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Ohio city enacts alarm verification

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plagued by an astronomical 98 percent false alarm rate for security systems, Akron, Ohio is following the lead of several other major American cities and introducing verified alarm response, according to a report from the Associated Press, and a news release from Sonitrol, an audio verification company.

The policy, adopted in larger cities such as Detroit, Las Vegas and Milwaukee, is simple: If an alarm goes off, a possible crime must be confirmed prior to law enforcement dispatch.

There are several causes of false alarms—outdated systems and installation flaws are among the most common culprits. But whatever the cause, the torrent of towns and cities taking measures to address them suggests that municipalities and police departments have had enough. In addition to being a budgetary drag, false alarms can potentially have dire consequences if they delay police response to more critical calls.

To some, enacting policies designed to confirm crime prior to police dispatch sets the stage for greater cooperation between the industry and law enforcement. But according to the AP report, not everyone is sold on these measures being the best means of ensuring maximum public safety. David Margulies, spokesman for the SIAC, was quoted in the report saying such policies are "basically putting the public in danger." To be sure, there is a fundamental tension between the need for municipalities to save resources by reducing false dispatch and certain ideas about the best policies for responding to alarms. In the coming days, I hope to gather some opinions on both sides of this debate.

I’ll be interested to hear how municipal measures to curb false dispatches through verification policies modify the demands of central station personnel on the ground level. As such policies become more widespread, how will the industry change? Does the future of monitored alarms involve video or audio verification becoming de rigueur?

Texas city delays alarm permit, citing problems with contractor

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10/28/2013

CROWLEY, Texas—Businesses and homeowners in Crowley, Texas, have until Nov. 1 to obtain permits for their monitored alarm systems.

IQ Certification and public perceptions about the industry

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Over the course of June and July, fourteen companies renewed their eligibility with IQ Certification, an installation quality certification program for alarm companies. The group of re-certifiers includes COPS Monitoring, based in Williamstown, N.J., Monitoring America Alarm Co-op of Tulsa, Okla., and General Monitoring Services, based in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Founded in 1997, the IQ Certification Program, headquartered in Erie, Pa., is based on one fundamental principle: security systems that are properly designed, professionally installed, feature the best equipment, and are monitored correctly tend to function free of failure or false alarms. A fifth component of a sound security system, according to the website, is providing users with education and training as well. 

To earn IQ Certification, alarm companies must undergo a rigorous evaluation by the IQ Certification Board, which is comprised of law enforcement, fire, state regulatory and insurance industry representatives, the program’s website notes. The certification standards are extensive and specific. The website features a code of ethics and PDFs on program bylaws and polices and guidelines. To become re-certified, companies must demonstrate to the board on an annual basis that they meet the required standards.

The expansion of a program like IQ Certified, first and foremost, reflects the industry’s dual commitment to mitigating flaws, such as false alarms, and making users better attuned to managing their systems. The guidelines expounded on the website also demonstrate a concerted push for cohesiveness and standardization in the interest of quality and functionality.

Interestingly enough, I began learning about the IQ Certification Program mere minutes after reading an opinion piece, published on MSN Money, titled “14 reasons monitored home security isn’t worth it.” The article, while somewhat disconcerting, is nevertheless worth a read, if only because it offers a window into certain non-industry attitudes about home security.

Yes, the opinion piece is critical of monitored systems, often unduly so. The tone is one of exasperation and hyperbole. But few things can better counteract the negative perceptions detailed in this piece than a rigorous, quality-focused program like IQ Certification, an organization aimed at rectifying problems rather than dwelling on them. 

New sensor takes aim at false alarms

MOBOTIX’s new analytic tested in adverse weather conditions
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06/12/2013

NEW YORK—MOBOTIX AG has begun equipping its video surveillance cameras with new motion-detection software that the company says can reduce false alarms by more than 90 percent.

Flint stops billing security companies for false alarms

Industry groups seek long-term resolution; city puts talks on hold
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05/15/2013

FLINT, Mich.—The city of Flint has stopped billing security companies for false alarms, but the future of the policy remains uncertain as industry representatives await the next move by city officials.

Wrongly placed dorm fire devices trigger nuisance alarms

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05/06/2013

CHICO, Calif.—About 105 fire alarms have been triggered this academic year at an off-campus cluster of residences near Chico State University, according to an article from The Orion, the university’s student-run newspaper.

Control Center wins FARA award

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04/29/2013

ORLANDO, Fla.—At a symposium held here last week, the False Alarm Reduction Association presented the Control Center, a division of RFI, with the 2013 FARA Industry Achievement Award, according to a company statement.

False alarms dogging Do-Right in Newfoundland

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Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More than 12,000 false alarms in one year, including 81 from just one address? It’s enough to make a deputy reach for the Screech.

For those who think our neighbors to the north don't have security-related problems, think again. In St. John’s, Newfoundland, police have their hands full in a way that would have many of their U.S. brethren nodding sadly in agreement.

According to a report last week by CBC News, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is being overwhelmed by false alarms. In 2012, they accounted for almost a quarter of the calls that the RNC handled in the St. John’s area.

“It has a dramatic impact on our service delivery,” Ab Singleton, deputy chief of the RNC, told the CBC.

The refrain will sound familiar to anyone who has dealt with the issue south of the border: Each of the 12,000 calls went to the RNC’s Communications Centre, where a dispatcher created a file, notified the alarm company and moved the call through the RNC system. An officer then responded unnecessarily, taking him away from other enforcement duties.

Singleton said the biggest problem with false alarms can be traced to a small number of businesses that have not trained their employees to properly use their security system, or have not replaced malfunctioning systems. The top six offenders in 2012 accounted for 344 false alarms, he said.

“The people either owning or operating the system, or the business, does not take the alarm or the work that we do seriously,” Singleton told the CBC.

The resulting waste of resources is unlikely to be stemmed any time soon. Police said the problem is getting worse, with more calls coming in and the percentage of false alarms rising. An increase in new homes pre-wired for alarm systems has been partly to blame, they said.

Alarm companies refuse to pay bills for false alarms in Flint

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03/05/2013

FLINT, Mich.—Alarm companies are refusing to pay nearly $134,000 in bills to the city of Flint for police response to false alarms, according to an article from The Associated Press.

False alarms account for 10 percent of Connecticut town's calls

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01/18/2013

RIDGEFIELD, Conn.—False alarms make up more than 10 percent of the Ridgefield Fire Department’s call volume, according to a report from the Ridgefield Press, a newspaper located here.

Still, firefighters have to treat the false alarms like they’re real.

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