Understanding enhanced call verification

Ron Walters
Tuesday December 09, 2014
Written by Ron Walters
According to Stan Martin, executive director of SIAC, “You can’t have a meaningful discussion on dispatch reduction without addressing the use of ECV.” The development of enhanced call verification (ECV) was the result of a specific request by the International Association of Chief’s of Police (IACP) Private Sector Liaison Committee (PSLC).
In the days immediately following the 9-11 attacks in New York City there was no way to know if, or when, another attack might occur. So the PSLC issued a challenge to the industry to find a method to dramatically address false dispatches that didn’t require heavy lifting on the part of law enforcement.

A group of industry professionals, the catalyst that would become SIAC, met in an attempt to address this challenge.

First, it is an accepted fact that 77 per cent of all false alarms and false dispatches are the result of user error. Furthermore, virtually all alarm companies were making a call to attempt to verify these signals. The most indisputable fact was: ”For there to be user error, there must be someone at the premises.” So why weren’t we able to verify more of these signals without a dispatch?

The biggest issue was identified as the call-waiting feature on phones. Over the years, the alarm transmission and verification process had become so efficient that an alarm signal was transmitted, and an attempt to verify was made before the alarm panel had released the phone line. With call-waiting, the central station operator was making the verification call to the alarm site while the alarm panel still had line seizure, so the operator would hear a ringing tone but there was no phone ringing at the site.

Tests were conducted on ECV and we quickly learned that in cases where a call was made to the premise that went unanswered, if the operator hung up and called the same number a second time, in 25 per cent of the cases a responsible party was reached.

Seeking a broader test, we were able to get Boulder, Colo., to agree to require ECV as a policy. This allowed alarm companies to enforce the policy without customer approval. However it did require that customers be notified. Boulder was unique in that two companies controlled roughly 75 per cent of the business. After completing a one-year test using nothing more than ECV, reductions reached 61 per cent. The difference was that the two test companies made a conscious effort to obtain cellular phone numbers for the responsible parties.

It is important to recognize that there should never be a case where an alarm user who is not at the premise should guess whether there should be a dispatch. In most cases, once reached by cellular phone, the responses will be some known circumstance that doesn’t require a dispatch. Once enforced, there is an immediate 25 per cent reduction in dispatches that builds over the first year.

ECV eventually became an industry standard. The title of the document is ANSI/CSAA CS-V-01-2004.xx and you can find a link to the full document at www.siacinc.org under Standards. 

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

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