A View from the Monitoring Center

Reducing false alarms saves time, resources for all involved in the alarm industry

We wanted to know more about a central station, what people who work there do and how a central station fulfills its role with alarms and incident response times. We visited Greg Hurst at Monitronics’ Dallas location to learn more.

Q. As the 2010 CSAA manager of the year, what advice do you have for other central station managers?

A. I was honored by being elected as the CSAA manager of the year in 2010, but it was more of a Monitronics’ team effort than an individual award for me. My name may be on the trophy, but the accomplishments that we made as a team were the focus of the nomination and sit at the forefront in my mind.

The importance of building a strong team has been well documented over the years, and I task myself to stay current and sharp. Having a solid team is essential in sharing the load and allowing everyone to operate at optimum levels. When a team is working well in a central station environment, it allows the routine duties and issues to be handled seamlessly and flawlessly.

With the normal duties being handled solidly, it gives us all the opportunity to use our extra efforts and time to be proactive and look forward for areas of opportunity. Monitronics has a strong team, and we take care of business very well. This has allowed us the opportunity to push our proactive views forward and really dig into areas of concern such as false alarm reduction.

Q. What can the industry and Monitronics do to reduce false alarms and increase response time?

A. The first thing that is needed for reducing false alarms is an understanding of the impact that false alarms have on the industry as a whole.

Reducing false alarms has always had a place in the industry, but over the last decade we have seen more focus and energy given to the false alarm situation. More jurisdictions are implementing their own reduction programs, permit requirements, fines and verified response.

We have a team at Monitronics known as the False Alarm Control Team, or FACT. This team is currently operating with five full-time employees and a dedicated supervisor. FACT doesn’t take on the false alarm problem alone. They hold monthly meetings with the entire company to share ideas and trends and brainstorm with all departments to find areas of opportunity across the entire company that can have an impact on controlling false alarms.

Every contact with a customer is an opportunity to reduce false alarms through increased education and awareness. Our efforts in false alarm control have already given us a 22 percent reduction in false alarms this year, from a 0.636 false alarm rate to our current 0.498 rate of dispatches per customer per year. We are proud to see improvement, but we will never stop striving for improvement to control false alarms.

Some of the action items we have adopted to lower our false alarm rates include:

Enhanced verification on all residential accounts to call an additional number prior to dispatch;

Identify trends and contact customers with multiple alarm activations in a given time period;

New customer activations and dispatches are tracked closer to identify further training or service needs;

Next day follow-up with customers who received a dispatch due to no pass code;

Trend dispatch rates by jurisdiction, dealer, account type, age, etc. to identify areas of opportunity and learn from success areas;

Partnership with local jurisdictions and meet to discuss trends, needs and successes; and

Increased awareness within the entire company, industry and our customer base.

Q. What technology innovations/trends do you see coming down the pipeline that will impact the alarm industry?

A. The trend of false alarm reduction is already visible and will only increase its flow down the pipeline. As jurisdictions increase fines and consider verified response, our industry is impacted. We must continue the technology enhancements such as the CP01 panels, enhanced verification calls and partnership with law enforcement agencies to understand the false alarm impact and reduction together.

If we can reduce false alarms, time and resources will be saved and enhanced for all levels involved in the alarm industry. Reducing the number of false dispatches reduces the cost of dispatches, patrol and jurisdictional involvement for the local government. It is a focus of law enforcement agencies to reduce costs, and anything we can do to partner with them and better assist and aid in the reduction of false dispatches will allow our industry to grow and flourish.

Q. What can mid-size security systems providers offer that the giants in the industry can’t?

A. I am fortunate to be a team member with Monitronics as a large security provider. The recognition of our management practices as well as our focus in false alarm control demonstrates a solid commitment to doing the right thing and always striving to improve.

I am proud of the level of excellence that we have shown over the years and are able to offer to our network of dealers. While being a large monitoring company has advantages in sheer size, a smaller security provider can take advantage as well. Building a customer connection is important and valued in all companies inside or outside the alarm industry.

The largest to the smallest provider has a need to achieve a customer connection, and being a smaller provider enhances the ability of getting to know the customer base. Building this connection by reaching out to assist with false alarms, continued training, service needs or other areas of interest is our goal. We continue to strive for a customer connection on all of our contacts.

Always striving for improvement, building relationships, strong teams, setting goals and being proactive takes us forward as the alarm industry continues to grow, and I am proud to be part of the future.

This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Security Today.

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