New SIAC training program takes on user error

Initiative aims to cut false dispatches by helping customers understand their systems
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

FRISCO, Texas—False dispatches mean user error.

In the majority of cases that’s the reality, according to the Security Industry Alarm Coalition, which has found that customer errors account for up to 77 percent of false police dispatches. And while initiatives such as ECV, model ordinances and CP-01 equipment standards have cut into that number over the years, the problem continues to dog the industry.

“We’ve broken down what the causes are and how to address them, but quite honestly we’ve been working on the symptoms and not the cure,” SIAC Director Ron Walters told Security Systems News. “The cure is stopping these things from happening. … It’s easy to pass off as user error, but at the same time, who’s doing the training?”

That realization led Walters to develop a user-error program for alarm dealers that SIAC officially rolled out in early December. Available for free at www.siacinc.org/training.aspx, the program includes checklists, tip sheets and a PowerPoint presentation that details how to help customers understand their security systems.

Walters said the training of alarm dealers has always been a part of SIAC’s mission. The difficulty has been in getting information into the hands of those who the group can’t reach face to face, and then getting them to be proactive with customers.

“The problem is we don’t get in front of that many alarm dealers,” he said. “You go to a meeting and maybe you get 30 or 40 people in a room—the most I’ve ever had is 300. But that leaves thousands of dealers out there that we’re not reaching.”

The new program, based on the “alarm schools” used by law enforcement agencies across the country, allows companies to rebrand the SIAC materials as their own in an effort to increase participation. The materials are not equipment-specific and can be modified as needed.

“The whole concept behind letting them brand it and own it is that they’re more likely to use it,” Walters said. “We just want them, in some way, to address the user-error issue within their own company. If nothing else, mail (the tips and checklists) to the end users that are having problems.”

Stan Martin, executive director of SIAC, said in a prepared statement that the program relies on “plain language rather than industry jargon” to help customers learn how to operate their systems.

“The industry must own our share of the responsibility to properly train alarm users, and this must start at the level of the alarm installer,” Martin said.

Walters said he knew of at least 50 companies that had requested or downloaded the training information by mid-December, but the program was so new that many had not begun to implement it.

One of the participating companies, Alarm Center Inc. of Lacey, Wash., planned to put the training into effect this month, according to Ron Haner, manager of the alarm center division for ACI.

“We have 10 technicians, and it will (involve) them and probably the salespeople as well,” he said. “(Customers) will then be trained by the technicians, and we do a follow-up phone call sometime within the first week or so to determine if they need more assistance.”

Haner said ACI’s goal for end users was simple.

“Hopefully (they gain) a full understanding of how to operate their system, their local ordinance, and why it is important to prevent false alarms,” he said. “All of that accomplished would be a very good result.”