The occasional security system false alarm may seem like a minor homeowner hassle, but it’s actually a nationwide problem you can help solve.
In researching this topic recently, our team found that more than 90 percent of alarm activations that trigger a police response are false alarms activated by user error, pet movement, poorly maintained equipment or other causes that don’t involve criminal activity or danger.
All that crying wolf wastes about $2 billion in police resources, our team learned, and lengthens the time it takes officials to respond to actual crises. And it can cost you, if you own one of the estimated 36 million home systems in the country. More than 3,000 U.S. municipalities charge false-alarm fines. First offenses are often forgiven or fined $25 to $35, but multiple instances may cost hundreds of dollars or more.
The key to reducing fines and wasted emergency response time is in your hands. Common mistakes include inputting incorrect codes, not alerting the security monitoring company to new contact information, and not knowing the correct passwords when the company calls about an alarm.
The user error rate tends to be highest in the first hours and days after system installation. Be aware that as a result, some company contracts specify a grace period during which they won’t call police if the alarm is activated.
Security pros offer these tips for reducing the chance of a false alarm:
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If you’re installing a new home alarm system, determine your financial responsibilities regarding false alarms. Also, be sure to work with a reputable, reliable company. Only consider those that are appropriately licensed and registered with proper local or state authorities. Check their reputation and take time to contact references. Don’t neglect to read your contract carefully before signing.