False Alarms

How to Prevent False Alarms

March 1, 2021 by

Installing a burglar alarm is one of the best steps that you can take towards securing your home. However, installing one also means that you should be accountable for its proper use and maintenance. Security systems that are not installed correctly, have faulty components, or are used improperly may result in false alarms.

A false alarm occurs when your alarm is activated accidentally while there’s no true emergency situation. In some cases, false alarms can lead to false dispatches, whereby emergency response teams are sent unnecessarily to address the false alarm. This puts undue pressure on the authorities and emergency responders, which is why most companies and emergency responders impose fines on homeowners for any false alarm.

If there’s a high incidence of false alarms, such that they affect the effectiveness of emergency medical services (EMS), fire, and local police departments, it may impact relevant by-laws in your region. Taking measures to reduce false alarms will help to prevent fines and also allow emergency first responders to be available for people who actually need them.

Common Causes of False Alarms

The vast majority of false alarms (80% of cases) are caused by user errors that can be easily prevented. Human mistakes such as entering the wrong passcode or taking too long to enter the complete code can prompt false alarms.

Other common causes of false alarms include:

  • Children, neighbours, and visitors
  • Unlocked or loose doors and windows
  • Pets
  • Cleaning crews, pet sitters, repairmen, or private contractors unfamiliar with the system
  • Week batteries that need replacing
  • Equipment malfunction
  • Moving holiday decorations like balloons or plants

Ways to Avoid False Alarms in Your Home

With many cities issuing fines for any cases of unwarranted alarm dispatches, homeowners risk paying a fine of between $50 and $250+ per incident. So, minimizing false alarms will be beneficial for both the user and emergency responders. Here are some ways to prevent false alarms:

1. Know your system

Start by making sure that the security system is properly installed. The sensors and detectors should be aligned correctly, and other equipment installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. During installation of your security system, make sure that you fully understand how to operate it from the user guide, and ask the technician if you still have any questions.

2. Strategic placement of components

Make sure that the sensors are turned away from fans, air/heat vents, and windows to avoid drafts or breezes that could trigger a false alarm. Once you find a good position, make sure to shift any moving objects away from the sensors after setting the alarm. It’s also a good idea to install the keypad where it can be easily accessed from the exit point, and set a reasonable period for the arming delay.

3. Properly train users

Make sure that your family members and other people who are authorized to access your residence are well trained on using the security system. Whether it’s your children, a babysitter, or a relative, teach them to arm and disarm the security system properly by demonstrating how it works and then having them do it several times under your supervision. They should have the passcode as well as the phone number to your monitoring station in case the alarm goes off accidentally. The monitoring station’s contact information should also be posted by the control panel so it’s readily available. Never give a key to users who are not familiar with the security system.

4. Update the system as needed

Inform your provider if there are any changes in your home, such as new pets, home renovations, and the like to ensure that they won’t affect your security system. They will recommend the appropriate updates to your security system to manage the risk of triggering a false alarm, such as getting an alarm that’s tolerant of pets. For instance, you may forgo motion detectors if your pets are free to roam the house when the alarm is activated, or remove glass-break detectors that can be activated by barking dogs.

5. Annual alarm system inspection

It’s important to do an annual maintenance for your security system to ensure that the signals are transmitting correctly, and that there are no broken sensor connections or loose-fitting doors or windows. You can inspect the security equipment more frequently each year to make sure that it’s running properly. Check any sensitive components, such as glass-break detectors and adjust them accordingly so they’re not set off by loud dog barks, thunder, and other loud noises. Considering that low batteries are the second most common cause of false alarms, make sure to also check the battery backup and replace them every three to five years.

6. Secure your doors and windows

The door and window sensors will get activated when the connection between the two is interrupted. Any loose doors or windows can be rattled by the wind and trigger the alarm. So, check your doors and windows to ensure they’re closed and locked every time before setting the alarm.

7. Choose pet-friendly sensors

If you have pets in your home that are free to roam while you’re away, consider getting motion sensors that are immune to movement. These sensors typically ignore any motion by pets under 80 pounds. It could also be a good idea to get glass break sensors instead of motion sensors to avoid the possibility of false alarms from your pets moving around.

What if the alarm goes off accidentally?

In the event that you set your alarm off accidentally, you shouldn’t panic. Try to stay calm and:

  • Carefully input the disarm code to reset your system.
  • Wait for your monitoring station or alarm company to call via 2-way voice or on your phone and give them your passcode.
  • Don’t leave your home before talking with the monitoring station. If they don’t call or you miss their call, contact them instead to cancel the police dispatch.
  • Don’t call any emergency responder directly, or even 911. Only contact your monitoring station.
  • Make arrangements with your alarm monitoring service provider to always call you or another designated person before dispatching the police, ambulance, or fire department whenever your alarm is activated.

Lastly, accidents happen. After the incident, take measures to prevent that mistake from happening again. Review your security system and make the necessary changes to avoid another false alarm from the same problem.

Final Note

Professional security companies play a vital role in not only installing your burglar system correctly, but also helping you to understand the best way to use it and reduce the risk of false alarms. For more information, please contact Canadian Security Professionals.

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