What Causes False Alarms On Home Security Systems?

False alarms are still a problem for home alarm owners. Usually the culprit is a motion detector or a motion sensor. There are ways you can reduce false alarms and the fees associated with them. Why should you care?

False alarms reduce the validity of real emergencies. False alarms put a burden on emergency resources and they cost money. In order to mitigate the amount of money it takes to provide resources to check on false alarms, several cities have implemented “False Alarm Fines”. False Alarm Fines vary from city to city but are fines paid by a homeowner to cover the cost of the false alarm.

The fear of false alarms also makes it more likely that an alarm owner will leave their alarm unarmed and this doesn’t do anyone any good. So with that said, here is a compilation of what several top security companies say about false alarm reduction.

 What causes false alarms?

According to Frontpont, “Most alarm system events are false alarms. The single biggest reason for these false alarms is user error, such as forgetting to provide the pass code to a contractor or family member, or using the system incorrectly.”

In fact, Guardian states that 70% of false alarms are caused by user error adding that open, unlocked, or loose-fitting doors/windows can also lead to false alarms. They’ve seen false alarms caused by everything from balloons to large bugs to rotating holiday decorations that move in front of motion detectors.

Several companies feel that motion detectors can lead to more false alarms. According to ADT, “A motion detector may activate falsely for several reasons. It could be the result of improper installation of the device, such as placing it above a heater or furnace. A false detection could be caused by the movement of objects such as balloons, blinds, and curtains within the range of a motion detector. If false alarm activations continue the motion detector may require relocation or adjustment.”

Tips for reducing false alarms

Frontpoint suggests looking for a system with interactive features, like remote arm/disarm, text and email notifications, special apps, and even home video services. All these can reduce false alarms by making the system easier to use and control remotely.

If you plan to have your system professionally installed Guardian suggests making sure your alarm company is licensed by your state. They suggest purchasing from reputable and stable companies that use state of the art equipment designed to prevent false alarms.

All major alarm companies suggest that you practice dealing with a false alarm. Call ahead to your monitoring company and ask them to put your system in test mode before practicing. Protect America suggests practicing monthly. LifeShield adds that anyone who has a key to your home needs to have an access code to help mitigate false alarms. SimpliSafe suggests giving guests an alternate code and we suggest looking into lock automation to grant and revoke access as needed.

Some companies like Protect America will allow you to have the monitoring station call you or another designated person BEFORE the police, fire, or medical personnel are called. LiveWatch offers a similar service. When an emergency contact is called in response to a “trouble signal”, LiveWatch’s central monitoring operator will ask the emergency contact whether they happen to already be on the premises and can determine whether it is in fact a false alarm. If the emergency contact has the proper passcode they can disarm the system and stop the emergency response.

Pets and false alarms

Almost all alarm companies agree that pets can set off a false alarm. Guardian suggest using protection other than motion detectors if you have pets. They suggest glassbreak detectors, open/close sensors, or simply confining pets to an area without motion detectors. Protect America agrees:

“If you have pets purchase an alarm system that is tolerant of pets (pet immune). You may not want to purchase motion detectors if your pets have free run of the house when the alarm is on. Barking dogs can activate glass break detectors.”

How to handle a false alarm

  • Stay calm.
  • Disarm your system.
  • Call your monitoring center to report the false alarm.
  • The monitoring center will attempt to cancel the emergency dispatch.
  • Stay put until someone at your monitoring center clears you to leave your home.
  • If the police arrive, let them know you are okay.

LifeShield adds that whatever you do, don’t call 911, the police, or anyone else besides your monitoring center in the event of a false alarm.

  • Dorothy Henderson

    my motion detector set a short alarm….at 3 am….i went to check and then another occured but not a full alert. Could this be from wind coming in around a patio sliding door or that the wind makes the shades move? I just replaced the battery in the detector 6-8 weeks ago and they usual last a year. I dont get it as we i am sure have had high winds before and i have left the shades open before…..its set on stay so why would my moving around the kitchen set it off again….as i have gone out there before in the night and this didnt happen.