To strengthen their security, many businesses rely on traditional alarm systems to signal unauthorised entry, deter theft and damage to property. However, there is a security issue that is causing a $3.2 billion dollar problem for the U.S. security industry, and an excess of £1 billion pounds a year in the UK… false alarms.
It’s estimated that over 90% of alarms are in fact false alarms that cause unnecessary stress not only for business owners, facility managers, and building occupants, but also for law enforcement officials, fire brigades, and emergency responders.
Did you know that if an alarm goes off at your business, depending on your jurisdiction, as a property owner, you must be able to get to your premises within 20 minutes to resolve the issue. If you fail to do so on more than one occasion, local law enforcement may ignore any future alarms and you will be regarded as a nuisance.
For business owners who already find themselves in this situation, or pro-actively want to prevent this type of situation, hiring a mobile security guard service can be a very cost-effective solution. These security officers can provide a rapid response to any and all incidents including security alarms.
Mobile security patrol guards are an ideal solution for rapidly responding to alarms. One of the best measures is to secure your business with mobile patrol security guards. Mobile patrol security guards are visible from far away as they are assigned to wear their uniform, thereby deterring anyone attempting unlawful entry to your business, or willfully causing damage to your property. The patrol guard will inspect your business both internally and externally. They can also ensure that the security and fire systems installed at your place of business are kept in check. They can confirm that alarms are real or false and if real they can stand down and secure, and protect your assets
In 2016, the International Association of Chiefs of Police reported that over 98 percent of all alarm calls in the United States were false. Why? There are numerous causes of false alarms including inadequate training of users (like cleaning personnel, maintenance workers, contractors, to name a few). Open unlocked doors and windows can also set off a false alarm. Drafts caused by air conditioning that moves plants or curtains, doorbells, and barking dogs can also trigger a false alarm.
False alarms can also be activated by:
- Mechanical failure, malfunction, or faulty equipment
- Negligence or carelessness
- Atmospheric conditions, vibrations, a power failure
- Alarm system testing without the prior knowledge of the security company
There’s no doubt that false alarms are a growing problem. Designed to protect lives and property, when misused they can be a liability. Law enforcement officials spend a significant amount of time and energy responding to false alarms which can lead to a delay in responding to real emergencies. It can also cause users to become reluctant to arm the system, exposing the business to undetected theft or damage, or incur false alarm fines and penalties.
A Closer Look at False Alarms
Many cities currently require businesses to possess a valid alarm permit which costs anywhere between $20 – $60. However, even with an alarm permit, most businesses will still be required to pay a fee or penalty in the event of a false alarm, especially if you operate a business in one of the cities below:
- The city of Los Angeles, CA, eliminated “free” first false alarms years ago, so the penalty for a first false alarm is $216 with a permit. The penalty increases to $316 without a permit.
- The city of Seattle, WA, charges $230 for a false panic/duress/robbery alarm.
- The city of Calgary, Alberta, does not charge a fee for the first false alarm, but charges $500 for the second false alarm. That fee jumps to $1500/alarm for four or more alarms in one calendar year.
- Similarly, in Boulder, CO, while the first false alarm is free, the second false alarm is $100, and jumps in hundred dollar increments with each additional alarm.
To avoid these fees and penalties, businesses should consider outsourcing the job of responding to alarms to security companies with mobile security patrols who can take the necessary course of action after ascertaining the case of the alarm. The action taken can include resetting the alarm or locating and detaining law breakers as well as dealing with law enforcement and emergency responders.
Also key to reducing the likelihood and number of false alarms is to make sure that all users are properly trained on how to arm and disarm the system, including all third-party users such as cleaning staff, contractors, part-time and shift workers.
Key Holding Services
Similarly to Alarm Response, many businesses opt to move the responsibility of key holding away from staff and pay a private security company to assist them. This is a good solution for businesses whose owners and staff are reluctant to return to the premises outside of office hours or if staff turnover is high, which makes it difficult to assign positions of responsibility to any one individual.
When an alarm is triggered, over 90% of the time, it will be a false alarm. While this is a good thing, it can also be very annoying for the designated key-holding employee who has to return to the premises to turn off the alarm. With every false alarm, the employee will have to visit the site to open it for the security company. They will also have to stay on the site for at least an hour. When you use a key holding service, it is the responsibility of the security company to return to the site so your staff can rest easy.
Private security companies who offer key-holding services provide mobile security guards to inspect the premises and liaise with law enforcement and emergency responders if necessary. The company will also arrange for any door repairs and fixes in the event of a break-in or property damage, and generally provide a faster reaction time which could potentially reduce any property damage.
The Safety Factor
Another benefit of a key holding service is the safety it provides. When you have a member of staff acting as the key holder, they can be at risk when visiting the site after the alarm goes off. Staff safety is something that you need to consider at all times.
On the other hand, the person sent by the key holding service will generally be trained to handle any potential situations. This is training that your employee will not normally have and it can be the difference between being safe and not.
Although you may consider outsourcing alarm response and key-holding services to be a costly extravagance, it is really a cost-effective option when you consider the increasing cost of fees and penalties for false alarms. Not only will mobile security patrols provide a quicker response time, but they are also trained to handle any situation, which improves the safety of the response. Having a company handle your keys will also be more convenient for you and your staff. What’s more, there will always be a spare set of keys available in the event that keys are damaged or get lost.
Don’t forget to share positive stories of security officers on social media using #frontlinesecurity to show them you care.
Stay safe, stay secure.