False Alarm

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the U.S. fire departments responded to over 2 million false alarms in 2012. This on average comes to one out of every twelve emergency calls.  Each false alarm costs heavily in terms of time, personnel and money. Due to limited resources, a false alarm emergency being attended may equate to one genuine emergency not being attended. In order to avoid causing this problem from your end, you need to fully understand the causes and the preventive measures you can take to avoid such situations.

What Causes False Alarms?

It can be quite embarrassing to tell rescue authorities that they have responded to a false alarm. In order to avoid similar situations you need to understand causes that can lead to a false alarm being triggered. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • 7 out of 10 false alarms occur as a result of user errors.

  • Wandering pets.

  • Weak system batteries.

  • Open and improperly closed or locked doors and windows.

  • Heating or cooling vents causing movements of curtains, plants etc.

  • Sources of noise, these can range from machinery and kitchen equipment to people entering your house who do not know that a security system is in place.

  • Indoor smoking.

There can be numerous other causes for false alarms; the next section will guide you on how to avoid some of them.

How to Avoid False Alarms?

Here are some of the measures that you can take to ensure that a false alarm is not blamed on home security system.

  1. Most of the false alarms are generated by the incorrect entering of a security code. In order to avoid this, you can come up with a code that all members of the household can easily memorize. Whenever you change the code, make sure that everyone is aware.

  2. If you have pets, there is a greater chance of false alarms especially if you have motion sensors as part of your home security system. This situation can be avoided by the installation of pet immune sensors in your system.

  3. If you have heating or air-conditioning ducts in an area covered by motion detectors, ensure that there are no objects that can be moved by air These could include curtains, plants, helium balloons and other light weight objects.

  4. Before activating your alarm security system, ensure that all your doors and windows are properly shut and locked. If you need to use a door or window, make sure to disarm your system beforehand.

  5. If you’re expecting visitors and your system is activated, inform them beforehand. If you have someone staying over at your place for an extended period of time, make sure they are comfortable with arming and disarming the system. Similarly, ensure that routine visitors such as babysitters, dog walkers and house cleaners are trained to operate the security system.

  6. Keep a look out for faults in your system; false alarms can also be caused by the malfunctioning of your system. Report the fault at once.

  7. Ensure that you regularly replace system batteries. Batteries are generally long lasting, but false alarms are often started by weak batteries.

  8. You can go for a security system that has a two-way communication feature that enables you to hear what is going on inside your house when the alarm is triggered. This can help you identify a false alarm.

  9. Ensure that your home security service provider is licensed and reputable.

  10. Make sure that the panic or emergency buttons of your home security system are out of the reach of children.

  11. Ensure that there are no insects around or near your motion sensors, regularly spray insect repellants near them in order to prevent false alarms.

  12. Inform your service provider if you are going to be away from home for an extended period of time.    

False alarms are an unfortunate reality; the damage done by them in terms of resources and time is huge. This can be reduced. You can do this by following the guidelines above. Remember, a false alarm is a drain on state and county resources; be a responsible citizen and help your local law enforcement authorities become more efficient.



Q:What?is considered to be a false?alarm?

A:A false alarm is the activation of an alarm system that warrants the assistance of law enforcement personnel without viable cause. Even if the activation is through mechanical or electronic failure, malfunction, improper installation or negligence of the alarm user (including his/her employees or agents), it will still be considered as a false alarm. In addition, if the law enforcement personnel find insufficient evidence of unauthorized entry, robbery, or a fire outbreak, the incident will be considered as a false alarm call. There are different categories of fines associated with false alarms. These may include automated, activated, cancelled after dispatch and before arrival and cancelled before dispatch. It is recommended that you check your local laws for further information on false alarms as these incidents waste valuable time and resources. (Source: Trumbull Municipal Code)

Q:If my alarm is activated falsely, but it wasn't my fault, am I still responsible?

A:This may depend on your local enforcement laws. For instance, the City of Seattle bills the alarm company in case of a false alarm. The charges are then passed on to the consumer. The consumer may decide to contest the charges. According to Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, the permit holder is held responsible for the charges. The permit holder may contact the alarm company to contest if he/she thinks the false alarm was due to a malfunction. In any case it is important to ensure that everyone in the household clearly understands and knows how to operate the security system. False alarms should not be taken lightly as they waste valuable resources. (Source: Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office)

Q:How many false alarms may I have before I will be charged?

A:False alarm regulations vary across states and cities. Certain states and cities do not charge for the first and/or second false alarm. However, authorities in Los Angeles start charging from the first false alarm. Similarly, Fulton County, GA, ordinance states that, for the third and each subsequent false alarm that occurs at the same premises within any calendar year, a fine shall be assessed.

Q:How do I avoid paying a fee for having the police respond to a false alarm?

A:If your state or city regulation requires you to pay a fine for the police responding to a false alarm, then unfortunately you cannot get away with not paying the fine. However, there are certain states which have regulations requiring no fine for the first false alarm. Therefore, check with your local police department for false alarm specific regulations.

Q:What do I do if I set off my security system and cause a false alarm?

A:If you accidentally trigger the home security alarm, it is recommended you immediately disable the alarm via control panel. You may be fined for a false alarm depending on where you live. In some cities, you won't be charged for the first few false alarms. It is important you understand the laws and regulations regarding false alarms in your city.

Q:What should I do in the event of a false alarm?

A:If there is a false alarm, you should immediately call up the monitoring company and inform them. Most companies have a 10-15 time-frame before they dispatch security. On the other hand, it would also be helpful to have information about false alarm regulations of your city. After a certain number of false alarms, you may have to pay a fine to authorities.

Q:Will I be charged by the Police for any false alarms?

A:This depends upon which city and state you live in. In most cities, a certain amount of fine is levied for false alarms. It is important you know about the laws governing alarm systems in your state. For example, in the state of Texas, residents will be fine $50 if they have more than 3 false alarms.

Q:Will I have false alarms?

A:With a home security system, there is always the risk of false alarms. Many cities now fine residents who cause false alarms more frequently. To avoid false alarms, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the security system you have installed and make sure all the house members are aware of system. Apart from that, if you have pets in the house, you may want to opt for a pet-friendly alarm system. Taking such steps can lower the risk of false alarms.

Q:Will my pet trigger a false alarm on my home security system?

A:If you have a pet-friendly alarm system, the risk of false alarms is reduced greatly. These security systems are designed for homes that have pets. The sensors and detectors used in a pet-friendly security system are immune to motion caused by pets in the house. For example, a pet-friendly sensor will only recognize movement caused by an object or body beyond a certain height or weight.

Q:What are the risks associated with pulling a false fire alarm?

A:Pulling a fire alarm is illegal and it is considered a felony which can lead to imprisonment. It may not look like a serious issue but a false fire alarm means that the firefighters would need to rush to the place and respond to the emergency, and during that time they would be unable to cater if a real emergency occurs. Besides, it wastes a lot of time and resources of people from the fire department.

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