Carolinas-based provider receives the 2023 Police Dispatch Quality Award, the industry’s premier alarm management company honor.

When it comes to the electronic security industry’s age-old challenge of managing falsely triggered alarms and minimizing unnecessary police dispatches, there is no magic bullet.

Making a true and enduring positive impact on the problem requires system installation and monitoring providers institute a culture committed to executing on proven best practices and technology implementation within their organizations — running from top to bottom and permeating every aspect of the operation.

CPI Security is among the industry-leading companies to embrace this mindset, and the results are speaking for themselves.

“Without working to reduce false alarm dispatches, the industry runs the risk of seeing more law enforcement agencies resort to limited or no response to alarm dispatches,” says CPI Security founder and CEO Ken Gill.

“CPI strives to be part of the solution rather than the problem. Customers with false alarms are more likely to be unhappy customers, which can lead to higher attrition. Educating and engaging customers prevents false alarms.”

The company’s Real-Time Response program/initiative ensures that 99% of all alarms received in its central station use audio and/or video verification to confirm an emergency warrants a law enforcement response.

Additional elements of CPI’s program include:

  • platform for text messages to customers cancel/verify with a two-minute window.
  • With verify/cancel options, dispatches were reduced 23%.
  • In 2022, CPI conducted extensive “retraining” to ensure policies and procedures were being followed.
  • Produced a consumer video on how to cancel an alarm.
  • No False Alarm Guarantee through follow-up calls, maintenance and retraining.
  • The firm also participates in the ASAP to PSAP communication protocol.
  • Engages/commits personnel to sit on alarm committees, state associations and national committees.
  • Openly shares its programs with others.
  • Engages heavily in the community and police foundations.

The firm’s successful approach was convincing enough for a judging panel to name CPI this year’s Police Dispatch Quality (PDQ) Award winner, an honor formally presented and accepted by Gill and other company representatives at June’s ESX event in Louisville, Ky. Bates Security is the 2023 runner-up.

“It’s inspiring to see such a well-respected company continue to focus on reducing alarm dispatches,” says Stan Martin, executive director of the Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), co-organizer of the PDQ program along with Security Sales & Integration. “CPI’s leadership and team should be commended for again setting the bar high within our industry.”

Established in 2005, and now also officially endorsed by the Installation Quality (IQ) and Partnership for Priority Verified Alarm Response (PPVAR) initiatives, the PDQ program judges installation and monitoring companies not only on their alarm rate, but also their training, literature, use of industry-recommended practices like Enhanced Call Confirmation, leveraging technology like video verification, follow-up with customers, tracking problem accounts, and more.

The program’s mission is to raise industrywide awareness, promote partnering with responding agencies for public safety, motivate alarm companies to take action and provide workable models.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., CPI Security was founded in 1991 on Gill’s entrepreneurial spirit and passion for helping and protecting others. What started as a company of 10 employees and 300 customers has grown into one of the nation’s top 10 largest security providers with more than 750 employees serving customers across the Carolinas and into Georgia and Tennessee.

CPI prides itself on providing top-of-the-line business and residential security and smart home systems, services and professional monitoring.

Awards are nothing new to CPI Security, having previously captured TMA’s Central Station of the Year and the TMA/SSI Monitoring Technology Marvel Award, among other accolades. Gain more alarm management and operational insights from Gill along with CPI Vice President of Customer Operations John Shockneese and Chief Product Officer Steve Butkovich.

What drove CPI to mount this comprehensive false alarm reduction program? Why is CPI proactive rather than reactive in this area?  

John Shocknesse: False alarm dispatches put a burden on municipal resources, create customer frustration and have a detrimental impact on the alarm industry overall. Being proactive in this area creates a better customer experience while helping to cultivate a positive relationship with our partners in law enforcement.

CPI’s focus on reducing false alarms is ongoing and includes:

  • Two-way voice: 99.9% of CPI Security intrusion systems have this capability, allowing operators to quickly communicate via speaker mic in the home or business during alarm activations. Two-way voice allows many alarms to be cleared, as our central station is quickly speaking with customers onsite.
  • Properly training new customers on how to use their security systems and inTouch app to respond to alarm activations is completed by our installers and supplemented with customer newsletters and how-to videos.
  • The inTouch app’s Cancel/Verify feature during alarm activations allows customers to quickly respond to alarm activations and communicate cancellation of normal errors quickly with the monitoring station.
  • CPI No False Alarm Guarantee: Protects customers from false alarm fines due to faulty equipment. Eligible customers must have Real-Time Response two-way voice and regularly test their systems.

What are some area coverage examples of CPI’s calculated false alarm dispatch rate?

Shocknesse: CPI’s dispatch rate on alarms ranges from 7%-9% by region. This means our central station already filters and clears up to 93% of alarms as false before escalating to a dispatch. The number of dispatches that are false dispatches is hard to validate for any monitoring center as most don’t receive feedback from law enforcement or customers on every dispatch to validate dispatch outcomes. There is more work to be done in this area.

It is our belief that through better post-event customer surveys, video verification, two-way audio, expanded use of ASAP to PSAP and greater access to alarm situational data for the responding officers, we can more accurately report on actual false alarm rates in the future. We look positively at what alarm validation scoring standards will do in the future to address this issue better and bring greater awareness to lower priority activations and escalated response to activations requiring priority response.

Who are the primary people responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining your false alarm initiative?

Shocknesse: Led by CEO Ken Gill, there is a total commitment to reducing false alarm dispatches at CPI. This goal is embraced by our leadership team and passionately executed by the central station team. CPI employees hold various roles in the industry that promote false alarm reduction campaigns including at The Monitoring Association [TMA], The North Carolina Alarm Board and various police chief organizations in our footprint.

Internally, CPI has a quality control team that inspects new installations and service visits. They also investigate issues with problem alarm systems and actual break-ins to ensure our systems work as designed, and to re-establish a sense of safety for the customer. Our tech support team reviews the sites placed on “No Response” due to false alarms and top dispatch customers to ensure we address potential false alarm issues. We also engage the quality control team, if needed, to provide additional onsite investigations or training for the customer.

What modifications of the plan have been made along the way?

Shocknesse: Over the years, CPI has implemented best practices and proactive projects to reduce false dispatches. These include two-call verification, Real-Time Response, video verification, in-app cancel, leveraging technology such as a customer portal and email campaigns, as well as outbound campaigns to ensure customer contact information is up to date. There is also a Quality Control Field Program where we can send specialized personnel to sites that have repeat false alarm issues to provide training as well as ensure systems function correctly.

How do you coordinate efforts between your installation and monitoring departments/personnel? What does each side bring to the table?

Ken Gill: Field operations, underwriting and monitoring teams work together to ensure a proper installation experience. This includes ensuring we have correct contact lists for customers to notify in case of alarms and confirming all devices are installed and programmed correctly. Additionally, a quality assurance team completes onsite inspections and works with operations leaders on an Install Quality report card.

Our underwriting team performs a survey with the technician and the customer to ensure we delivered all that is needed, and that the customer has been properly trained on how to use the system. Our central station provides another layer of audit to ensure that all signals are sent properly so we can respond correctly.

What have the customer challenges and law enforcement feedback been relative to implementing the plan?

Gill: Generally, customers have been receptive to the steps we have made toward reducing false alarms. Customers may be motivated to prevent alarm fines in applicable areas, or they understand and wish to not be a nuisance to responding authorities. The key is delivering the SOP as a positive and explaining the “why” to customers that have questions.

Overall, police jurisdictions have been receptive to alarm company steps to reduce false alarms. They have seen our commitment to the process as we have been partners with them, not adversaries. The goals for both alarm companies as well as law enforcement are the same: preventing or stopping the bad guys from committing crimes toward customers, while also minimizing any unnecessary resources spent on false alarms.

SIAC’s work has been instrumental in encouraging model ordinances for police jurisdictions and provides a conduit for effective dialogue when needed to address concerns about dispatch rates and “No response.”

How have the results meshed with your projections?

Steve Butkovich: Obviously, the goal is to have zero false alarms. That said, as we look at the sum of all the efforts made, they have had an impact on reducing dispatches. We will continue to pursue additional opportunities to provide even better results. The role of the central station continues to be a crucial part of professional monitoring that clears 80%-90% of triggered false alarms.

Customers will continue to forget about the arming state of their systems or their passwords but are reminded of the value monitoring brings when we respond to accidental triggers.

Technology continues to reduce the occurrence of accidental triggers from weather or failed equipment. Improved equipment technology and customer access to real-time video and situational data during alarms allows them to quickly respond and cancel accidental activations from cleaning crews, visitors, workers, etc. Our expectations continually adjust as new technology allows us to provide better customers experiences.

Why is CPI bullish about video verification of alarms? What are the wins and ongoing challenges?

Butkovich: Video verification is both here and most definitely the future of alarm monitoring. Combining better quality cameras with the ever-improving analytics technology to help operators quickly identify people and potential issues has increased apprehension rates, reduced unnecessary dispatches and created a more accurate assessment tool to position with police departments. Video provides valuable situational awareness and specifics not available without it like suspect descriptions, potential for property damage, or threat to life.

What impact might DIY and MIY have on false alarms?

Butkovich: They provide potential risk of increased false alarms as they rely on customer installation and decision-making for dispatches. Even the most technical or handiest of customers have not necessarily been trained or exposed to best practices or SOPs that have helped evolve the industry.

Having a professional technician reduces the chance of improper installation of equipment, allows for customer training on system usage and features, and sets the customer up for the best experience.

Professional monitoring comes along with trained operators who are dedicated to following industry standard best practices and have the benefit of being focused on life safety. In the event an alarm does need to be dispatched on, they are able to quickly provide accurate information the dispatch agency needs to best respond to an alarm.

MIY (Monitor It Yourself) can also introduce larger concerns about being available to respond and call authorities and the right authorities when systems are activated. A self-monitoring customer traveling for business is going to get local 911 not the needed jurisdiction to dispatch to their home if calling from a cellphone.

Where does CPI stand relative to TMA’s ASAP to PSAP initiative? Is it important for the industry?

Shocknesse: CPI has fully embraced ASAP to PSAP and has seen tremendous gains in efficiencies for those jurisdictions that make use of it. We are currently working with 18 jurisdictions in our footprint and will continue to engage with others to help bring them on board in any way we can. CPI is excited about the efforts of TMA to expand coverage with more and more agencies accepting the protocol every month.

What challenges did the pandemic present related to CPI’s alarm management? How has the work-from-home trend altered the landscape?

Shocknesse: Before 2020, we rarely used remote work within the central station. However, we were able to convert within a couple of weeks to a hybrid model where we could maintain strategic staffing levels both in our center and remotely to guard against illness. Today, we continue to use this functionality to help address various challenges: local weather that may make travel to work difficult, flexing staff schedules like split shifts, etc., adding additional workers for overtime and as an incentive for higher performers. These adjustments allowed us to continue to staff accordingly to maintain proper SOP and false alarm prevention best practices.

The PDQ program has been around 18 years, how has alarm management changed for CPI during that time? How are you celebrating winning this award?

Gill: Alarm management has evolved with the Control Panel Standard, CP01, in 1994 to standardize intrusion panel design to reduce false alarms. This standard has been revised many times over the years and has been effective in ensuring ongoing efforts to reduce false alarms.

Additionally, false alarm reduction efforts driven by PDQ and additional industry awareness all have led to the newest Alarm Validation Scoring standard, AVS-01. Technology and the rise of customer apps have also increased the accuracy of customer contact information and ability to quickly respond to alarm activations. Evolution is expected to continue and AI-powered solutions in the future will allow for greater efficiency and accuracy.

CPI is grateful to be recognized among our peers. We cherish our partnerships with law enforcement and police foundations and have great respect for these organizations in the work that they do to protect our communities. Wins at CPI are important, and we plan to share internally with employees to celebrate our combined success.

We will also promote not just our PDQ recognition, but the importance of false alarm reduction and collaborative work with law enforcement that allows us to better serve our customers and our communities. We will promote publicly through our digital and social marketing communications and more specifically with our customers through newsletters and email.

Do you believe your approach/plan should serve as a blueprint for other monitoring centers and alarm companies to follow?

Gill: Following the best practices shared through Enhanced Call Verification, CP-01, TMA, etc. are all great starting points that everyone should embrace. From there, a focus on quality installation, in physical equipment installation as well as accurate data integrity, and setting the customer up for success via training, correct call lists, etc. all play important roles in reducing unnecessary alarm dispatches.

All central stations should work to lead by example and learn from peers. Some of our best ideas come from industry events, peers, and peer relationships made through NetOne and the trade associations.