False alarms from security and fire alarm systems are rampant; more than 90% of the alarms that police and fire departments are dispatched to each day are due to faulty alarm systems, not break-ins or fires. All of us pay the price for the false alarm nightmare every day in wasted police and fire services, and the costly false alarm fines. Most false alarms are due to poorly designed and installed systems, not an end user mistake. End users of alarm systems most often cancel their alarm mistakes with a verification password preventing police dispatch.
The root of the problem is that few alarm companies care about anything more than getting their recurring monthly revenue with as little effort as possible. The solution to the problem is a more discerning and demanding consumer. Do not be lured by free and low cost alarm system offerings, you will end up with higher monthly fees, a leased system you pay for over and over again, and a systems that does not provide the protection you want – especially with respect to fire, CO and gas (propane or natural gas). “Free” and low cost systems always end up being more expensive.
Stopping false alarms is easy. Require the following reasonable terms from your prospective alarm contractor, and if they will not move on to another company:
Require they comply with state and local codes – Few do
Require proof that the installers are licensed – Few are
Require a universally distributed brand of equipment – Or you have no recourse
Require your ownership of the equipment and the programming of the system - Read the contract and make changes in it or find a more fair alarm contractor
Require a minimum of a one year full parts and labor warranty – Or more
Require proper grounding of the alarm control panel – It is the national electrical code that if the alarm equipment manufacturing company has a ground requirement it needs to be done – they all do.
Require Soldered wire splices – It is the best connection method for two wires, soldering prevents connection degradation over time, it is the best preventive measure against false alarms
Require each wire be numerically labeled at both ends and charted as to its use details – This allows for faster trouble shooting if a problem needs to be fixed
Require all of the system documentation including the manuals, product cut sheets, wiring and programming details be left on site – This keeps you in the drivers seat
Require that a permit be obtained by the alarm contractor from the local building department and that the system be inspected by a local building official. You would be amazed at how many alarm installers are not licensed
Require short term monitoring contracts of one year at the most and require the right to cancel monitoring with no penalty – If an alarm company has integrity and good intensions, they do not need three, or five, or seven year contracts. They will earn your business with their quality service.
If you think this is too much to ask, than just read the fine print on the alarm system contract before you sign it. Most alarm services contracts have upwards of 50 paragraphs, where there are many more “points” than these, and they are all in the favor of the alarm company. A quality system comes with a fair price and a fair contract, and it is not “free”. If you have initial outlay budget constraints consider building your system over time in phases instead of all at once.
Purchasing a quality system by following the above guidelines will provide the best protection, the best peace of mind, and a system free of false alarms.
When we reduce the volume of false alarms we free up our emergency responders for the real emergencies and we save very significant tax payer dollars – to see just how much false alarms are costing us please read my next post. And, as always I greatly appreciate your comments and suggestions.