False alarms are a big problem, not only in Sandy Springs but around the country.
According to the Sandy Springs police department, the 9-1-1 center received nearly 10,000 calls from monitored alarm systems in 2017, and more than 98 percent of those were found to be false alarms.
This places a strain on public safety resources throughout the city.
The False Alarm Ordinance
In 2013, the city of Sandy Springs approved its False Alarm Ordinance, in an effort to reduce the number of false alarms from alarm monitoring services to the emergency 9-1-1 center.
Since implementing its false alarm ordinance, the city has seen a slight drop in the number of calls, but they continue to trend around 9,000 per year, with an overwhelming majority of them being false alarms.
Each alarm activation call takes two to four minutes to verify whether the alarm company performed the two-call verification check Sandy Springs requires. This ties up 9-1-1 lines for those placing legitimate calls for assistance.
The Latest Modifications
As a result, the city has implemented a number of modifications to improve the ordinance.
Most recently, at its June 19, 2018 meeting, the Sandy Springs City Council voted to require monitoring companies to provide “true, confirmed verification through audio, video or in-person confirmation” on security alarm activations prior to placing a call to 9-1-1.
This new requirement will go into effect June 19, 2019.
By implementing true verification, the Sandy Springs PD hopes to reduce the number of false alarms, enabling a faster response for calls that are actual emergencies.
To help reduce the volume of alarm activation calls to 9-1-1 dispatchers, Sandy Springs now directs them to its call center.
When the call center receives an intrusion alarm call, the responder will ask if the monitoring company has done the required verification process. If they can prove the two-call verification took place, the call is routed to 9-1-1.
If after a call has been transferred to 9-1-1 dispatchers, first responders determine the alarm was false, the alarm monitoring company is fined.
Other changes approved by the Sandy Springs City Council include an update to the terms “verify” and “verified.” Beginning June 19, 2019, they will refer to visual or audio evidence of a crime or any other emergency at the property housing the alarm through:
- Confirmation by the alarm user at the property or by self-monitored audio/visual equipment
- Confirmation by a private guard on site
- Audio or visual evidence provided by an alarm monitoring service
The ordinance was also amended to require monitoring companies to copy the city on required notification to alarm users regarding the assignment of permit numbers and service suspension for an alarm company that has failed to meet the requirements of the ordinance.
The Risk to You
Does the new ordinance put you at risk?
Possibly. The fact is, security alarms are meant to protect property, not people. Therefore, this ordinance shouldn’t put you or your family at greater risk of harm.
If you or a loved one press your alarm systems panic button or fire or medical attention is needed, this ordinance goes out of the window and help should be sent to you right away.
However, it could possibly put your property at greater risk of loss during a burglary because the alarm company will take a few extra minutes to provide audio or visual evidence of a break-in, in which time the intruder may be on his way out the door with your heirloom jewelry.
With that stated, due to the high false alarm rate, Sandy Springs currently categorizes calls from alarm companies as a low priority. Yet, under the new true verification rule, calls will begin to be tagged as a high priority because evidence of a possible crime has been provided.
How to Comply: Tips for Home and Business Owners
Most alarm monitoring companies, as well as DIY security systems, provide equipment capable of audio or visual monitoring. The easiest way to comply with updated Sandy Springs ordinance is to install security cameras that can be monitored from anywhere. This can help to provide both audio and visual confirmation of a break-in.
However, it’s vital that your security system and cameras are installed correctly and in optimal locations to reduce unwanted entry and blind spots. This is where it pays to have an experienced security expert do an analysis of your property to determine your highest vulnerabilities and even install the system for you.
When you will be away from your property for an extended period, consider employing a proactive asset protection solution, which will provide the peace of mind of having a security professional onsite to monitor your property in person, verify whether a break-in has indeed occurred and meet with law enforcement on your behalf.
How to Reduce False Alarms
False alarms are typically caused by:
- Entering incorrect keypad codes
- Untrained authorized users
- Opening doors and windows after the alarm is turned on
- Re-entering the home right after leaving without disarming because you assume the exit delay is long enough to get you by
- Objects hanging near motion sensors
- Weak system batteries
- Faulty equipment
- Weather events such as strong winds, electrical storms, etc.
More often than not, human error is at fault.
Here are a few easy ways to avoid false alarms:
Tip #1: Prior to activating your alarm system ensure that you have been thoroughly educated on how to operate it properly. Also, extend the same level of education to other family members, children, neighbors, house cleaners, pet sitters, caretakers, and any other people that will regularly or temporarily have access to the home.
However, keep in mind that house sitters, pet sitters, and even neighbors can compromise the security of you, your family and your assets if not properly vetted. Consider hiring a trusted team of highly-trained security specialists to care for your property while you’re away.
Tip #2: Be sure to save your alarm monitoring company’s number in your phone so that you recognize the call right away, reducing the chance of them calling 9-1-1 during a false alarm.
Tip #3: Securely close and lock all doors and windows and keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, etc. away from motion sensors.
Tip #4: Regularly service and maintain the system, including installing new batteries.
Tip #5: If you set your alarm off accidentally, don’t panic. Careful disarm your system and wait for the alarm monitoring company to call. Provide them with your password and let them know that it was a false alarm.
If they don’t call you, call them.
Never call 9-1-1 to cancel an alarm activation, only call your monitoring service.
While the new false alarm ordinance rules put in place by the city of Sandy Springs may seem like a pain, in the end, it’s meant to ensure the safety of each of its citizens by freeing up the time to deal with real emergencies.
If it were you or a family member calling 9-1-1 for help, you wouldn’t want to be put on hold so the dispatchers can take an alarm activation call that turned out to be a false alarm, would you?
By taking the steps outlined in this article, you can do your part as a responsible citizen of Sandy Springs.
If you need additional help complying with the ordinance or keeping your assets secure, contact us.