This morning I had the opportunity to chat with Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition. He proved to be a valuable font of information about the current state of the alarm industry, in particular the three-pronged relationship involving alarm monitoring companies, law enforcement and municipal governments—all of which play huge collaborative roles in responding to legitimate alarms and mitigating false ones.
When I asked him what he considers an ideal alarm ordinance, it became abundantly clear just what kind of challenges an effective alarm ordinance has to address. A whole constellation of considerations go into curbing false alarms.
“We’ve studied alarm management issues for twenty plus years, and we know what best practices will reduce these unnecessary dispatches,” Martin said. “We list them in our model ordinance.”
A model ordinance, Martin said, should require all alarm systems to be registered with local police. It should mandate the use of Enhanced Call Verification, or two-call verification, a protocol that requires alarm monitoring stations to attempt to confirm a signal is valid before requesting dispatch. It should require that panels feature the newest equipment standards, meaning they are compliant with the ANSI/SIA CP-01 Control Panel Standard – Features for false alarms—a standard that minimizes the single biggest cause of false alarms: human error.
Martin also emphasized the tremendous importance of strict enforcement of an alarm ordinance, but acknowledged that enforcement measures vary by municipality, and are often dictated by local politics—particularly with respect to the number of free responses permitted. The SIAC recommends no more than one or two free responses. It also recommends suspending response once a fixed number, generally between the range of six and 10, has been surpassed.
Martin says this curtails chronic abuse and holds some of the larger commercial entities accountable. “You do need to stop responses,” he said. “Otherwise, the higher-end clients, commercial clients, banks in particular, will just write the check. They consider that easier. It’s the cost of doing business. But when police say they’re not going to come any longer, they have to take some kind of corrective action.”