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Are thieves testing your alarm system?

by Kevin Crothers 

Are thieves testing your alarm system logoPicture this: You manage a facility that has an alarm system that has been in place for some time. It has provided good service and your staff is diligent in arming and disarming it. No problems. 

One night when you are fast asleep, the alarm goes off and you are alerted with a phone call from your alarm monitoring agency. Since this hasn’t happened in recent memory, you agree that the police should be notified and request that they respond. After all, that’s why the alarm system is there in the first place. You drive out to meet the police on site. 

It takes time, say 45 minutes or so, for the police to arrive — which is a good estimate of an average response time. They do not find any intruders or signs of forced entry. Because your alarm system is of a fairly recent vintage, you know that it is a door sensor at the back of the building that set off the alarm. You check the door and it seems OK from both inside and outside, except it has a little play in it. Nothing to worry about, right? 

One week later, you are awakened again when the same thing happens, except at an overhead door. The alarm goes off, police are summoned and … nothing. Perhaps it was just the wind rattling the overhead door? This time, however, you are assessed a charge by the police department for responding to a false alarm. You call your alarm company and schedule a service call. The technician tests the system and judges that it is operating properly. 

Two weeks later, the alarm goes off for the third time. You groggily answer the phone wanting only to go back to sleep and tell the alarm company, “Don’t call the police. It’s a false alarm. This is the third one this month.” 

What you didn’t see was the two people sitting in a car with their headlights off, parked in a neighboring lot with a perfect view of your business. It turns out that thieves were forcing the door just enough to trigger the system as a test to see what the response time was, who showed up, how the system operated, etc. 

What happens the next time your alarm system is triggered? Now, emboldened by the likelihood of no police response, the thieves make their move. Your loss of inventory is significant and damage to the facility also is incurred. You lose a lot of time filing claims, paying deductibles and wondering how this could have happened. 

Criminals have learned a lot about alarm systems and police response; it’s part of their stock in trade. They have upped their game and now so must you. Verifying the reason for alarm events is now possible and doing so can virtually eliminate false alarms and the risk of the above scenario happening to you. 

The answer lies in audio and/or video alarm verification technology added to your security system. With alarm verification, monitoring centers can validate that unauthorized persons are on site and a crime actually is in progress. 

Audio verification utilizes specially designed sensors inside your facility. These “sonic listeners” are set off by breaking glass, metal scraping and a variety of other unusual or unexpected noises, which trigger an event at the monitoring center. Specially trained staff then activate the microphones incorporated in the sensors to determine if intruders are in your building. Once verified, police are immediately alerted with the critical “alarm verified” message. 

Police do not like false alarms — they are an unproductive use of their time. Verified alarms get their attention, however, because the chances of apprehending criminals in the act of committing a crime is greatly enhanced. As a result, the police response time is greatly improved. 

Video verification is similar in that when system sensors like door contacts or motion detectors are tripped, monitoring center personnel can access your video cameras on site and see the crime in progress before alerting the police to a “verified situation in progress.” Both technologies are extremely reliable and efficient in aborting a crime in process and can be a powerful deterrent discouraging “repeat business” from thieves. 

Updating your electronic security with alarm verification can help prevent criminals from testing and then defeating your security system. 

Kevin Crothers is a regional sales manager at Stanley Security, Fishers, Ind. Learn more at stanleysecurity.com.