One false alarm every four years?

Municipality, industry PACT creates 'one of the lowest' false alarm rates in the country
Thursday, July 8, 2010

SANDY CITY, Utah—This Salt Lake City suburb has somehow managed to lower its false alarm rate to almost nothing over the last 24 years, trimming false alarm calls consistently despite an increase in the number of monitored alarms. Its false alarm “problem” has been steadily going away since 1986—when the false alarm rate was 2.64 percent. What are they doing that the rest of the country isn’t?

Since the mid-eighties, police and security representatives from this metro-Salt Lake bedroom community of 100,000 have come together for a PACT Meeting (Police/Alarm company Cooperative Taskforce), a once-a-month breakfast with a singular purpose: to discuss false alarm reduction efforts and best practices. The 24-year effort has paid off amazingly, with Sandy City, Utah maintaining one of the lowest false alarm rates in the country, according to the Sandy City Police.

“In May 2010 our residential false alarm rate was .12 … we’re at about one false alarm every eight-and-one-half years,” said SCPD alarm coordinator Duff Astin. “Our commercial—so that’s banks, stores, restaurants, schools and everything else—is .51, which is once every two years. Combine them both together and it’s about .22, so a little less than once every four years on average. That’s extremely low. We’ve been doing very well.”

It’s not just the false alarm ordinance Sandy City’s got in place, it’s the cooperation among the municipality, the industry and competing alarm companies, as well, that has really made the difference, according to Astin. “We just get together and get it done. Sometimes it’s five or six jurisdictions, sometimes it’s just one or two,” Astin said. “It’s interesting, because you get competing companies sitting next to each other and one will say, ‘Jeez, we’re having such a problem with X, Y and Z.’ And the guy next to him will be like, ‘Try this. This is what worked for us.’”

Utah Alarm Association president Will Naegle—owner of Salt Lake-based Alarm Control—agreed cooperation between companies that were normally rivals made everyone stronger. “Having the PACT meeting is huge … We have a forum to get together and talk about these issues specifically. And it’s repeated—it’s not once a year, it’s once a month,” Naegle said. “We recognize that we can’t waste police resources on false alarms. We need to help new alarm dealers avoid the pitfalls—sort of mentor them to avoid false alarms. Because we all get painted with the same brush … If they pollute the atmosphere with false alarms and not training their customers properly—there are so many causes of false alarms—then we all get the black eye.”

Sandy City currently asks that alarm owners register, but does not require registration to ensure response. The ordinance, which Astin said is “really lenient to our citizens,” allows four false alarms in a rolling 12-month period. On the fifth false alarm within the past 365-day period there is a $110 fee levied. The $110 fee continues with each subsequent offense until the violator drops below four falses in the past 365 days.