What are the most common causes of false alarms in security systems?

Although technology has advanced massively within the security industry over the last few years, false alarms can still become a problem due to variety of reasons. Whether equipment is set up in a troublesome location, or the wrong type of equipment is chosen, there are many factors that could cause an alarm to activate unnecessarily.


Why do false alarms happen?


With intruder alarm systems, the most common cause of an alarm being falsely triggered is human error. If an incorrect pin-code is entered (or taking too much time to enter a pin) will set off the armed system. Making sure that you are familiar with the system, and training others how to arm/disarm the alarm is an easy way to prevent mistakes. It is also beneficial to develop a plan that details what to do in the event the alarm itself malfunctions, or someone has trouble setting the system at the end of the day. This may include who to contact (for example, your security provider/maintainer) if there’s a problem or providing a ‘how-to’ for contractors and other users who may not be so familiar with the site and its security systems.


Properly installing and configuring motion sensors, as well as CCTV cameras can help prevent false alarms. People, animals, or objects in close proximity to equipment can set off a false alarm, both with an intruder alarm or CCTV system. Using a suitable piece of the equipment for the environment is also important in making sure a system works as it should. For example, consumer brand Which? reported that 1 in 5 false alarm activations were caused by pets inside the home. There are quite a few options for ‘pet-tolerant’ intruder alarm systems, that use PIR detectors that ignore any changes in passive infrared (movement of body heat) at floor level, up to 35kgs in weight/mass. For video surveillance systems, there is ‘false alarm filter’ technology, whereby cameras use artificial intelligence, to recognise and filter out movements from things like rain, leaves and animals.


What are the implications of false alarms occurring on a regular basis?


What happens when your alarm goes off will largely depend on the kind of security system you have installed. If you have a monitored alarm in place, you may end up paying a fee to an alarm receiving centre (ARC) who are notified when it is activated.


An accredited ARC will have systems in place to verify that activations at your premises are legitimate and no cause for concern, through video and audio inspection in real-time. However, they may still contact designated ‘key holders’, depending on the arrangement you have in place with them. If your keyholder responds to an alarm, and attend site, you may be charged a fee for their attendance – even if there was no security breach. It’s therefore best to contact your security provider if your system is set off accidentally, through entering the wrong pin-code for example, as they can advise the monitoring centre of the issue and avoid non-essential callouts.


Not only this, but if a Police URN is in place at your property, the emergency services can be called out unnecessarily and divert crews away from genuine emergencies, as well as from essential training and prevention works. West Midlands Police now have policies in place to clamp down on time spent responding to false alarms. Premises are allowed 3 false-alarm responses in a 12-month period, before the URN is withdrawn for a period of 90 days. During these 90 days, it is recommended that the system is reviewed by an installer/maintainer to identify the cause of the false alarms. After the 90-date period is up, you are able to apply for reinstatement of the service. However, this does not always mean the URN application will be accepted a second-time around and your site may be without a Police response, even in the event of a real-life emergency.


With CCTV systems, if cameras are located in an area where there is high traffic of people, and are being constantly activated, monitoring stations may isolate the zone and prevent further video activations from being picked up. Normally, these zones are reinstated after a short cool-off period but, if the problem persists, can be isolated permanently.


 

Although it is impossible to guarantee that a security system won’t be falsely activated at some point in its lifetime, with proper maintenance, unwanted incidents should become a rarity. Watch Systems Ltd provide tailored maintenance contracts to ensure equipment is working as it should be. If you are concerned about the number of false alarms being generated from the security systems at your business premises or residential property, contact us here for advice.

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