If you are considering a security system, you are probably wondering if it’s worth it. If an alarm event occurs, will the police make it in time? Will they respond at all? The answers vary depending on the alarm you have and the company backing that alarm. We will compare how long it takes different companies to respond, but first, let’s talk about some things you need to know to get the most out of your alarm.
Factors That Impact Alarm Response Times
The first thing you need to know is that the monitoring company holds the keys. They are trained to respond to the evidence at hand and the type of emergency being reported.
Almost all security systems are capable of providing monitoring for burglaries, fire, and medical needs. The trickiest event is burglary. In 2004, a study by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing assessed that between 94% and 98% of alarms are false alarms. That said, technology is significantly better now, and newer systems should have fewer false alarms than legacy systems. However, police officers despise false alarms. They are costly to the department, to taxpayers, and in certain cities might even be costly to you. That said, a random alert from your home alarm will not receive the same priority as a homeowner calling the police department directly for help. What you want is a prioritized call. You can do that by providing visual or verbal evidence with or without the help of your monitoring company.
Verified Versus Non-Verified Alarm Events
Providing visual evidence is easy. You can install home security cameras that work directly with your home security system, or you can install a self-monitored camera. If your alarm is triggered, you can quickly check your camera for signs of a break-in. If you see something, you can call 9-1-1 to help prioritize the alert. Obviously, if you are home during the event, this will also prioritize the call. Finally, certain alarm companies use two-way voice technology. With this technology they can call out to you if you are home or listen in if you are gone. By listening for sounds while you are away, your monitoring company can provide additional evidence to persuade your local police department to respond quickly.
History of False Alarms
There are other ways to make sure your alarm call doesn’t fall to the bottom of the pile. Every heard the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf? Don’t be that guy. If you’ve had multiple false alarms, police are less likely to respond. In certain cities, they might have the right to not respond at all. If you’ve had a false alarm, dig into the reason and correct it. You can reduce your chances of a false alarm by:
- teaching everyone in your home how to use your security system
- adjusting your settings to accommodate pets
- replacing old or faulty equipment
- forgoing landline monitoring which can be impacted by power outages
Not Instructing Your Security Company
Finally, your response time will be affected by the instructions you provide to your alarm company. As a default, they will usually call you first if a burglary event is detected. If you prefer, you might be able to have them call the police first.
Estimated Alarm Response Times Compared
When a security company talks about response times, they are talking about the time it takes for your alarm system to communicate with their monitoring company, not the time required to send help to your home. The total time will depend on several factors as it is a multi-touch process as outlined in the infographic above.
Below are estimated “response times” from multiple home security companies.
- Frontpoint 30 Seconds
- LiveWatch 18 Seconds
- Vivint 15 Seconds
- Guardian 15 Seconds
- SimpliSafe 10 Seconds
- ADT 45 Seconds
- Alarm Relay “Seconds”
- Xfinity Home 45 Seconds