False alarms account for up to 98% of all burglar alarm calls in the United States, wasting billions of tax dollars and hundreds of police hours. Several cities have begun charging alarm system owners for false alarms, racking up hundreds in penalty “service fees.” We’ll review five common reasons for false burglar alarms, and give you some practical ways to diminish your false alarm rate—and your police bill.
1. User Error
When you unlock your front door to enter the building, you may think that’s all there is to safely disengaging the alarm system. However, if your alarm system is armed, then an alarm may trigger with the door’s opening—even if you used a key to unlock it! Then, you’ll have the police at your door, ready to arrest the intruder… who’s authorized to be there.
How to Fix
False alarms due to user error can be greatly reduced when businesses make alarm system training a part of every employee’s onboarding process and continuing education. Make sure that employees who are frequently in the office late, coming in early, or otherwise allowed in the building at “odd” times understand how to disarm the alarm system.
2. Unsecured Doors and Windows
Doors and windows that are left open—intentionally or unintentionally—can cause their attached sensors to trigger. The alarm system circuits were installed with the assumption that all possible entrances to your building would be secured during active arming hours. Therefore, open windows or flapping doors would trigger the alarm, adding another false alarm to your bill.
How to Fix
Make sure all windows are closed and all doors properly shut before the alarm system is armed for the night. It’s worth calling in a repairman if you’re having a door or window that’s failing to latch securely. (After all, locks in the door or window mean nothing if someone can just shove it open.)
3. Animal Pests
While this false alarm is more of a concern for homeowners’ domestic pets, rats, mice, and other large pests may also trigger motion-sensitive alarms. Even feral cats and dogs moving across the sensors’ fields may initiate false alarms.
How to Fix
If your rat or feral cat problem is so bad that your security system is alarming to them—rather than human pests—then it’s time to consider professional exterminator or animal control solutions. You should also spray insect repellent around your outdoor (and vulnerable indoor) sensor locations twice a year.
If that doesn’t work, try baiting perimeter cage traps well away from any sensors to secure their movements. Just remember to check the traps in the morning, and know what you’re going to do with any captured animals before setting the traps!
4. Poorly Installed and Maintained Equipment
If you opted for a relatively inexpensive DIY security system install, then you’re at risk for paying thousands out-of-pocket in false alarm fees. From wireless security systems that require annual battery replacement to bad wiring connections, badly installed and barely maintained security equipment leaves you vulnerable to loss from criminals and from false alarm fees.
How to Fix
Schedule a system spot-check every three months or so, to make sure all wires are If you’re tired of maintaining and monitoring your security system 24/7, consider partnering with a professional security company to take over the installation and upkeep of your security system. However, schedule a spot-check of your systems every three months or so to make sure your equipment’s hardware and software are all effective.
5. Unverified Alarms
False alarms have gotten so bad, that some cities refuse to send police to investigate burglar alarms unless the alarm has been verified. Should a patrol officer decide to check out an unverified alarm and they find no evidence of a crime or break-in, then you—as the alarm system owner—will get the service fee bill.
How to Fix
Make sure that your monitoring company’s protocols include contacting you for alarm verification before they call the police. Consider also adding video verification, as well as integrating with your keyless access control security system, for added layers of protection.
Through processing fees and penalties, false alarms can make cheap DIY systems even more expensive than their professional-grade counterparts. If you’re looking for a new partner in comprehensive security—with everything from live video monitoring to keyless access control and intrusion systems—give us a call, and we’ll be happy to build a custom security system that grows with your business.