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What to Know About False Alarms

fire alarm control panel open and activated in alert mode

False alarms can cause a lot of issues, which only increase and compound over time as they continue to occur. Here’s what to know about false alarms in commercial, healthcare, senior living, and assisted living applications and what to do about them:

What Are False Alarms?

False alarms are also called nuisance alarms. In the context of security systems or call systems, false alarms occur when an alarm is triggered when there is no emergency or issue present. False alarms can be triggered by human error on accident or on purpose or can be triggered erroneously by the system itself.

3 Common Causes of False Alarms

There are several ways a false alarm can occur. Here are some common causes of false alarms:

1. Someone Triggered an Alarm Accidentally

Depending on the type of security system and how it is set up, there are various ways someone might be able to trigger an alarm accidentally. Nurse call systems improve patient safety in a lot of ways, but it can be possible to accidentally press a button to submit a request for a call or trigger an alarm for a more serious situation.

For access control systems, especially those that operate on specific schedules, a card swipe outside of normal hours by someone without the code needed to disarm the alarm can trigger a false alarm or alert for an unauthorized entry.

2. Someone Triggered an Alarm on Purpose

A false alarm can also be caused by someone who triggered an alarm on purpose. Sometimes, the motive is deception and in some cases, it may just be ignorance. A common example is someone pulling the fire alarm.

In some of these cases, the purpose is to emulate an emergency and get people to exit a building. Sometimes, the goal is to incite panic and chaos. In other cases, it may be a cover for something else, like an unauthorized exit from a secure facility, theft, etc. In other cases, it may be a young child attracted by the shiny red lever that is too young to understand the implications of their actions.

3. There is a Technical Issue With the System

One of the common causes of false alarms is a technical issue with the security system itself. False alarms could be triggered by poor installation, faulty components, power outages, and more.

Security systems that are not installed properly or set up properly can send out false alarms. If they are not maintained and fall into disarray, the same is true. Faulty components, especially motion sensors or components that are part of the process for triggering the alarms, can cause a lot of issues. This could also be a sign your security technology needs an upgrade.

Lack of power, the power flickering on and off, and power surges can also cause a system to send out false alarms. In these cases, there is a real issue behind the alarm; it’s just not what the alarm was programmed to alert for.

3 Negative Effects of False Alarms

Although false alarms can make for some interesting or funny stories at times, they do cause issues and can have serious consequences. Here are some negative effects of false alarms:

1. False Alarms Take Resources

One of the biggest negative effects of false alarms is that they take up valuable resources. People, time, equipment, money, and more all go into responding, evaluating, and processing false alarms. Especially in emergency alarm situations, the alarm cannot be ignored; it requires a response and investigation, even if it’s just to verify that it is a false alarm.

2. They Can Cause Alarm Fatigue

In addition to taking up resources and causing inefficiencies across systems, false alarms contribute to alarm fatigue over time for the people who are responsible for responding to them. In communities, this applies to emergency first responders.

In healthcare and assisted living settings, this applies to nurses overwhelmed by call systems. Regardless of the setting, false alarms can take a serious toll on the responders while also draining other resources.

3. False Alarms Can be Dangerous

Depending on the setup of the system and the nature of the false alarm, they can be dangerous. False alarms for fires or other emergencies can incite panic and chaos in a crowd of people. This can cause serious injuries to people on top of property damage and other issues.

In healthcare settings, false alarms could take attention away from other alerts that are more serious. A nurse call system overwhelmed with false alarms could cause a real patient safety issue to be overlooked.

5 Tips to Help Reduce False Alarms

Because false alarms are a drain on your people and your resources, it’s important to do what you can to reduce them. Here are some tips to help reduce false alarms:

1. Make Sure Your Security Systems Are Properly Installed

Whether your facility is a commercial property, healthcare facility, senior living facility, etc., it’s important for you to have the right security systems and for them to be installed properly. Proper installation and setup not only improve building security, but it also helps reduce false alarms.

2. Regularly Maintain Security Systems and Components

In addition to not having enough security, not checking or maintaining security systems is one of the most common security mistakes businesses make. Although security technology has come a long way, critical components degrade over time and need to be repaired or replaced.

They may also be damaged and require maintenance. Connections and integrations should be regularly monitored to ensure they are still communicating and operating as intended. These are some best practices for managing and maintaining security systems that can also help reduce false alarms that would be triggered by faulty connections or components.

Reviewing and maintaining your systems is critical to comprehensive facility security. When you are choosing a security systems integrator, consider the maintenance plans they offer. The expertise and peace of mind you get with a maintenance plan are some benefits of using a full-service security systems integrator. It’s also something that can save you a lot of time and money over time while also preventing a lot of unnecessary headaches.

3. Have Backups in Place for Power Outages

Proper installation of security systems helps to ensure that all components have enough power to run them efficiently. But, it doesn’t stop there. Flickering power and power outages can also cause issues and trigger false alarms.

By making sure you have plans in place to sustain security systems during power outages, you can ensure you have the security you need no matter what happens while also reducing false alarms that may be caused by power outages or surges.

4. Ensure People Are Aware and Trained on the System

Depending on the systems in place, you may need to train people on the system. At the very least, people who will need to be in contact with it should know how it works, how alarms are triggered, and how to stop them. This can help reduce false alarms that may have been triggered accidentally by staff who were unfamiliar with the system.

5. Use Incident Management to Prevent Future Issues

When you have a lot of people moving around and multiple systems in place, there is a lot to keep up with. Things are going to happen and even with the best preparation, false alarms will still occur.

One of the reasons to use incident management software is to manage all of this data and be able to review it for valuable insights. In the case of false alarms, incident management software can help provide context for how and why it happened.

By debriefing after an incident and reviewing it, you may be able to identify ways to improve systems or processes and ways to prevent something from happening in the future.

Get the Security Systems and Installation You Need With NEPPS

These are just a few things to know about false alarms and how to reduce them. Call systems go a long way in improving patient and resident safety and increasing efficiencies across healthcare, senior living, and assisted living facilities.

It’s important for them to be installed correctly and maintained to reduce false alarms and combat alarm fatigue. If you need a call system or need to improve the security of your facility, contact NEPPS at 800-736-1456 to schedule a free site assessment.