Here’s a fact that drives home security companies and first responders crazy: According to data from the Urban Institute, between 90 and 99 percent of alarm calls end up being false alarms.
That’s a massive waste of resources, and a huge annoyance for everyone.
Sometimes, a false alarm can’t be avoided. It could be an out-of-town guest who doesn’t know how to use the system, or a first-time housekeeper who enters the home but doesn’t know the alarm code.
But more often that not, it’s easy to avoid false alarms for your home security system, especially if you have professional alarm monitoring. All it takes a little effort and some common sense.
Here are five easy ways to reduce or eliminate false alarms – along with potential fines and penalties that often are imposed by local authorities for repeat offenders.
Purchase from a reputable home security company
Your protection is only as good as your system. Equipment failure is one of the most common causes of false alarms. It can be as simple – and as frustrating – as cheaply made equipment that doesn’t function correctly.
When you shop for a system, stick to brands and security companies that you know and trust. Ask questions about the equipment you’re buying; anything made by a well-known manufacturer is likely to perform well during an emergency, and help avoid false alarms. Anything by an unknown brand … not so much.
Make sure your home security system is installed correctly
Self-installation of a top-rated home security system is usually simple. You don’t have to be a techie to protect your home with a system that’s easy to install and easy to use.
But DIY aficionados should be sure to follow installation instructions to the letter. Many false alarms are caused by equipment that hasn’t been installed properly – for example, a motion detector that sits too close to blinds that flutter when they get a breeze from a ceiling fan.
The good news is, most wireless home security systems allow you to easily relocate a device that’s triggering false alarms. But proper installation can help avoid the issue from the beginning.
“That’s why homeowners often choose professional installation instead of installing a home security system on their own,” said Chris Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer at Brinks Home Security, one of the nation’s leading home security providers. “DIY installation has its advantages, but a well-trained professional understands the best placement for sensors, detectors, and cameras.”
Everyone should know how it works
The majority of false alarms are caused by user error. The first step in avoiding that pitfall is to make sure that family members understand:
- How to correctly arm and disarm the system, whether it’s through the panel or through the system’s mobile app.
- How to use the app to declare or confirm a false alarm and eliminate the need for response.
- How to quickly cancel an alarm, including any keycodes and passwords that may be necessary.
If you’ve got professional alarm system monitoring, disarm the system and wait for the alarm response center to contact you. Knowing the correct password will help them confirm a false alarm.
Deal directly with your alarm monitoring center; don’t try to contact 911 or anyone else. The best home security alarm monitoring companies will know exactly what to do.
Pet-proof your home security system
With a traditional motion detector, a sensor can be tripped when your pet enters the coverage area, causing a false alarm. Fortunately, the top-rated home security companies all offer motion detectors that are pet-immune.
But remember that size matters: Make sure that any motion detector can adequately ignore the specific size of your pet. Different detectors have different size tolerances, whether it’s 40 lbs. or 80 lbs. Select the right motion detector for your pet, and check off another box in your false-alarm prevention list.
Keep your system in good shape
If you’re savvy enough to be a long-time believer in home security systems, you probably know that even the best equipment eventually wears out. If an old sensor turns out to be a problem, don’t wait to replace it. The new equipment is also likely to be more advanced and versatile.
With that in mind, here are three more tips:
- Keep your equipment – as well as the area around it – clean and dust-free.
- Think about any potential objects that might trigger your alarm, such as birthday streamers or Valentine’s Day balloons.
- Test your system at least once a month. This isn’t so much about false alarms as it is about making sure your system is giving you the best protection.
Don’t quit using your home security system
When you’re faced with a sudden rash of false alarms, it’s tempting to just stop using your system entirely rather than troubleshooting to figure out the problem.
That’s a mistake. It’s like totally blacking out a dirty window instead of taking a few minutes to give it a good cleaning. That defeats the purpose of having the window.
“Not arming your system isn’t an effective way to eliminate false alarms,” said Johnson, of Brinks Home Security. “We can’t protect a home unless the equipment is working correctly and the system is allowed to do its job.”
If you have trouble locating the source of the false alarms, he added, enlist the help of a home security professional. They have experience that allows them to pinpoint the problem, and they can suggest other ways to optimize your system.
“It’s always important to reduce or eliminate false alarms,” Johnson said. “But that’s just part of an effective home security strategy. When you have a quality system that’s well maintained, and everybody knows how to use it correctly, it provides the best protection for your home and family.”
Robert Ogle has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years, with extensive experience as a journalist and freelance contributor. Robert focuses on home security, smart-home technology trends, and the impact of disruptive innovation on U.S. industries. He currently serves as Senior Copywriter at Brinks Home Security, a leading home security systems company. Connect with him on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/robertogle/.