Is Your Security System Crying Wolf? The Trouble with False Alarms
Remember the boy who cried wolf? He gets the town riled up about an imaginary wolf so many times that when an actual wolf appears, no one believes him. Traditional security systems have a similar problem that can be just as deadly: false alarms. But security companies aren’t talking about false alarms and the significant issues they cause for both property owners and law enforcement.
It’s time to put a stop to this. Let’s shed some light on the plight of false alarms in the security industry and make sure you’re not a victim of the security system that cried wolf.
The Scary Truth About False Alarms
A security system is there to keep you safe, right? Well… sort of. Most traditional security systems like ADT don’t actually prevent crime. What they’re actually designed to do is to raise the alert when a break-in is in progress. Depending on the system, that might mean notifying you, professional monitoring staff, and/or the police. The trouble is, they’re not very good at this job. Or, in some cases, they’re too good at it.
These security systems are calibrated to catch everything that could possibly be a burglar. That means every critter, cracked window, faulty installation, unexpected visitor, dying sensor battery, and incorrectly entered security code can trigger an alert. And that’s a problem.
While it’s tempting to think that an overabundance of caution is the safest course of action, that’s not necessarily true. The sheer volume of false alarms means that plenty of triggered alarms get ignored or written off as meaningless. Then, when danger actually looms, no one does anything to protect you. It’s almost as bad as not having a security system in the first place.
Just think. When was the last time you heard a car alarm blaring and assumed the car was being stolen? The same logic applies here.
A Look at the Data
Consider these facts:
- Up to 98% of all emergency alarm calls were unnecessary in a report from the Department of Justice.
- According to recent consumer research, 62% of security system owners experienced a false alarm within the last year.
- What’s more, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City are among the large cities with police forces that will NOT respond to unverified burglar alarms. Other cities de-prioritize these alarms, so police might not arrive for an hour or more.
- Across the nation, more than 40% of residents live within large cities that do not guarantee a police response to alarm calls.
- False alarms are expensive. Many cities require alarm permits and charge fines for false alarms (sometimes called “nuisance alarms”) that escalate with each occurrence. In Los Angeles, for example, your first false alarm will cost you $50, increasing by $50 each time, and a $100 penalty for not holding a valid permit. Chicago fines you $100 for each false alarm. In some cities, you could pay up to $500 for a repeat offense, and operating your alarm without a permit can be a misdemeanor.
In other words, you might think that an alarm going off on your security system means help is on the way. You would be wrong.
Why False Alarms Pose a Problem for Police
Responding to alarms, real or otherwise, is a major strain on police resources. Department of Justice reports estimate that the U.S. spends $1.8 billion answering 36 million alarm activations each year across the country. If the vast majority of alarms are false alarms, you can see how this is a waste of time and money for police forces–and, as a result, for taxpayers.
Traci Rebiejo, a retired officer from the San Francisco Bay Area, said, “In my career, I’ve responded to over 20,000 alarm calls, and just a very, very small percentage of those were actually good alarms.”
Mike Rores, a retired Alameda County sergeant with more than 30 years on the job, added, “Unfortunately, probably 95% are false alarms. So if something can remedy that, that would be a good thing. It wastes resources and man hours because they always send two cars to all alarms in the event that it’s legitimate.”
Retired deputy Deb Ingols of the San Francisco Bay Area said, “Residential alarms I didn’t find very helpful. In fact, there were so many, it was hard to get anything else done. That’s why I didn’t stay day shift. It literally drove you nuts. You couldn’t do anything proactively. You couldn’t start to even write a report. It was just non-stop, all day long, going to residential false alarms.”
Not only are there hard costs, like personnel time and equipment, but also consider the opportunity cost of police officers not responding to an actual crime in progress that needs their attention. When the real wolf shows up, no one is there to help.
Clearly, this is a problem that needs to be fixed.
How to Reduce False Alarms
No matter what security system you use, there are simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of false alarms.
- If you have pets or young children, select a system that is specially designed for this. Some systems have motion sensors that will ignore lightweight triggers (think 40-80 lbs).
- Make sure your system is properly installed. This may be a case for professional installers, depending on how complicated your system is and your level of DIY expertise.
- For battery-operated systems, replace the batteries regularly. Your system should come with guidelines for how often the batteries should be refreshed. Err on the side of caution.
- Really get to know your system. Provide thorough operating instructions to everyone that needs to enter your property. User error is one of the most common causes of false alarms.
- Enter your security code correctly! Do whatever you need to do to create a PIN that’s unique, memorable, and hard to guess.
- Double check that doors and windows are completely closed when you arm your system.
- If you have a false alarm, investigate what caused the mistake and fix it. That might mean repositioning a sensor, fixing some wiring, or moving objects that get too close to a sensor. Don’t let the same error happen again, or you might start seeing those escalating false alarm fees piling up.
Of course, there’s a better way to prevent false alarms. And that’s verification from a live guard.
The Deep Sentinel Solution
Deep Sentinel’s home security cameras aren’t just backed by state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. An actual human is watching to see whether that movement on your front porch is a burglar or just the neighbor’s dog.
Deep Sentinel’s live surveillance guards verify all crimes before contacting law enforcement. That means zero false alarms. More importantly, that means police officers take these threats seriously. If a crime happens at your property, guards contact the police within 30 seconds and stay on the line to provide critical information.
Say goodbye to false alarms and the security system that cried wolf. Say hello to Deep Sentinel.