And what you can do about it.

False alarm fines are lurking, waiting for your next alarm signal sent to your alarm monitoring company. The rising tide of false alarm fines and user fees are being increasingly levied on homeowners and alarm companies across the nation. Almost any alarm sent to your alarm company and reported to the police can be considered a false alarm. And for user fees it may not even matter if it is a false alarm or not.

So today I’m going to talk a little bit more about false alarms, false alarm ordinances, how cities are responding to increasing budget tightness, how they are working with the alarm companies and responding to alarms. The city of Seattle is a very good example of the direction that cities are moving as far as budgetary constraints and home alarm response.

About six or seven years ago, the city of Seattle downgraded the response to central monitored home alarm systems from a code 2 to a code 4. That means they have downgraded it from a fairly important code 2 emergency, a bit below a car accident or bank robbery, to responding only  if they have available time and when they can get to it.

As a result, response times went from 15-20 minutes to anywhere from half hour to five hours to not at all. A lot of the alarm companies in Seattle ended up going to a “guard response” approach as a result. A guard response has never been as good as a police response primarily because there just aren’t as many guards to respond as police to cover the entire area.

In Seattle, they do the additional punishment of when an alarm company calls to request a dispatch, there’s a fee of $115 levied upon the alarm company. This significant fee is in turn passed on to you the customer. And that fee is charged whether the police respond or not.

That was part of the reason the central monitoring alarm companies went to the guard response. Yet, the guard response is about half that at about $55-65. The response time they say will be around half an hour but my experience is that it is more like 45 minutes to an hour plus.

Which gets down to the point of – just what are we getting with a police response or guard response?

When the siren goes off, the burglars run. If the police or gaurds are there in five minutes they are three minutes too late. So, they are only following up on the fact that the alarm tripped. You will know if there is a window open, a door open, or something broke.

Those can get fixed. But you’re not really worried about a successful burglary. You may well have an attempt at burglary, but not a very successful burglary.

So why bother with that kind of expensive response when your neighbors, friends, and family could just as well check on things for you and register a report? In fact, that is why we created Blockwatch Alarm, an far more affordable solution to monitoring where the people you know and trust are the ones watching out for you. The alert instead goes straight to you and them.

What’s happened in many cities and municipalities while downgrading their response, they are now using burglar alarms, burglar alarm activation, and requests for police response as revenue for the city.

Quite frankly, when you look at it from a framing issue, it’s really difficult to say something good about false alarms. But the end result is that the customer is left to their own devices as far as protecting those type of burglary signals.  Hold up signals, fire signals, medical emergencies- those are all handled very professionally and very quickly by the police department. It’s just the burglar alarms that seem to be the victim here.

Next time we’ll talk a little bit more about what you can do to replace this lack of response.

What fees have been charged to you by your municipalities or alarm companies? I’d like to hear your experiences, just comment below!

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