10 Tips for Avoiding False Alarms with Your Home Security System

Closeup of a police officer using two way radio by police carThe protection of a home security system offers peace of mind that justifies the cost to many homeowners. Security systems act as a deterrent (via prominently-placed stickers and signage), a protector for your property, and a potential life-saver for your family. Most city governments take responding to home security alarms very seriously; however, the high volume of alarms can make effective response times difficult. What’s even more troubling is that many alarm activations are unnecessary; a staggering 94 to 99% of home security alarms turn out to be false ones, according to researchers from Temple University.

The resources needed to respond to all of these false alarms can cost cities and municipalities millions of dollars annually. Because of this, many areas have enacted fees and fines leveled at home owners for false alarm calls. If you have a home security system, there are things you can do to minimize false alarms, keep emergency personnel available for real emergencies, and help you to avoid the substantial fines that often comes with them. Here are 10 tips for ensuring that your alarm system only sends out a signal when it’s truly necessary:

1. Training.

Provide thorough training and practice for all of your family members and alarm system users.

2. Fast disarm.

Most alarms allow a short “grace period” during which you can disarm the system before authorities are notified. Be sure and teach all users how they can disarm your alarm system quickly when it’s been tripped erroneously.

3. Key numbers.

If you miss the disarm grace period, you’ll then have to call the alarm company to let them know about the false alarm; doing so efficiently may allow you to forestall the authorities from being called. Each user will also need to know the password for canceling a false alarm as well as the phone number and precise procedure needed to cancel it. Keep this phone number close by and handy; post a magnet or sticker on or near the alarm keypad with it. (Do NOT post the alarm cancelation password on or near your home security system; this should be memorized.)

4. Need-to-know basis.

Do not give keys or alarm codes to extraneous people; be very selective about who knows your alarm code.

5. Take precautions with motion sensors.

If your system has motion detectors, take steps to ensure that they will not be triggered by pets, fans or vents blowing air on the shades, drapes, etc. Even helium balloons and signs or banners left up after a party can create enough motion to set off a false alarm.

6. Malfunction.

If you suspect your system might be malfunctioning, call your home security company immediately to schedule a service call or inspection.

7. Share your plans.

Take the time to notify your security company if you will be going on out of town. Share the exact travel dates as well as the names of any new people who will have your alarm code during this time.

8. Work notice.

You should also notify your security company if you will be having any work done on your phone system, in any areas of your home where there are sensors or wiring, or if the power in your home or neighborhood is going to be shut off for any reason.

9. Practice.

Quiz the members of your household periodically about your password and the proper procedures for dealing with a false alarm so that the information is always fresh in their minds.

10. Upgrades.

Consider updating or replacing your alarm system when it becomes outdated; every ten years is a good general guideline.

False alarms are a waste of time and public resources, and these calls needlessly tie up emergency services that could otherwise be focused on legitimate alarms and critical situations. If you have a home security system, there are things you can do to minimize false alarms and help you avoid fines and penalties. Use these 10 tips to help get the most out of your home security system.