Top 5 Causes of False Alarms and Simple Ways to Prevent Them

Chris Robinson
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You rely on your alarm system to protect your home and keep your loved ones safe. The last thing you want is false alarms that cause you undue worry and slow down police response times to actual emergencies.

Unfortunately, whether we like it or not, false alarms do happen. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with them. The best way to counter false alarms is to understand what causes them and learn how to prevent them. At American Alarm Systems, we want to help you get the most out of your security system. That’s why we’ve put together a list of the five most common causes of false alarms and how you can prevent them.

Human (and Pet) Error

It’s not surprising that one of the biggest reasons for false alarms is that we accidentally trip the system.

Why it happens

  • Forgetting the alarm code (common with visitors, babysitters, etc.)
  • Children playing with the access panel
  • Pets triggering motion alarms
  • Leaving doors or windows unsecured when you set the alarm
  • Improper training on the alarm system
  • Forgetting to turn the alarm off before opening doors and windows

How to prevent it

The good news is that it’s easy to counter simple human error with a few conscientious actions.

  • Properly orient and train all adults and older children who will need to use the alarm system. We recommend running monthly alarm drills to make sure everyone stays prepared to properly operate the system.
  • Make sure small children understand that the alarm panel is for emergencies only and off limits.
  • Talk to your security company about specialized pet sensors that will exempt your furry friends from triggering alarms as they move about the home. This is becoming a standard feature on most alarm systems, and should be easy to address.
  • Be sure to properly secure your perimeter (doors and windows) before you set the alarm.
  • Remember to turn off the alarm before going in and out of the house or opening windows.

Improper Maintenance

Like any system or appliance in your home, the security system needs to be regularly taken care of to ensure that it is operating as intended.

Why it happens

  • Dirty sensors
  • Old/dead batteries

How to prevent it

Even though security systems only require minimal maintenance, it’s still important to stay on top of it.

  • Test batteries regularly
  • Replace batteries according to the indicator, or as often as recommended by your security company. If you add changing security system batteries to your list each time you change your smoke alarm batteries, you should be in good shape.
  • Regularly dust all sensors, including motion detectors, cameras, and your smoke alarm if it’s part of your system.
  • Cover up security equipment (cameras, motion detectors) during dusty projects around the house (construction, refinishing floors, etc.).

Faulty Equipment

It isn’t common, but from time to time a false alarm can be caused because your equipment isn’t functioning properly.

Why it happens

  • Old equipment: As with any electronic device, security system equipment can wear out over time. If your system is older, it’s smart to get it reviewed by a security professional to find out if it’s time for it to be replaced.
  • Outdated technology: Security system technology is changing and improving all the time. Some older types of sensors, like ionization sensors on smoke alarms, are more likely to cause false alarms. If you’re experiencing a lot of false alarms from an older system, get it checked out.

How to prevent it

If you think that false alarms may be happening because your system’s equipment is malfunctioning, contact your alarm company. They will send a technician out to assess what’s going on and make any needed adjustments to get your system back up and running as it should.

Improper Installation

It is crucial that your security system is installed correctly so that it functions properly. Mistakes during install can lead to false alarms and weakened security.

Why it happens

  • Misaligned sensors and detectors
  • Poorly placed detectors and sensors
  • Not following manufacturer’s instructions for proper installation
  • DIY mistakes

How to prevent it

Improper installation can be avoided, and easily fixed.

  • If you’re installing the system on your own, be sure to thoroughly read all the instructions and recommendations for installation that came with your security equipment.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure motion sensors aren’t placed close to air vents.
  • Keep smoke detectors far from heat sources, and don’t place them too near the bathroom.
  • Have a professional install your security system.
  • If you installed the system yourself, but are having problems, call in a professional to inspect the installation and make any adjustments as needed.

Environmental Interference

Sometimes changes inside your home, or even the weather, can trigger a false alarm.

Why it happens

  • Stray objects (like balloons, decorations) near motion detectors
  • Curtains blowing due to air conditioning or heat
  • Strong winds rattling windows and/or doors
  • Electrical storms (lightning and thunder)
  • New pets

How to prevent it

You have control over most environmental factors, so it’s fairly easy to minimize false alarms due to these triggers.

  • Keep helium balloons tied down so they don’t float into motion detectors.
  • Don’t place motion sensors near billowing curtains or other hanging home decor that can interfere with proper detection.
  • Pay attention to the weather and adjust your security system as needed (turn off window sensors) when a big storm is on the way.
  • Make sure to adjust your security system’s sensors and motion detectors if you add a new pet to the home.

You’ve already taken the right steps to keep your home and family safe by installing a security system. Now, make sure you keep it working properly by staying informed about false alarms and how you can keep them from happening. If you need your system checked or want help minimizing false alarms, American Alarm Systems is here to help. Give us a call today at 1-800-262-5276 to get the fast, friendly assistance you need.

About American Alarm Systems

American Alarm is a full-service alarm company in Southern California serving Los Angeles & Orange County. We design, install and support cutting edge security systems for your home or business. Contact us today for a free consultation.



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