Central stations respond to alarms, but false alarms are a problem
- By Julie Beach
- Jan 04, 2016
For years, the alarm industry has framed alarm verification around
a simple and actionable response. When an alarm is triggered by
an external factor, an agency is then responsible for responding
to the incident. Central stations have become well trained in responding
to an event and tasking the appropriate responder to further investigate
the event; however, this process has come at a large cost to the law
enforcement due to the increasing high number of false alarms.
This trend exposes the need for a differentiator in the alarm industry
to discriminate between non-critical alarms and critical actionable alarms,
where there is a need for law enforcement response. A traditional alarm
system does not provide enough information to a central station operator
to discriminate and determine if there is a true actionable alarm, thus we’re
seeing a rise in false alarms rates, and unnecessary police action.
THE COST OF FALSE ALARMS
According to the Texas Police Chief Association, “alarm calls are historically over 98 percent false and false alarm calls represent a burden on law enforcement resources, create complacency that may result in officer injury
or death, and are a waste of taxpayer funds.”
In 2008, the San Jose Police Department conducted a study of false
alarms in the city and found that the cost of false alarms to the department
during that year was $662,000. In 2010, the same department reported
responding to 12,450 alarm calls, which represented the second largest
percentile category of all call types. Of those alarm calls, only two arrests
were made and only 113 resulted in police reports being generated. These
statistics support the labeling of the alarm reporting from traditional alarm
systems as “crying wolf,” which makes sense when 98 percent of the time,
the alarm is false.
One of the main reasons to invest in an alarm system is to ensure that in
the event of a crime, the authorities respond in a timely manner and hopefully
catch the criminal. The terrifying reality is that over time authorities
have grown to view traditional alarms as less of a priority. They respond
with less urgency to these types of alarms, because of their limited resources,
the expectation that the majority of the reports will be from false alarms,
and the associated cost and burden of false alarms. However, the consumer
does not always understand that, and may operate with the assumption that
all alarms will be responded to with same level of priority and urgency, creating
a false sense of security. Criminals are also aware of the deficiencies
around traditional alarm systems, and have become smarter about their
methods of break-in and available time to complete their crime.
In response to the exponentially growing number of false alarms and the
large costs associated with them, the alarm industry has been forced to
adapt and intelligently discriminate on the alarm event before dispatching
authorities. Initial steps toward alarm verification have been taken
through the implementation of staffing procedures for enhanced call verification
and deployment of multi-trip detection technology to reduce the
percentages of false alarms; however, in no way have these improvements
addressed the ability to verify and confirm a legitimate alarm occurrence.
True alarm verification comes in the form of live audio, or video, or an
eyewitness account, which is the current trend of alarm verification. With
the more advanced levels of verification, central stations are able to better
provide responding police officers with information based on the audio
and/or video they are able to receive real-time from the alarm location,
resulting in better police safety and greater numbers of apprehensions.
IDENTIFYING THE NEED
Verified alarm response singularly identifies Sonitrol. They started the
trend of verified alarms with their patented audio verification technology
beginning in 1963. Sonitrol has remained uniquely positioned in the market
for 52 years and its systems’ functionality has resulted in more than
Sonitrol’s story began more than 50 years ago, when a police officer in
Anderson, Ind., was looking for a better way to detect a crime in progress.
Sonitrol created the audio sensor as a means of listening to the alarm event
real-time once an alarm had been triggered to verify that it is not a false
alarm. Audio sensors continue to be an innovative way to verify alarms
and more recently, video verification has been introduced to the market
as another verification tool. The most powerful level of verification is the
combination of both audio and video verification.
Several years ago, STANLEY Security recognized the market movement
to verified alarm response and saw an opportunity to leverage and expand
on the already compelling Sonitrol value proposition. In June 2014, by entering
into an agreement with 3xLogic, a leading video solutions provider,
STANLEY Security has been able to unite Sonitrol’s solution by layering
video verification on top of Sonitrol’s patented world class audio verification
Today, Sonitrol now offers a powerful solution to the security marketplace,
highly differentiating itself from the competition. Sonitrol has
achieved nearly 2x the growth rate of the traditional alarm monitoring
marketplace, and will continue the differentiation through addition of new
technologies to verify an alarm and make our law enforcement partners
more effective, safe and productive.
THE CURRENT TRENDS AND SONITROL’S LEAD
The movement toward verified alarm response in the industry is apparent
and legislatively just in its infancy, with judicial actions being taken in
cities and formation of committees around the growing trend. A growing
number of cities are moving toward verified response to reduce the number
of false alarms being responded to by law enforcement. That means
that non-verified alarms will be given lower police response priority than
alarms verified by audio, video, or an eyewitness.
In addition to the growing number of cities moving towards verified
response standards, the formation of committees to help convey the importance
of verified response is now widespread. One most notable example
is the Partnership for Priority Alarm Response (PPVAR). PPVAR
is comprised of members of law enforcement, the insurance industry, and
the electronic security industry, and their goal is “to collaborate with all
members involved in the alarm response process and share best practices,
ideas and the information necessary to maximize the effectiveness of all
resources necessary to protect our valued customers’ life and property.”
“Several leaders from STANLEY Security, Sonitrol, and our franchisee
partners have been fully engaged with writing the next generation of verified
alarm response standards,” said Jeremy Morton, vice president of business
development at STANLEY Security.
Steve Walker, vice president of customer service for STANLEY CSS, and
Jeremy Bates, general manager and owner of Sonitrol of Lexington, serve as
board members of the PPVAR. Joey-Rao Russell, president of Californiabased
Kimberlite, the largest independent Sonitrol franchisee, recently led
an effort as the Chair of the PPVAR Audio Verification Committee to release
its report entitled “Audio Verification Best Practices,” which outlines the best
practices for central stations using audio to verify an intrusion alarm.
THE FUTURE TRENDS
This trend toward verified response is one that will continue to grow and
evolve, and the anticipated near-term outcome is that alarm verification
will become a mandated requirement in the alarm industry, and it will be
driven through adoption of standards like the ones released by PPVAR.
The temporal relationship of the ongoing use of traditional alarm systems,
increased deployment of do-it-yourself (DIY) alarm systems, and
fewer resources within law enforcement, will continue to significantly drive
the rapid adoption of verified alarm response. As more police departments
continue to move toward verified alarm response, traditional alarms will
take lower priority, meaning slower or no response from police officers, and
will be viewed more as a deterrent, rather than a means to stop an actual
crime in progress.
This article originally appeared in the January 2016 issue of Security Today.