For the last 40 years, the alarm industry has operated with very few constraints or restrictions placed on it by governmental agencies. Licensing and permitting laws evolved, but generally nothing arose that threatened our very existence more than non-response from authority agencies. If you are a reader of the industry news, I am sure you have heard of the non-response attitudes of Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee.

There are a number of contributing issues to the non-response threat, but the largest factor, by far, is false alarms. Authority agencies cite the waste of resources caused by false alarms and the new demands on their departments in the name of national security as their reasons for wanting to enact non-response policies.

When it comes to false alarms, all of us point in different directions as we try to shift blame to other sources. The fact is that your livelihood and my livelihood could be negatively impacted. If authority agencies in the market in which you install and monitor systems move to non-response in the next five years, what will your accounts be worth? How easy will it be to install new systems that will be more expensive and provide seemingly less security to the end-user? The time to take action and to make an effort to reduce false alarms is now.

I am a central station guy, so I speak to central station issues. Central station procedures can help reduce false alarms in several ways. We can provide enhanced verification (EV) techniques. Under EV, central stations take extra step(s) to determine if an alarm is real or false. Multi-call verification is one means of EV. We make the first call to the subscriber; if there is no answer or a respondent answers with a plausible reason for being there but no pass code, then we call the subscriber or other responsible party at a different phone number (cell phone, etc.) in an effort to get a cancellation – if the alarm is false – prior to dispatching the police department.

Multi-call verification has been proven to reduce false alarms significantly in every study and in every venue. It is a preferred method of EV chosen by every association. ADT and other large alarm service providers have adopted it and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has written a monitoring standard based upon multi-call verification of alarm signals. Additionally, it is the least expensive means of EV for both the alarm installation company and the end-user. Generally, all of the costs are borne by the central stations.

Multi-zone activation is another means of EV that a central station can provide should your local authorities require it. Many alarm panels are capable of programming this into the systems, but central station software can accommodate it, too. We only call the subscriber or the responsible-party list on the first trip, but when we receive another activation from a different sensor within a given time frame, we call the authorities and let them know of the multiple trips.

Video monitoring is another means of EV. The central station either receives a video clip with the alarm activation or we go into the DVR on site to retrieve the video. In most non-response venues, video is an accepted means of alarm verification. However, video verification is expensive for both the alarm installation company and the end-user. There are additional installation and equipment costs and the cost of monitoring is significantly higher because it takes 5 to 10 times longer to handle a video signal than it does to handle a traditional signal. All of the EV procedures require updated contracts.

Another action item that you should consider now is joining your local alarm association. That is the group that will inevitably represent you if any authority agency initiates or considers a non-response option or other onerous action that will harm your livelihood. If you have not felt the need to join your local or state association before, remember, times have changed. The industry did not have a six-ton elephant sitting on its shoulders until recently. My company provides service nationwide, and because of that, I have witnessed the local, state, and national associations prove their value again and again when it came time to mobilize their members to fight bad legislation and policies and to protect our industry’s interests.

Whether you are a large company or a small one, you have a place in your local or state association. If you think you are too small to join an association, you are not – approximately 72 percent of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA) members have five or fewer employees. In business, we all wish that the other companies did not exist, but within the framework of the local associations our companies coexist very well.

If we want the industry to succeed and prosper, we need to engage everyone who installs or monitors alarm systems to reduce the number of false alarms and to participate in the local associations. We need to speak strongly and with one voice. We should proactively initiate dialogs and work with authority agencies to offer viable solutions to their problems. Our industry’s voice will be much more effective if we have your voice, your help, and your support to protect our common interests.