Installing an intruder alarm is an essential step towards securing your property against trespassers, but false alarms can be stressful and disruptive to your routines - particularly if they are a common occurrence.
Regular false alarms can cause distress and confusion for anyone on the premises, and can even lead to civil court action and fines if they are considered to be a statutory nuisance. False alarms may also cause you to become complacent when your alarm system goes off, making it less likely that you will respond quickly and effectively in the event of a real break-in.
Plus, if your alarm system is monitored by an external company, and your premises experiences regular false alerts, you may find that response times to your triggered alarms are downgraded, or even that your premises is removed from the list of those being monitored - thereby causing a higher risk of significant theft or damage should your building be broken into.
As such, if you have an intruder alarm installed, it is essential to have the system regularly maintained and to take steps to prevent false alerts. Let’s now explore some common causes of false alarms and outline the steps you can take to avoid them.
The Common Causes Of False Alarms
• Animals - If you have pets, company mascots, or even just furry visitors padding around your premises on a regular basis, there is a strong chance that they will unwittingly set off your intruder alarm. In fact, as many as 1 in 10 false alarms are caused by pets, and this happens because any movement can set off the motion detectors that activate your alarm system.
To prevent animals from unnecessarily triggering your alarms, choose a ‘pet immune’ sensor that instructs your system to ignore animals up to a certain size or weight. Alternatively, you can choose to use a partial alarm system, whereby you select one room in your building to be unmonitored, so that animals can roam free in it without inadvertently setting off the alarm system.
• Open Or Unsecured Windows And Doors - Intruder alarms usually use contacts placed on windows and doors to detect if an intruder opens or damages them to gain access to the property. However, if the contacts become loose or faulty from wear and tear, or if the windows and doors are left open, this may cause repeated false alarms.
If you experience a false alarm, always call your provider and ask them to check the contacts on your windows and doors to see if they’re still functioning correctly.
• Insects And Rodents - Insects nesting in or around an intruder alarm can cause the alarm to go off, and larger bugs and rodents may even set off motion sensors. To guard against this, always keep your premises clean, store food in a secure cupboard and/or fridge, and check that the internal casing of the alarm is properly sealed before buying it to reduce the risk of insects getting in.
If your property has a significant insect infestation, don't hesitate to call in a pest control professional. Alternatively, if you consider yourself an animal lover, you can purchase humane traps for rodents such as mice and rats, and then release them somewhere away from your property.
• Dust And Dirt - A buildup of dirt and dust can also trigger your alarm system to go off. Ensure that your alarm system is kept clean, and as a bonus, you will also reduce the likelihood of insects nesting around it.
• Low Batteries - If you have passive infrared (PIR) motion sensors installed in your property, you may find that they go off when the battery is running low. Replace the batteries at least once a year to reduce the risk of false alerts.
• Falling Objects - All kinds of moving objects, from items toppling over, to a postman putting mail through the door, to children’s remote-control toys, can cause a false alarm.
To prevent this, ensure that any motion sensors are mounted away from your mailbox - or choose a system with a SMART algorithm to prevent the post from setting off your alarm - and make sure that your premises is kept tidy and free from clutter at all times.
• User Error - Over 80% of all false alarms are caused by human error. Whether you’ve forgotten your passcode, or mistakenly opened a door when the alarm is on, your alarm can and will go off by accident.
Therefore, make sure that you have the passcode memorised, and issue key fobs to any visitors or guests who may not be able to remember it.
• Ungraded Alarms - Graded alarm systems are reliability tested to ensure that environmental factors such as airflow do not set off the alarm. However, with ungraded systems, air from pipes, breezes, or tumble driers can cause a false alarm.
Choose a graded, SMART alarm to reduce the chances of a false alarm being triggered by environmental factors.
• Corrosion And Ageing - Over time, any alarm system will start to degrade. In particular, sea air has a damaging effect on alarm contacts, because if the contacts are made from anything other than gold, they will corrode from the salt water, causing false alarms.
Ageing can also cause corrosion and false alarms, which is why alarm systems require regular checks and maintenance to ensure they’re still functioning correctly.
• System Issues - Technical problems, such as wireless interference and loose connections, can also cause false alarms. To prevent this from happening, ensure that your system is regularly checked and maintained by a professional to reduce the likelihood of faults developing.
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