Frequently Asked Questions
A false alarm is a notification of an alarm to the Sheriff's Department when the responding deputies find no evidence of criminal offense or attempted criminal offense. False alarms delay deputies from responding to actual calls for law enforcement service.
In 2007, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department responded to over 8,000 alarm calls with 98-99% of them being false. We have significantly reduced the number of alarm calls responded to. However, of those we do respond to, the majority are still false.
The reality is that Sheriff's Department resources are limited and should never be wasted. Thousands of deputy patrol hours are spent investigating alarm activations that turn out to be "false alarms".
Alarm companies and alarm users must be responsible for the use and maintenance of alarm systems to help ensure prompt Sheriff's response when an emergency really does exist.
The three Major Causes of False Alarms are:
• User errors;
• Installation or service errors; and
• Equipment failures.
Other reasons for false alarms:
• Accidental activation of the panic feature on a key fob remote as a result of carrying the remote device in a pocket, purse, or on a key chain. Alarm users have the option of requesting that the alarm company deactivate the panic feature on their remote device.
• Inadequate training of people allowed access to your security system - children, neighbors, cleaning personnel, real estate agents, guests, relatives, babysitters, service and delivery personnel, etc.
• Weak system batteries.
• Open, unlocked or loose fitting doors and windows.
• Drafts from heaters and air conditioning systems that move plants, curtains, balloons, etc.
• Wandering pets.
Before activating your alarm system...
• Lock all protected doors and windows.
• Keep pets, balloons, fans, heaters, plants, curtains, seasonal decorations, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
• Know how to cancel the alarm if the system activates.
Educate alarm system users . . .
• All users, key holders or any person with legal access to your property must be thoroughly trained in how to operate your system, including knowledge of correct arming codes, pass codes, telephone numbers and procedures for canceling accidental alarm activations.
Have your security company check and service your system regularly, routine maintenance can help prevent many false alarms.
Notify your alarm company if . . .
• You plan any remodeling, including replacing doors or windows, hanging drywall, sanding floors, installing attic flooring or basement ceiling, changing phone systems, installing intercoms, siding, ceiling fans or skylights, fumigating, installing wiring or cable or other electronics, installing anything near the system control panel or keypads.
• You hire help for your residence or business, get a new pet, plan to sell your house, or are testing your system.
• You plan on going on vacation. Tell them whether or not anyone is authorized to be in your home while you are away, update your emergency contact information, and give them a number to reach you should your alarm system activate while you are away.
Check your batteries and battery backup annually, or after a storm related false alarm. The life of the battery is shortened if you have had several power outages.
• Contact both your alarm company and Alarm Program Systems if you have a phone service or name change, or if situations change, such as a disabled person now residing at the residence, etc.
Upgrade old alarm systems to current equipment conforming to Security Industry Association (SIA) false alarm prevention standards, further reducing false alarms.
False alarms are costly and dangerous because they divert Sheriff's deputies from proactive crime prevention efforts. They also delay response to calls that may be true emergencies.
For robbery/panic alarm calls: We respond to all robbery/panic alarms. The requirements listed below for burglary alarm calls DO NOT apply to robbery/panic alarms.
For burglary alarm calls: We respond to all burglary alarm calls where there is audio or video evidence of a crime occurring, or someone on site reporting a crime. Otherwise, the following two requirements must be met prior to alarm companies calling to report a burglary alarm activation:
Alarm companies must make 2 calls in an attempt to contact the alarm subscriber.
Alarm companies must receive 2 alarms activations at the alarm location.
If this criteria is not met and an alarm company calls requesting dispatch, the alarm call is tagged as Non-Verified by the dispatch call receiver, the alarm company is reminded of our alarm ordinance requirements, and law enforcement is not dispatched.
8.64.130 Suspension of Sheriff's Department Response to Alarm Sites.
A. The Alarm Administrator shall notify the Sheriff's Department and alarm agreement holding company of each alarm user whose alarm registration qualifies for suspension under this Chapter. The Alarm Administrator may suspend an alarm registration if it is determined that:
1. The alarm user has had three or more false burglar alarms within the one-year registration period, except that the Alarm Administrator or Sheriff's Department designee may waive a suspension of a registration upon receipt of documented work orders showing reasonable attempts to repair the alarm system prior to the notice of suspension;
2. There is a false statement of a material fact in the registration application; or
3. The alarm user failed or refused to pay an alarm registration or alarm registration renewal fee, false alarm fee, late fee, or any other fee or fine assessed under this Chapter.
B. It is a violation of this Chapter for a monitoring company or any individual with a self-monitored alarm site to make an alarm dispatch request to a burglar alarm site that is suspended. The monitoring company or individual with a self-monitored alarm site must pay a fine to the Alarm Administrator for each such dispatch to an alarm site. If the penalty is not paid to the Alarm Administrator within 60 days, a late fee is hereby imposed. (See PCC 8.64.190, Fees and Fine Schedule.)
C. Unless there is an independent indication that there is a crime in progress, Sheriff's Department Communications may not dispatch a deputy to an alarm site for which an alarm registration is suspended.
D. If an alarm registration is reinstated, the Sheriff's Department may again suspend the alarm registration if it is determined that 2 false alarms have occurred within 180 days after the reinstatement date.
E. This subsection applies to alarm systems, except holdup alarms, robbery alarms and panic alarms, which are subject to suspension at the discretion of the Sheriff's Department.
B. The Alarm Administrator shall notify the alarm user and the alarm installation company or monitoring company in writing thirty days before an alarm response is to be suspended. Suspension of alarm response does not apply to duress, robbery, holdup and panic alarms. The notice of suspension must also include the amount of the fee for each false alarm and a description of the appeals procedure available to the alarm user and the alarm installation company or monitoring company.
8.64.150 Reinstatement of Suspended Alarm Registrations.
A. A person whose alarm registration has been suspended may obtain reinstatement of the registration by the Alarm Administrator or Sheriff's Department designee if the person pays a reinstatement fee and pays, or otherwise resolves, all outstanding fees, fines and other charges. In the case of suspension due to false alarms, the alarm user may additionally be required to:
1. submit a written notice from an alarm installation company stating that the alarm system has been inspected and repaired by the alarm installation company; and
2. successfully complete an alarm awareness class and test.
B. The Sheriff's Department shall reinstate its response to an alarm site as soon as is practicable after receiving notice of reinstatement from the Alarm Administrator. The alarm user and monitoring company shall take notice that the alarm site has been officially reinstated only after receiving notice from the Alarm Administrator of that fact. It shall be the responsibility of the alarm user to confirm that their registration status and future Sheriff's Department response has been properly restored.