central station.  The central station notified Lyndhurst FD (appropriately.) I listened to the call from the central station to Lyndhurst FD and they clearly stated that there was a "tamper signal" being sent from the address.   Now, instead of them calling the premises, the FD responded with three pieces of apparatus.  The false alarm ordinance in Lyndhurst reads that there is a $100 fine for every fire engine that responds.  So this woman received and paid a $300 fine for something that could have been handled with a phone call.  At most, they maybe should have rolled a "chief's car," since it was only a tamper signal and not a CO activation.  The woman called me to cancel her account AFTER she had gone to court and paid the fine. 
             I would have gladly gone to court to plead her case had she called me ahead of time.  Just a note here:  I have NEVER experienced a Carbon Monoxide "false alarm."  I have had detectors send "end of life signals," and had a few tamper signals sent, and even a couple of signals when CO was present, but never a false alarm.  Det. Johnny Do Right suggested that I "man up" and pay the woman's fine for own stupidity.  
            But here is the rub.  They put tampers inside of CO and smoke detectors for a reason.  
            So, getting back to what is an actual false alarm:  If an unauthorized person opens a door and it causes the alarm, that is not a false trip.  It is clearly the alarm doing it's job.  A false alarm is when no one is there, or no one has touched anything and the system goes into alarm for no apparent reason, THAT is a false trip.  Even so, sometimes alarm systems do develop an unforeseen problem.  That brings us to the Letter of the Law as opposed to the Spirit of the Law.  Alarm ordinances were written to ensure that people would properly maintain their security systems. For a municipality to allow one false alarm per calendar year is preposterous.  In years past, I would run right out if a customer experienced a false alarm, only to discover they had a kids party the day before and there were Mylar balloons floating around the inside of the house.  So now, I respond when there is a second trip from the same zone.  These ordinances should never be in place to punish someone who is having a problem with their system.  I fully understand that false alarms are a headache for police and fire agencies, but all I would ask for is some reasonableness.  
            Just a note:  In municipalities that have the one false alarm per year, I install extra motion sensors and instruct the central station to wait for the second zone trip before dispatching.  That has worked out well for everyone.  I rationalize that an unlatched door could blow open, but that wouldn't trip the motion sensors inside.  Obviously this doesn't apply to any fire systems or zones.  I'm just trying to offer some common sense solutions in what has become a crazy world.  I think it is despicable for a municipality to try and profit from a person's malfunctioning security system.  
As always,
John from New Jersey

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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