If your monitored home security system is installed and maintained properly, you should not have a problem with it going off for no reason. However, false alarms do occur; nationwide, they account for 10 to 25% of calls to police. Many local police departments fine homeowners for false alarms. For example, in Fulton County (Atlanta) Georgia, homeowners are fined $50 on a "three strikes" plan: the third time in a calendar year a homeowner has a false alarm, he or she is fined. There are concessions if, for example, the homeowner notifies the police to cancel the response, or if the system is activated by a power surge from lightning or some other act of nature.
False alarms generally fall into one of three categories:
It is very important that you have your home security system installed by trained professionals who will make sure the system is calibrated correctly and teach you and your family how to use the system. It is also recommended that homeowners test their alarm system once a month to make sure the door and window sensors are working correctly.
Here are several common causes of alarm systems going off mistakenly, and how you can avoid them:
The battery back-up for your home security system may need new batteries. Expect to replace them every three years. Your system's control panel may have a low battery indicator. Keep an eye on this and replace batteries when they start running down.
Some of the cheaper wireless home security systems can be triggered by garage door openers, television remotes, and other wireless devices. This is more likely with homes in close quarters, such as townhomes.
If the wind is strong enough to cause your door to shake, the contacts could momentarily become mis-aligned, causing the system to think there is an intrusion. If your door closes soundly and is secured by a strong deadbolt, this should not be a problem.
If the wiring in the outlet where the security system's transformer is plugged in is faulty, a short can cause your security system to go off. If this happens, make sure the security equipment isn't damaged, and have an electrician re-wire the outlet.
If there is a brief power outage, or if the power company switches circuits, you may notice your power flickering before your security system goes off. Even very brief power outages can set off an alarm system, as it would if an intruder were to cut off the power in an attempt to bypass the system.
When your system is installed, the installation technicians should know how to calibrate sensors so that they are sensitive enough -- without being too sensitive and mistakenly triggering the alarm. With some systems, you may be able to turn the system off and clean the sensors with canned air that is used for blowing dust out of computers.
Your security system may have communications line monitoring to detect phone lines being cut. However, if you have VoIP home phone service, and the line is momentarily disconnected from the router, the alarm system may interpret this as phone lines being cut and set off the system. You can have communications line monitoring disconnected, and some providers have wireless communication features for their systems which can prevent this problem.
Other things that can set off your system include helium balloons floating through the house, curtains in rooms where there is a breeze, and house pets. Sensors are generally able to discern the family pet from an intruder, but with larger dogs the sensors may have a more difficult time making this distinction.
It is important that you memorize your security code for your home security system in case the alarm is accidentally triggered. You can use your security code to tell monitoring personnel to turn the alarm off and avoid a police response. Finally, don’t let fear of false alarms deter you from getting a home security system installed. Follow these guidelines and your alarm system will do your family far more good than harm in the long run.