Top 3 Reasons Why Security Alarm Responses are Delayed (and how to speed them up)

by Hfbtech

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Home security systems have changed significantly over the last twenty years: America’s alarms have become whole home security hubs, consolidating devices and automating a variety of processes within the newly defined smart home.

However, as home security evolves, their safety offerings remain largely the same. For all the convenience these systems provide, in the rare event an emergency does occur, security alarms often rely on an archaic infrastructure to contact public safety answering points (PSAPs).

According to research out of Harvard University, the average response time for a home security alarm is over 36 minutes. In this blog, we’ll explore five reasons why security alarm responses are so slow across the board. 

1. Frequent false alarms

When PSAPs answer alarm calls, they’re typically speaking to a representative from a monitoring center who calls on the homeowner’s behalf. The monitoring center caller has to relay information from the alarm panel to the dispatcher to verify the alarm and get police or fire resources dispatched.

Research suggests that 90 to 99 percent of home security calls are false alarms. These false alarms can be caused by anything from high winds to the homeowner forgetting their keys. However, when a monitoring center calls 911 about a security alarm, the PSAP is obligated to dispatch resources.

The persistence of false alarms creates a negative feedback loop, in which dispatchers have to send resources to low-priority situations and responding officers can typically expect it to be a waste of time. Consequently, response times slow as home security alarms without immediate evidence are pushed down in priority.

2. Lack of relevant information shared to elevate priority

Similar to the issue raised by false alarms, when monitoring centers don’t have or are unable to articulate enough information about an alarm, PSAPs aren’t able to dispatch resources as quickly or as effectively.

Lack of information can increase the amount of time telecommunicators spend ascertaining critical information like:

  • Location of the alarm
  • Nature of the emergency
  • Possible injuries
  • Number of people
  • Weapons or dangers

It’s no wonder then that, according to a survey by DKC analytics, 92 percent of 911 telecommunicators believe having more data about security alarms would help them expedite the response process.

3. Challenges verifying information

When 911 telecommunicators receive alarm calls, they often have to go through a lengthy process to confirm and validate information. Telecommunicators often have to call back monitoring centers, contact keyholders or neighbors, and pick through varying levels of details to fully understand a situation. 

This process can waste a significant amount of valuable time during emergencies, as dispatch decisions hinge on the ability of a variety of people to articulate themselves to 911. In a real emergency, these conversations can often be panicked, callers might be unable to get to the phone, or they might be unable to share enough relevant information to be of use.

It’s no wonder then that a survey found that 911 telecommunicators believe they could save an additional five minutes if they didn’t have to call back so many different people and places to confirm details.

The solution: sharing alarm information directly on 911’s screens

Even when you consider that a large number of home security alarms are false alarms, a median response time of 36 minutes can have potentially devastating effects on life and property. Since fires grow exponentially in a matter of minutes, and only a mere 13.5 percent of burglaries are cleared – time is of the essence when lives are on the line.

An obvious solution is to share security alarm data directly with 911 the moment a monitoring center calls for help. 92 percent of telecommunicators agree that having access to security data could significantly increase response times.

It’s not just 911 who wants to share this data: according to a survey by DKC analytics, 63 percent of American homeowners would feel much safer if their security system could get them help faster, and 87 percent would pay more for a system that could expedite response times.

The RapidSOS emergency response data platform shares life-saving data from home security systems like Cove Security directly onto the screens of 911. Telecommunicators can access incident-specific alarm panel data through RapidSOS Portal, a browser-based application for 911 centers. To learn more about the data challenge in home security, download our ebook today.