Stan Martin is Executive Director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition.
For over 40 years the alarm industry has been studying ways to reduce invalid alarm activations. These studies have concluded that initially a majority of these activations are caused by user errors and that is still true today. The obvious answer is to better educate and train these end users, and certainly the industry continues to improve in that area. I believe many companies are doing a great job on that initial training. We understand a well-trained customer is less likely to have alarm activations and/or require “warranty” service. They are happier, and companies benefit by lowering operating costs.
Yet, people get busy, they have a lot on their minds – they forget user codes and operational instructions for features they don’t use often. They get in a hurry and don’t close or lock doors and windows properly; they leave animals out in protected areas. These and other issues that impact the effectiveness of alarms contribute to the need for panel parameter adjustments that will minimize user errors.
Employee turnover is another problem. Commercial users are constantly replacing employees, further complicating the effort of education and training. Simplifying and standardizing control panels improves alarm effectiveness for businesses’ employees, regardless of the frequency of turnover.
What Can the Industry Do?
Training is not enough to make significant reductions in the number of invalid alarm activations. There are also inherent design features that can contribute to these invalid alarms. The industry studied these user errors and found that a significant portion could be addressed through programming of the alarm control panel.
For example, extending default entry/exit delays gives the user more time. A communications delay of 30 seconds allows the user to enter a code and abort communication to the central station. Another example of a CP-01 feature that improves alarm consistency is an automatic restart of the exit delay for those times when the user needs to return to the protected area to retrieve car keys or maybe forgotten paperwork. Additionally, default programming would allow “swinger shutdown” (the number of times a zone will send a potentially dispatchable signal before bypassing itself) to be set at two instead of the historical default of “99” in CP-01 panels. These are just two of the many features incorporated into the CP-01 standard.
For several years prior to beginning the CP-01 standard process, the industry made a valiant effort to educate dealers on these proven panel programming changes. I personally conducted over 60 regional workshops asking dealers to voluntarily change the panel programming to incorporate these proven settings that reduce invalid alarms. Unfortunately, few were willing to change, preferring to leave the panel default settings. Thousands more not affiliated with the national associations never got to hear the message.
And so the logical option was to preprogram these settings by default in the alarm panels. Most manufacturers agree that about 60% of the industry never reprogram most of the features in these panels. By making CP-01 an ANSI standard, the settings would be established by a diversified group of committee members representing all segments of the industry — end users, law enforcement and other interested parties. UL – Underwriters Laboratory — agreed to test the panels and place the CP-01 mark on panels that were approved.
By placing the ANSI SIA CP-01 standard into an ordinance, authorities don’t have to specify any manufacturer or particular model numbers. Dealers are free to choose or use their manufacturer of choice (virtually all panel manufacturers have approved panels). Additionally, by having the standard in the ordinance, a level playing field is provided for alarm dealers by requiring that everyone install these panels.
The CP-01 panel is not the silver bullet that will end all invalid alarms. But it is the Mercedes for the industry. By adopting CP-01 as the best standard, the security alarm industry is saying to its customers, police departments and local officials that it supports the intelligent technologies that will reduce alarm activations and the resulting dispatch. Whether the police respond or private guards are utilized, we can’t ignore these invalid alarms – they cost everyone and diminish the value of our profession.
We have an obligation to our customers and communities to utilize CP-01 in all installations whether it’s required by law or not. Our long-term success as an industry is strengthened by doing so.