FARA calls for consistency on DIY alarm regulations

Group says any ordinance that applies to professionally installed systems should pertain to DIY systems as well
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

ROCKVILLE, Md.—The False Alarm Reduction Association is calling on municipalities to regulate do-it-yourself alarm systems the same way they would professionally installed systems, including the assessment of fees and fines.

In a position paper released in December, FARA stated that each community has the right to enact “whatever false-alarm solution best meets its needs.” The group said any solution should include all alarm systems, however, with the following recommendations for systems installed by consumers:

—Prohibit do-it-yourself systems from directly dialing or contacting public safety agencies.

—Registration or permit requirements that apply to professionally installed systems should apply to DIY systems.

—Consider requiring an inspection by a professional alarm technician for DIY systems that have too many alarms.

—If a DIY user calls in a dispatch request that turns out to be a false alarm, the same fees and response limitations that pertain to a professionally installed system should apply.

FARA President Kerri McDonald said the board of directors decided to adopt a position on DIY alarm systems after questions from the group’s members.

“As [DIY alarms] become more and more available to the public, people may be choosing them to save money,” McDonald told Security Systems News. “Everyone has smartphones, the technology’s there, they may choose to go that route, so we figured it would be a good time to come up with a position paper for that.”

McDonald, who is the alarm enforcement coordinator for the Riverside (Calif.) Police Department, said there have also been inquiries about DIY systems in her city.

“I’ve personally had a few citizens and homeowners who have come in and asked me questions about what they’re responsible for under our local ordinance,” she said.

In Riverside, McDonald said any business or person who sells an alarm system is required to provide the new customer with a summary of the city’s alarm ordinance and an alarm user permit. They are also required to provide “accurate and complete” written and oral instructions to the alarm user about the proper use and operation of the alarm system.

In its news release on DIY systems, FARA states that they “can be a significant source” of false alarms. McDonald said she had not noticed a greater incidence of false alarms with the use of DIY systems in Riverside, but added that they are still relatively new.

“I think they definitely can contribute to the problem,” she said. “Smartphones, tablets, everyone can have a way of looking in on their alarm systems. You have consumers who see the features when they’re out at the store and think, ‘This will be easy, it won’t be a problem,’ and maybe make that choice and not realize what the responsibilities are that go with the system.”

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