Educating the alarm abuser

Ron Walters
Tuesday December 09, 2014
Written by Ron Walters
For more than a decade, the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC) has developed many close and worthwhile relationships with law enforcement agencies.
The largest benefit of these has been the open exchange of information. Most recently, these agencies have been sharing some impressive statistics that prove that all of our combined efforts have been worth every minute and dollar invested. We are finding that where a well thought out alarm management program is in place and is well enforced, 85 per cent of the alarm systems have no dispatches in any given 12-month period. What is just as impressive is that another five to seven per cent have only one. This means that no more than eight per cent of all of our systems are creating almost the entire dispatch problem. It also means that if we can successfully address this small piece, we can lay claim to a solution.

Many people believe that SIAC is in business to fight onerous alarm ordinances, but this is a very small part of our actual mission. Some believe that SIAC is against verified response; again this isn’t always true.

There will always be that 10 per cent of alarm users who are abusers. Many of these systems will experience dozens of dispatches annually, and a great many of them are public buildings. This can be the result of a broken system, refusing service or even a failure of the customer training process. Traditionally, the method of dealing with these abusers was for them to pay high fines. However, many just budget for the fines and pass the costs along to their customers and,  more often than not, municipal buildings are exempted from paying fines.

The best way to address these abusers is an active process within the alarm company that quickly identifies problem accounts and invests the time and dollars to fix the problem. But what do you do when a customer refuses to repair their alarm or learn how to responsibly use it? One way is to look at the account and measure how much it means to you. Do they pay their monitoring on time? Just how high is their level of activity? Would you do the repairs if the customer agrees to a new five-year agreement? If the client is unwilling to work with the alarm company, then response to that account should be suspended, either by a strong ordinance or the alarm company refusing to continue to dispatch. No company wants to lose customers but the real truth is we can’t continue to jeopardize all of the customers for such a small handful of abusers.

Since user error accounts for almost 80 per cent of all dispatches, every company should put an educational process in place that begins at the completion of every installation and is available for retraining. If you don’t want to face developing such a program there is one available for free at www.siacinc.org.

If all else fails, ask the local alarm co-ordinator to meet with you and the customer, but one way or another, if the problem can’t be fixed then private response should be considered.

We can’t claim success until we address these problem accounts and this is why SIAC supports removing response to chronic abusers. 

Ron Walters is the director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (www.siacinc.org).

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