Commercial threat series part two: Active alarms

Commercial threat series part two: Active alarms

This article is part two of EPS Security’s Commercial Threat Series:

Whether theft, robbery, or an after-hours break-in, no one wants to believe it will happen to their business. Business crime, however, can happen to anyone. Considering commercial threats in all stages is essential in mitigating risk and creating effective emergency plans. This three part series outlines the before, during, and after of commercial crime. So if an incident strikes, you are prepared.

There are many preparations to be made when it comes to protecting your business from threats, both internal and external. The truth is, however, no level of preparedness can eliminate the risk of crime entirely. Alongside preparing for emergency response, employees should know the protocol for active alarms, and how to communicate with emergency responders. 

What is an active alarm? 

An active alarm is an alarm-in-progress. Devices that send a signal to a designated 24/7  monitoring center typically require some sort of trigger to transition into active status:

  • A glassbreak detector reacts when a unique glass shattering or bending frequency is recognized or vibration is sensed
  • A door or window sensor alarms when the secured and armed door, window or enclosure is opened
  • A motion sensor sends a signal when movement is detected within a given range
  • A panic button is pressed by someone on premises
  • A smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector is triggered
  • An anti-tamper switch on a security system control panel or keypad is triggered
  • A water detector senses water or moisture

Once these alarm devices are triggered, an active alarm event begins. Active alarms often sound alarms on site, though others can be silent. With a monitored security system, all of these triggers would send a signal to the designated monitoring center. 

While an active alarm may not always mean an active emergency, your security system’s designated monitoring center will typically treat it as such. So, which of these alarms do you trigger when an incident occurs? When you’re awaiting emergency response or on the phone with a dispatcher, what should you do? 

Emergency response with an alarm system

In the first stage—considering commercial threats and company priorities in emergency scenarios—on-site managers may have already integrated the use of an alarm system. If an alarm system is present during an emergency, employees’ initial response should be to trigger the system in some way. 

Note: employees should only attempt to reach the security system if doing so is safe and will not escalate an ongoing incident. 

There are several ways to trigger an active alarm with your system. In the case of vandalism, or an after-hours break in, your system will automatically react, sending a signal to the monitoring center. Panic buttons function 24/7, while glassbreak, door, and motion sensors must be activated, or “armed.”

In imminent danger or an ongoing crime, the best response is to press a panic button. Panic buttons trigger immediate police dispatch. Panic buttons may be hardwired under a desk or near a cash register, and can also be purchased as wireless devices for employees to carry throughout the building. If your site does not have separate panic buttons installed, employees in imminent danger should attempt to get to the system keypad, as most keypads have built-in panic buttons. Panics are almost always silent alarms, meaning they would not alert a perpetrator that help is on the way. 

Similar to panic buttons, many security system keypads have medical and fire response emergency buttons. Every button triggers the dispatch associated with the emergency (fire > fire department, panic > police department, medical > EMS dispatch). It is important to educate employees on the location of keypads and panics alike, even if they do not typically make use of the system. No code or additional authorization is required to trigger an emergency response. 

Whether or not a panic button should be used in the event of shoplifting or employee theft (a scenario where imminent danger is not present) is up to the customer’s discretion. Contact your local police department for additional alarm response information, as each jurisdiction’s regulations may vary. 

Preparing to talk with a dispatcher 

For the safety of those at the location of the panic alarm, most monitoring centers will wait until police have responded before reaching out to the customer. However, if a door contact, motion detector, or glassbreak alarm sounds, the primary site contact is the first call made. What questions should you be prepared to answer if you’re on the other line? Remember the following: 

  • Do your best to speak clearly and calmly
  • Share any information you may or may not have about the alarm event
  • Let the dispatcher know if you are on site or not 
  • If everything is okay, be prepared with your required verification 

Monitoring center dispatchers may ask questions such as: 

  • Is everything okay?
  • Do you know what caused the alarm? 
  • Do you need emergency responders? 

Preparing yourself and your employees to carry out these conversations can assist your security company in keeping you safe. 

Emergency advantage with EPS Security

EPS Security has been serving Michigan businesses for over 65 years. Our award-winning, 24/7 Monitoring Center has decades of experience keeping our Michigan communities safe. The EPS Monitoring Center is the only Underwriters’ Laboratory (UL) listed center in the Mitten state. We are also Five Diamond Certified by The Monitoring Association, and Factory Mutual (FM) approved. Throughout the United States, only a dozen or so monitoring centers meet all three of these standards. And on top of that, we are located right here in West Michigan. Whether preparing for emergencies or responding to them, EPS Security will be at your side. 

Business alarm monitoring with EPS Security

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