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The Top 3 Causes of False Alarms at Businesses & How to Prevent Them

Business Security

False alarms at commercial properties are a huge problem for Atlanta businesses. In fact, false alarms accounted for 95% of the 65,000 alarm system calls that police received in 2012 (for both residential and commercial properties.)

The statistics aren’t that much better in 2019, despite the city cracking down hard on homeowners and business owners that are repeat offenders of false alarms. Today, every business in Atlanta is required to register their alarm system and pay fines as high as $500 per false alarm. 

While the blame has shifted between human failings and technological limitations, the truth is that both have a role to play in causing false alarms on commercial properties

So what are the top five causes of false alarms for businesses in the United States and Atlanta in general?  

  • Human error 
  • Poor sensor placement
  • Outdated system equipment

This article will review each of the five most common causes of false alarms, then provide solutions on how to prevent those false alarms from happening to your business.


Would you like your commercial security system assessed for false alarm liabilities by an industry professional? Why not give Ackerman Security a call? 

Our experts have decades of experience with commercial security, and can protect your business from fines and lost productivity that happen due to false alarms. 

Give us a call today at 866.343.1234 or schedule a consultation online.


 

Cause #1: Human error

Human error accounts for the vast majority of false alarms on business properties across the U.S. That’s the bad news. The good news is these issues are quickly solved with proper training and ongoing education. 

Companies which implement the following procedures are much less susceptible to false alarms due to human error:

1. Develop security training protocols for new employees

Within the first few weeks of employment, an employee should feel comfortable with the basic operations of the property’s commercial security system. It’s up to the company to define what “basic operations” means. But for most companies, employees should have a general awareness of:

  • Where and what they have access to on the property
  • How to disarm the alarm (if they’re the first person at the office)
  • How to arm the alarm (if they’re the last person in the office)
  • What to do if an alarm is set off by accident

2. Perform regular system maintenance 

Regular maintenance is an important step to preventing false alarms. While it’s always valuable to have your system checked once a year by a professional security company, other steps can be taken by the property owner to ensure no false alarms occur. 

One example is refreshing your alarm sensor’s batteries regularly. Sensors sometimes malfunction when the batteries are nearly dead. So making this a scheduled task around the office could spare the property another false security alarm.

3. Make ongoing security system training a priority 

Most companies offer some kind of security training when an employee is onboarding. But it’s rare for companies to continue that education and training afterward. 

At the very least, a company should keep employees informed of…

  • Changes to what can/cannot be accessed on a employee-by-employee basis
  • If passwords or credentials change on a company-wide level
  • If company policies or protocols for its security system changes
  • If a new security system is installed

Teaching employees how to use a security system is the single most important step a company can take toward reducing false alarms. 

But sometimes human error isn’t at fault. Sometimes the sensors themselves can lead to false alarms on a business property. Which brings us to cause #2...

 

Cause #2: Poor sensor placement

Sensor placement is a leading cause of false alarms on commercial properties. Some of the most common mistakes related to sensor placement include:

  • Sensors near vents: Blowing air from a fan or HVAC system has been known to trigger security sensors if the sensor is placed too close to a vent or fan. Even drafts from an open window can trigger an alarm. 
  • Sensors near blinds/curtains: Sensors may pick up movement from blinds and curtains, especially if ventilating air is running through the building. 
  • Smoke sensors above cooking areas: Many commercial properties have kitchens or cafeterias. Adding smoke alarms too close to food or cooking areas could lead to a false alarm. 

So what’s the solution to poor sensor placement? Almost always, it’s to hire a professional to locate the troublesome sensor and reinstall it in a location where it’s less likely to trigger the alarm. 

 

Cause #3: Outdated system equipment

Using glass-break detectors can reduce the chances of false alarms at commercial properties.Older equipment tends to cause more false alarms than newer equipment. This happens for two reasons:

  • The sensors aren’t as “smart” as modern sensors and tend to go off for any kind of movement. 
  • Older equipment lacks modern features which are good at preventing alarms or turning off alarms before the authorities are alerted.

Sensors have become smarter

Modern sensors are better at identifying real threats from false threats. For example:

  • Fire alarms now come with hyper-responsive ionization and photoelectric components that know how to differentiate between burnt toast and a real fire. 
  • Glass-break detectors eliminate the “movement” component and make false alarms much less likely to go off due to waving curtains or a passing mouse. Open/close sensors can also offer the same false alarm prevention.
  • Passive infrared motion detection can now easily distinguish between humans and smaller animals. 

Modern equipment has false-alarm prevention features

Newer commercial security equipment comes with a number of features and fail-safes for preventing false alarms: 

  • Remote arm and disarm: Remote arm and disarm makes it easy for a business owner to be notified when an alarm goes off and assess the situation via his or her smart device within seconds. 
  • Monitoring notifications: Your monitoring provider is a key ally in preventing false alarms. You’ll want to ask about setting up a two-step notification process. That means the company monitoring the property will attempt to get in touch with you via two different methods (often two phone numbers) before contacting the authorities. 

  

Make false alarm prevention a priority for your commercial property in 2020

Following the steps listed in this article can dramatically reduce the chances that your business will lose work hours or be fined by the city of Atlanta for a false alarm. But if you don’t have time to run through the list yourself, the professionals at Ackerman can manage these tasks for you. 

Protect your business from false alarms in 2020 and beyond. Call our team at 866.343.1234 or schedule a consultation online today.

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