Thread: Alarm Companies

  1. #1
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    Default Alarm Companies

    What are other peoples' experiences with alarm companies and the quality - or lack thereof - of information they provide to your calltakers?

    I won't get into detailed specifics, but there are a number of companies that totally baffle me as to how they manage to function - both big-name and small local operations.

    Pet peeves include:

    Do you have an alarm company that calls you out much later than you would expect (i.e. after the crews have started salvage and overhaul on the fire)?

    Have you received a call as a fire alarm and found out upon arrival that it's actually an intrusion alarm?

    Have you received an alarm for a building that has not only had its alarm system deactivated, but has actually been torn down and replaced with an empty lot?

    Do you get calls where the alarm company says there are no keyholders on file?

    Do alarm companies give you the name of the real estate management company instead of what actual business is operating at the site?

    Do you get completely invalid addresses from alarm companies? Or post office boxes as addresses?

    Do you get unintelligible directions, like "Head 5 miles north on (an east-west road)"? Do you get directions that start out in smalltown XYZ when the actual address is within the town limits of Moderately Sized Town ABC?

    Do alarm companies try to 'cancel' you from attending an alarm once they've found out it's false? Or when they are unable to contact a keyholder? (Are there any departments out there that DON'T send at least one rig to check out the false alarm?)

    Does anyone have any suggestions for what to do with any of this to 'fix' it? I realize telling the operator on the other end of the phone will accomplish 100% of nothing..
    --jay.

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    We have had some of the same type dispatches on info provided by the alarm company.

    Here are two more.

    "Entire building fire alarm." on a zoned system. Panel at structure shows specific zone upon arrival.

    Fire alarm is in fact a trouble alarm. The system is telling the company it is not in normal operating mode. This is common when we have commercial power outages and power bumps during storms.

    We do send at least one engine to check the location even if the alarm company tries to cancel us.

    We once found the cause of an alarm was cigar smoke in the office break room. Eight people were smoking cigars to celebrate something with a smoke detector in the room. They also had the door closed.
    I've seen better visibility in smokehouses.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

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    Well, very often, accurate information is dependent on how the alarm system is communicating with the central station and more importantly, WHAT it is communicating to the central station. This can often be very different than what a panel is showing. Your panel might show a "Smoke Detector, Room 204", and the communicator is only setup to indicate a "GENERAL FIRE" signal to the alarm company. Then you get the nimrods who are too lazy to program it to indicate a restoral to the central station so if the system resets, you won't know until you see it on the panel for yourself.

    Now, once you get technical issues out of the way, enter the underpaid moron at the central station. Remember the superbowl commercial with the moneys? Ring a bell here? I'm sure not ALL of them are social rejects with no brain, but obviously a great many are not so bright. Now, also bear in mind that they do not know what our policies and procedures are. So, don't take it personally when they call and tell you something that you can't do because of a local rule.

    Late and/or delayed reporting, yea I love that. We had a structure fire a few years ago at a residence equiped with an automatic alarm system. As we are mopping up, it went something like this:

    "Dispatch to command"
    "Command on, go ahead"
    "Be advised ,the alarm company just called reporting an activate smoke alarm at that location"
    "------- Uh, roger"

    Yea, a day late and a dollar short as usual. Good thing someone was home or the place would have been a crater.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    If you work in a 911 center then you have delt with the same "national" alarm companies we all have. The experiences are going to be the same. We have a local company...don't like them as an alarm for my own house, but from an information stand point they do a pretty good job. One thing we have requested alarm companies to do is to have their customers fill out a worksheet that gives us the "regional" information we need to dispatch or for key holders. So most of the time if there are no keyholders listed or information is bad, we have a local contact at the business or residence that we go after with code enforcement to update the info. That seems to work pretty well. Still have problems but they get corrected locally rather than dealing with the alarm company.

    Jim
    Disp 33
    LCWC

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    Out in my neck of the woods, if your company is going to monitor any commerical ASE's.... then you're goona have to set up a direct link into our dispatch center.... Any automatic alarms generated by FIP's, Sprinklers, Valve Monitors, BGA/MCP as long as they are linked up to an ASE, will ping straight into the appropraite dispatchers screen as a pending event.... no call-taking neccessary. Along with that comes a fully verified address (along with nearest two intersecting streets), key information(IE. Keys FireStation 10, Peg 210), zone of alarm(where applicable) and the current status of the ASE.

    The ASE's will then dynamically and constantly update onto our screen whenever the status changes ie. from alarm to normal, or weather it is showing a fault or isolation..... this means we don't have to ring any monitoring company to confirm an alarm has restored before appliances book returning.

    The only issues we get is where we have people who have a cheap fire alarm connected up through a private security system (Security companys out here use it as an upsell.... for only $10 more a month we'll monitor your smoke detector too!).... Then we cop exchange calls from dimwits at security companys getting paid peanuts, who live in different states and have very little information for you to verify an address on.... Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often.

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    Around here, municipalities do not monitor private property alarm systems. The dispatch center has a central station alarm receiver that the munipal buildings report to. These are things like town hall, the schools, etc etc.

    Private property such as homes and buisness all must go through a private alarm company who will call the dispatch center and misinform them of the alarm as usual.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default Alarm Co's

    We have a recent influx of Alarm Company's calling individual Firehouses (Rather than the dispatch center). The Alarm Co's have actually LEFT MESSAGES on the Fire Station Voice Mails!

    We havent figured out the problem, or why they suddenly started calling firehouses.

    Kevin - Connecticut

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    Default NO KEYHOLDER ON FILE

    it absolutely baffles me how a company has absolutely no one with a key. how do they open in the morning? does the door "magically" unlock?

    more often we get calls for the wrong area. homeowners will give the alarm company their mailing address and the alarm company thinks they actually live in that area without ever considering that the zip code may cover more than one city/township.
    the motto of every midnight shift dispatcher - "I'm up - You're up"

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    The best one I like is when we had a home owner call 911 and say they have a smoke condition and the alarm company never contacted us at ALL!

    Yes that home owner got a call back and was told that here alarm compy stinks.
    VF - 142 "Ghostriders" last stand in 95'
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    I know from being both a dispatcher and vol. firefighter that alarms companies really have no clue whats going on. You honestly think that at 3 am that they are going to call for a keyholder, or that anykeyholder will leave a house number??

    Though my fav. thing that alarm companies do is gives a zone that makes no sense. Like zone 390. OK......?? general sounds good. Or zone 30 hold like 15 different stores.

    What we try to do is have the fire inspectors of the towns break the zones down or make zones.

    Beyond that I have got to the point of search the whole building so I am not there later on for 5 hours.

    Be safe

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    A "Zone 390" is entirely possible. In a large building with a digital addressable alarm system, they don't have "zones" in the traditional sense.

    A non-addressable system has multiple sensors/detectors on a loop of wire. When a sensor trips, it makes contact closure on the wire pair and that zone goes into alarm. You then have to go check each sensor on that zone loop to see which one it was. You could have 1, 5, 10, 50, 999 whatever sensors on one loop making up a single zone.

    On a newer addressable system, each sensor is digital. They all talk to the control panel individually. They each have an identifying number. The panel usuall has a display that will show the point number and a user-entered description. For example, 075 - 2nd Floor East Hall. Those point numbers can report to the central station as "zones". So, you could have as many zones as devices. If you have a building with 400 smoke detectors, you could get a report from "zone 372". You can also program the sysem into virtual zones. You could assign say points 001-015 to a virtual zone and call it "2nd Floor Smoke". Then any of those detectors would activate the virtual zone and it would report that virtual zone to the central station.

    Now, if you get there to find some ancient home alarm system and the alarm company said it was zone 9,175, something is probably wrong.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    Default Yes, I honestly do.......

    expect the alarm company to call people at 3am for an alarm drop. as a dispatcher with over a dozen years experience i have see it numerous times. if the alarm company won't call, i will and have. part of the responsibility of having an alarm is having someone available to respond at all hours of the day, just like they expect us to do.

    i will agree that for the most part alarm companies have absolutely no idea what they are doing. they fill out this silly little form for the business/homeowner that includes an area for keyholders, but never explains that these people need to be able to respond. i remember when the department i was dispatching for had to force entry because the business didn't have anyone available to respond. soon after the business had 3 people on the list that were available and we never had a problem with them again.
    the motto of every midnight shift dispatcher - "I'm up - You're up"

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    My biggest pet peve is when I'm told it is a general alarm and I know the building is huge. You think they would be able to break it up a bit.

    I have never had a problem with keyholders from commercial properties, but I have had trouble contacting one for apartment complexes and rental housing.
    "Are you going to do something about it, or just stand there and bleed." -Tombstone

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    We have our own keyholder database for businesses in our CAD system. Even if the alarm comapny doesn't have a name, we probably will.

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    All of the above Jim911. We don't take directions from the Alarm Company. The City Code thankfully prohibits direct links to any 911 System. All Calls must be placed to 911 from the Alarm Company. They can get a Special number to call from the Phine Company, no matter where they are located. Only one Alarm Company is still located in the City. Most are just Monitoring Companies for some outfit. Most are located in Texas, Minnesotta, Georgia. Not one is even in the State of PA.

    When we had the old Ticker Tape connected to the Alarm Room we would get hundreds of them a night. One Dispatcher would have to just constantly look for matching rings and silence it. It was a full time job just hitting the keys. The Alarm Companies lie and say it is a Firte Alarm, when in fact it is an intruder alarm. Many of those calls we respond to don't have a Fire Alarm at all or have had it disconnected for years. The Polcie charge for false Alarms, but the Fire Depoartment doesn't. so the Alarm Companies lie to get someone to respond. I would often call them Back Collect instead of on their 800 number. I loved it when tghery would put me on hold, the longer the better. It was their dime.

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