Fining alarm companies for false alarms. Good idea or bad?

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03/31/2011

There's been a lot of online chatter out there about the false alarm ordinance in Avondale, Ariz. I wrote last summer about some ordinance wackiness in neighboring Goodyear. I spoke with Arizona Alarm Association president Maria Malice. She and SIAC worked pretty hard with the folks in Goodyear to make sure the municipality understood the possible problems with going to verified response. 

At the time, I was told there were a whole bunch of municipalities in the metro Phoenix area that were thinking about harsher ordinances, Avondale among them.

Now, earlier this month, Jon Sargent over at SIAC gave me a call to let me know Avondale had hired CryWolf as a third party administrater of the alarm ordinance. The city council has decided to hold alarm companies responsible for the false alarm fines.

Ken Kirshchenbaum has a nice collection of commentary from alarm industry folks. Maria started the ball rolling by pointing out how important it was to take action.

Ken,

    Thank you so much for putting this out for us!  We are working hard to fight this issue as we know there are other Cities here in AZ who will want to follow in Avondale's footsteps if we do not take action now.

    One other notable is that we have SB-1277 for statewide alarm licensing in process.  We hope to have this passed this year.

    Love your daily emails they bring such great topics to light.  Keep up the great work!  Thank you!

Maria Malice

Vice President Special Projects

COPS Monitoring

Scottsdale, Arizona office

Arizona Alarm Association, President

Randy Larkam from north of the border up in Calgary ponits out that they've been fined for false alarms for years and that that tructh has lead to kind of an evolution, where private security officers vet alarms before dispatch. It's the way Mike Jagger runs Provident, too. I've written about them before when discussing verified alarms and priority reponse.

Ken

    Here in Calgary, Alberta, Canada alarm co’s have been billed $75 for every false alarm for the last 5+ years…

This has led to a lot more guard response/verification (unarmed).

Randy S. Larkam

Many in the industry are using the analogy of the car manufacturer or the car dealer being made to pay for end users' speeding tickets. I see where that anaolgy makes sense. However, I don't really think it's exactly apples to apples. When I buy my car from the dealership, my relationship with them truly is over (unless I stupidly financed through them rather than through a local credit unio or AAA). In the alarm industry, dealers or central stations still have regular contact with the end user, and in fact, it's the central sttion that dispatches on the alarm signal.

Ken:

    The best analogy that I have heard on this approach is..."Should Ford and other auto makers have to pay the speeding tickets that you and I receive for disobeying the speed limit"  Maybe if the alarm companies in Arizona can convey this line of reasoning to the elected officials they will re-think this ordinance.

Michael Samulin

Intruder Alert Systems, Inc.

San Antonio, TX

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying alarm companies should pay for false alarms, but there IS a continuing relationship wherein the alarm company via monitoring and dispatch is directly involved in sending the police to a location where an emergency might not exist... Not really apples to apples unless I regularly am allowing the car salesman to ride with me and play really rockin' driving music and egg me on to speed.

Luis Arellano, president of Reliance Alarm Company in Pennsylvania makes a good point that ordinances often times function to keep lazy or disinterested alarm users in line. Sometimes people just don't care that they're wasting officers' time and municipality resources...

Honorable friends,

    By way of amicus curiae I would like to express the opinion that your recent false alarm ordinance, requiring the alarm company to pay false alarm fines for its customer, is a bad idea.

    For starters, your ordinance may eventually have the effect of delaying or preventing the reporting of a true alarm condition, and has the potential to cost lives.

    The end user should be held responsible for purchasing and installing false-alarm-resistant system technology; for updating obsolete technology; for keeping it in proper operating condition; for learning the proper operation of the system; and for using the premises and the system in a way that does not provoke false alarm incidents.

    While the alarm company can and should assist in the above, it does not control the end user's budget; who will be on the premises; and the broad variety of things they might do to provoke false alarms including raising dust, spray painting, burning things in the kitchen, improper testing, renovations, roof and plumbing leaks, animal and insect infestation, insect fogging and more.  The alarm company usually does not know in advance that such events are taking place on the premises and therefore cannot identify false-alarm-provoking activity until after the alarm has been tripped.

    The alarm industry as a whole has been struggling with these false alarm problems for all of my thirty-one years in business and in recent years has become increasingly aggressive in its efforts.  While great strides have been made in false alarm reduction, we have yet to find the magic bullet.

    Economically, the starting assessment of $150 is disproportionate to the fee that alarm companies charge for monitoring service, approaching and probably significantly exceeding the ultimate profit on a year's monitoring service for many companies.  Putting the burden of reimbursement on the alarm company will create friction between all parties that will ultimately prove to be counterproductive.

    Although I'm not in your area, there are some municipalities in my market area that my company simply won't serve at all for lesser reasons.  You are therefore jeopardizing the availability of affordable service in your community by driving away potential vendors; and you're giving the companies that do stay the leverage to raise their installation, service and monitoring fees substantially to compensate for the extra risk and expense.

Our friend Dusan is a little less balanced, in my opinion, shouting for revolution. Che may have had his impetus down in BA, but it doesn't compare to how heated alarm guys get about false alarms and fines and unAmerican legislation. I've commented on some of Dusan's input on the Article 6-E debate before.

Welcome to COMMUNIST STATES OF AMERICA. We need to overturn this idiotic government just like people do it in other countries. It is ridiculous that we let people who steal, cheat, even pay hookers with our tax money like former New York governor rule our lives. Are we bunch of kids to let anyone order us around?

Dusan

There are many other voices to be heard. Has yours been heard yet? Get involved and let the industry and your municipality know what you think when it comes time for ordinances. This kind of thing has happened before and will happen again. The best thing alarm companies can do is be invovled in their community, know the ordinances, know the city council meeting agendas. And ACT.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Another perspective for ZERO TOLERANCE for false alarms.... it could be unlawful to levy and collect fines from the alarm site for false alarms. This perspective is evolving from research into reasons why it is so difficult, and costly, to collect fines under the "Model Ordinance". Often 50% remain uncollected.

Alarm owners don't pay because they were not the offender.... really hard to prove otherwise. The alarm site may have caused the alarm signal at their monitoring service, but the monitoring service caused the unnecessary police response, by not adequately filtering the signal or confirming the need for emergency help before the call for help (false police report).
Alternatives.... Verified Response; or collect from the monitoring source, not the alarm site.

Companies should be held to the same standard as people that generate false alarms.

If a client is costing too much to maintain due to their creating false alarms the choices are: cut them loose or charge them a higher fee.

Part of alarm monitoring is responding. One of the things about first responders is that often a situation is unknown.

The alarm company in essence is taking the place of dispatch. Should someone sound their alarm before calling 911 in a life or death event? No.

However, if that was all they could reach knowing eventually someone was responding would be at least reassuring.