Enhanced verification may put a dent in false alarms

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

VIENNA, Va. - A new alarm verification standard now up for public comment could change the way central stations do business and leave a lasting impact on the false alarm problem within the security industry.

The proposed standard calls for central stations to make two verifications before calling police to respond to a security alarm. Many central stations currently make one phone call, usually to the location of the alarm system, before dispatching police.

Several alarm companies that tested the two-call, or enhanced, method reported a nearly 50 percent drop in false alarm dispatches to police. Enhanced verification is the attempt by a monitoring company to verify that no emergency exists through procedures such as two or more verification calls, cross zoning, live audio or video or a combination of methods.

“We did an experiment with 100 customers for a day,” said Bob Bonifas, president and chief executive officer of Alarm Detection Systems in Aurora, Ill. “That test indicated a 50 percent reduction. Now we’re getting similar results in a much broader group of customers.”

Bonifas is a member of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition board of directors, which brought the proposed standard to the Central Station Alarm Association

The alarm verification standard is one of several efforts to reduce false alarm dispatches within the industry. It was only 10 years ago that the industry mandated alarm verification, which required central stations to make at least one phone call before calling police to respond to an alarm.

The alarm verification standard is now up for public comment and once that period ends in the middle of this month, the CSAA plans to bring the proposal before the Security Industry Standards Council, an American National Standards Institute approved body, for a stamp of approval.

If approved, it then paves the way for municipalities to adopt the enhanced verification standard. It also would open the door for the CSAA to work with Underwriter’s Laboratories to adjust UL-827, a standard that requires alarm verification calls take no more than 60 seconds to complete.

“If you do two call verifications, it’s very difficult to have these calls made in 60 seconds,” said Lou Fiore, chairman of CSAA’s Standards Committee, who said the goal is for the verification standard and UL-827 to align with the other.

Once that step is complete, Fiore hopes central stations will then adopt two-call verification as an everyday business practice.

Bonifas’ company, which monitors 24,000 accounts, has already implemented two-call verification company-wide. To improve upon their list of contacts, Alarm Detection Systems recently sent letters to customers asking them to list more than one person or phone number to call should their security system send an alarm signal to the central station.

“As of the first of the year we started this 100 percent,” said Bonifas, who saw dispatch alarms drop from an average of 50 a day to 30. “The results in January were encouraging and in February they were wonderful.”