Showing impact of false alarms helps reduce them

Vector’ Walker has more than halved false alarms for large retailers, company says
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Monday, May 16, 2011

PITTSBURGH—Kristina Walker says false alarm reduction has been “etched in my mind” ever since she became Vector Security’s false alarm reduction-permit compliance coordinator nearly six years ago.

That’s because not only does her job with Vector, a full-service alarm company based here, involve helping the company’s national retail customers maintain the lowest possible false alarm rates for their fire and burglar alarm systems, but she’s also married to a public safety official—a police officer.

“So I hear his side of it and I also see the customers’ side,” Walker, who joined Vector in November 2005, told Security Systems News.

She said pointing out that chasing false alarms causes first responders to risk their own and others’ lives and waste time and money helps her impress upon retailers the importance of false alarm reduction. “They see the whole picture on how false alarms affect everyone,” she said.

Walker’s work has paid off, according to David Merrick, Vector VP of marketing. “She has managed to reduce false alarms by 52 percent for our [large nationwide retailers] National Accounts Division customers [over the past six years],” he said.

Walker recently was one of two recipients of the 2011 W. Rex Bell Associate Member of the Year award at the False Alarm Reduction Association’s (FARA), presented at the annual symposium in San Antonio, Texas.

The other award winner was Stuart Forchheimer, president of Homesafe Security Systems, a division of the Baltimore-based HS Technology Group. Forchheimer is one of only two alarm industry representatives certified to teach a FARA course on the essentials of false alarm reduction, according to FARA.

That Rockville, Md.-based organization is made up primarily of representatives from public safety and government, but includes alarm companies as associate members. Walker, who works at Vector’s National Accounts Service Division in Manassas, Va., is co-chairwoman of FARA’s membership committee and has helped develop FARA’s fire committee.

Walker works for a company that has made reducing false alarms a mission, Merrick said.

“We led the battle when it came to false alarms,” he told SSN.

He said that Vector’s former president, John Murphy, championed the company’s false alarm reduction program as far back as 2003 and the effort is being carried on by Pam Petrow, Vector’s current president and CEO.

Merrick said Vector went to retail customers with a calculation on how much they spend on false alarm fines. “No one understood the financial ramifications until we started doing these in-depth analyses, and then finally they could buy into the fact that the cops [and fire officials] were feeling the pain too,” Merrick said.

Among steps Walker takes to reduce false alarms is visiting retailers who have a lot of them, bringing with her an installation or technical expert and the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). “We do a visual inspection of the alarm system and we will also do key-holder training,” Walker said.

She also has key holders sign off on the training sheet to make them more accountable. She said that “holding them accountable is one of the key things I think we can do to help reduce false alarms.”

She also has had local AHJ’s come to her office “to hold a Q & A with my install side of the house as well as the service side of the house,” she said. “They all need to understand their impact on false alarms as well as how they can help reduce false alarms,” such as through clean installs.