When it comes to reducing false alarms, the two approaches that security dealers seem to mention most often are following up with their worst offenders and implementing enhanced call verification. Either of these is a major undertaking, especially for very large companies.

But that hasn’t stopped some of the nation’s largest alarm dealers from making inroads in both of these areas.

ADT Security Services Inc., Brink’s Home Security Inc. and Protection One all have implemented computer systems that provide information on the accounts that have experienced the most false alarms so that personnel can follow up with the accounts to devise a solution. All three companies also have a formal system in place for such follow up. Brink’s, for example, makes sure to call any account that has more than two alarms in 14 days.

For some companies, false alarm data is a component of employees’ financial compensation.

“Performance is tied to the rating system of all our branch offices,” says Mike Hanley, ADT vice president of monitoring centers.

All three of these national companies also have implemented enhanced call verification - to varying degrees.

ADT now claims to have converted 60 percent of its more than 5 million monitored accounts and plans to eventually convert them all. The company approached the task on a market-by-market basis, first notifying customers in each market that the company would begin calling a second number, in addition to calling the premises, before dispatching. In the notification, ADT also invited customers to confirm the appropriate second number by phone or through a web page. About six percent of customers responded to that invitation. For the rest, the default procedure is to call the “first contact number” which, under the old system, would have been the first number called after the dispatch. The new procedure has reduced dispatches substantially. About 30 percent of people reached via the second call system advise the central office not to dispatch.

Brink’s made enhanced call verification mandatory for all new accounts last year, says Kathleen Schrafnagel, industry and government relations liaison for the company. The company also encourages existing customers to switch to that system. Customers who pay their bill through a Web interface automatically receive an electronic notice inviting them to switch – and anyone calling customer support also receives an invitation. To date, about 43 percent of Brink’s accounts are set up for enhanced call verification. Between 2000 and 2004, Brink’s experienced an 8.9 percent reduction in dispatches requested.

Protection One so far has implemented enhanced call verification only where mandated, but is looking at doing so nationwide. Where it has made the switch, the company has been particularly proactive, calling every account to discuss the impending change and to confirm which number to use for the second call. The company reached in excess of 85 percent of its customers through those efforts, says Joe Sanchez, Protection One vice president of customer operations. Although he declines to provide details, Sanchez says there has been a “significant decrease” in dispatches as a result of second-call verification.