SIAC, AzAA praise Phoenix alarm program

Best practices result in 85 percent of systems generating no false alarms
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

FRISCO, Texas—Nearly 85 percent of alarm users in Phoenix did not have any false alarms in 2011, the result of a cooperative effort by the city and the Arizona Alarm Association that saved the city more than $2.8 million, according to the Security Industry Alarm Association

The city's alarm management program includes education about best practices, along with a $17 per-panel registration fee and fines for alarm owners who generate multiple false alarms. The city also holds alarm schools to educate repeat offenders.

The result has been a steady decrease in false alarms, with 84.92 percent of alarm owners incident-free last year and less than 5 percent of alarm sites generating multiple false alarms, according to SIAC.

"The Phoenix program recognizes that the vast majority of alarm systems protect property and lives without ever generating calls for service from the police," said Stan Martin, executive director of SIAC. "These best practices can be applied to any public safety agency."

Maria Malice, president of the AzAA, said the statistics from Phoenix carry a lot more meaning than the traditionally cited figure that 98 percent of alarm calls are false alarms.

"That 98 percent isn't going to change," Malice told Security Systems News. "What's going to change is how many alarms there are per customer and the overall number of alarms that [police] go out on. Out of 10,000 systems, if you go out on 200 alarms, you're not at 98 percent."

The first false burglar alarm results in no fine for registered alarm users in Phoenix, but the second incident in a 365-day period draws a $96 fine. That fine is waived if the user attends a false alarm prevention class to learn more about how to properly operate their system. The fine for a false fire alarm is $105; fines in both classes escalate with the number of incidents.

Malice said alarm owners must also sign a form from their alarm company upon registering that they've received training to prevent false alarms.

"The alarm company has to turn in a signed form or could be responsible for a false alarm," she said. "When the customer signs it, they're responsible. That has made a big difference in Phoenix."

The city has taken the educational approach a step further by presenting awards each year to alarm dealers who record the lowest number of false alarms per customer, Malice said. The honorees are acknowledged at the annual meeting of the AzAA.

"The dealers love it," Malice said. "It creates a friendly competition. We're trying to get other cities to do it."

Martin said the statistics show that Phoenix's program is paying off, putting the responsibility for false alarms on those who typically cause the problems.

"SIAC, along with the alarm industry and its customers, support registration fees for alarm systems and assessment for false alarms," he said. "Penalties are appropriate for the small percentage of alarm owners who fail to maintain their systems or are careless in their operations."