False Alarms Position Paper

Table of Contents


Burglar alarm systems provide a public safety benefit by deterring crime through detection and the resulting dispatch of help. Studies have demonstrated the ability of alarm systems to reduce burglaries. But, along with this benefit have come false alarms that have stretched police resources since the invention of alarms in the 1800’s.

However, in recent years innovative technology and increased product reliability have reduced false alarms caused by faulty equipment. Never the less, false alarms continue to be a concern primarily because of user caused false alarms and a dramatic increase in the total number of alarms systems.

The Issue

The concern for the impact of false alarms has drawn elements of the public and private sector together to study the problem to uncover the cause of false alarms and recommend solutions. Various alternatives have been considered including some which would restrict the availability of alarm response through charging for dispatches, suspending response, or requiring private response. The public good requires a solution that keeps this vital public safety tool of alarms and response available and affordable.

The Current Solution to the False Alarm Issue

Working together, leaders of the public and private sector have devised a joint response to the false alarm issue with a coordinated effort between government agencies and the alarm industry to reduce false alarms. This joint effort has been a program called Model States. It was conceived and tested jointly by the public and private sector through a program funded by AIREF, a coalition of alarm service companies and alarm equipment manufacturers.

This program gets results by combining a good municipal alarm ordinance, good enforcement of the ordinance, good false alarm data on problem alarm users, and data on alarm company false alarm performance. Results are further ensured by overall management of the project through regional false alarm coordinators hired in cooperation with the police community and funded by the industry’s false alarm coalition (AIREF).

Based on the success in the five model states, the program is being expanded across North America. Alarm industry estimates that the joint efforts of this program will have a significant impact with a reduction in false alarms anticipated to be greater than 50%. The impact of the remaining false alarms plus the addition of newly installed alarm systems dictates that additional solutions beyond this North American program must also be sought to continue the reduction in false alarms.

Additional Efforts by the Industry are Required

The responsibility for the next steps in false alarm reduction falls on the shoulders of the alarm industry, which has gathered its best people to look for ways to reduce false alarms further, including those ways that could fundamentally change our business. New equipment standards are being formulated to change the operating characteristics and customer interfaces of alarm systems to dramatically reduce customer caused false alarms. Installation and alarm monitoring operating procedures are also being modified. The manufacturers and alarm service providers together realize these fundamental changes are required to keep alarm services available to all.


The alarm industry sees evidence that the false alarm problem is solvable. It believes the problem is best addressed with the joint public/private sector initiative that was initially demonstrated by the Model States program that is now being expanded across North America. In addition, the industry’s drive to change equipment and operating standards and its business practices will produce additional reductions.

We firmly believe that the citizen users of alarm systems expect and deserve nothing less than timely and appropriate response to their emergencies with an absolute minimum of false dispatches. All elements of the alarm industry are committed to deliver no less.