False alarms represent a major problem in the security field. They drive up the cost of protection and create unnecessary anxiety for homeowners. However, understanding the common triggers can help you prevent false alarms, leading to better consumer experience and a higher level of safety for everyone.

Think of it as the modern equivalent of ”The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Except instead of a juvenile shepherd in some old-time story, it’s a modern technologically advanced security system, albeit one that overreacts or malfunctions.

The problem comes up more than you might think. Studies of local police data have shown that somewhere between 95% and 98% of all alarm calls received by authorities turn out to be false alarms. That means that something like 19 out of every 20 cases turns out to be a waste of time. It puts an undue burden on local law enforcement and raises costs for all security system users.

In addition, these false alarms erode confidence in security systems. This diminished faith in the technology creates a significant barrier for many homeowners considering whether they should install a system or not.

This is a shame. Alarms provide a significant sense of security. They protect you from intruders and instill palpable peace of mind.

Luckily, homeowners can take steps to limit false alarms. By understanding the common causes and working to prevent them, you can enjoy the benefits of a high-performing alarm system, without suffering the annoyance that often comes with a poorly maintained one.

Here are some of the common triggers of false alarms and the steps you can take to avoid them:

User Error

Many false alarms are caused by mistakes made either in the arming or disarming of the system. These are relatively easy to avoid. You can sidestep the problem through education and sufficient attention.

Make sure the system is armed properly when you are leaving the house. This includes checking that doors and windows are properly closed and locked. Left open, or even unlocked, these can easily trigger a false alarm.

Meanwhile, when you return to your home, make sure to disarm your device completely. Follow all steps in their entirety. Also, make sure you are ready to disarm the device as soon as you enter, avoiding a panicked rush that leads to disarming errors.

Proper training goes a long way in alleviating these user-error issues. However, remember that anyone authorized to arm or disarm the device needs to understand its operation. Before adding anyone to the account, take the time to bring them up to speed.

Power Issues

Like any technology, security systems require a power source to function. This usually includes the main power source (getting plugged into the regular power grid), as well as a battery backup, so that your house doesn’t become vulnerable during blackouts.

A low battery usually doesn’t cause a problem. The system merely alerts you that a replacement is necessary, and you can take it from there. However, on rare occasions, certain systems can sound a false alarm when the power supply becomes critical.

You can avoid the situation by ensuring a steady power supply. Make sure your main connection is reliable. Meanwhile, when you receive warning that the batteries are running low, replace them as soon as possible.


Pets are like small children: They are often the authors of random chaos. You can’t predict what they will do. But unlike children, pets are often home alone while your alarm is activated. This makes them a threat to trigger a false alarm.

Higher-functioning systems take pets into account. They can calibrate the sensitivity of the movement-tracking features to ignore animals as they wander around your house.

To avoid pet-induced false alarms, look for systems with this functionality. Once installed, make sure you take advantage of the feature, calibrating it correctly to your pets and their usual habits.

Innocuous Movement Around Motion Sensors

Animal movement inside the house isn’t the only way critters can prompt a false alarm. Occasionally, animals walking around your lawn can do the trick as well.

Many systems include motion sensors meant to alert you if something is creeping outside your house. However, they can’t always determine the danger level posed by the moving object. Basically, the system might not be able to tell the difference between a squirrel and an intruder. Check sensitivity levels for your outside motion sensors to make sure that they don’t overreact to unthreatening movement by animals. Also, make sure the sensors are properly placed to maximize their ability to detect truly dangerous approaches, while not getting tripped by the more ordinary shuffling of your four-legged neighbors.

Systems that include data and video anylatics have the ability to recognize the difference between people, animals, cars, and objects. You are also able to map areas with high traffic, including the mailbox and street. Then exclude them from your alarm boundary to reduce false alarms.

General Malfunction

Sensors can accidentally trigger a false alarm even when there is nothing moving around, innocuous or not. It’s just one of the many potential equipment failures that can lead to unwarranted calls.

Often, the sensor problem is just a matter of the lens getting dirty. Routine cleaning can eliminate the problem.

However, there are other general equipment issues to keep in mind. Alarms are complex systems, with a number of interconnected parts. As such, these equipment problems can manifest in myriad ways.

Your system can overreact to a wireless failure or suffer from an installation glitch. Meanwhile, as time wears on, equipment can age and requires upgrades to work properly with the overall system.

Luckily, routine maintenance solves a lot of equipment-related problems. By keeping your technology operating at the highest level of quality, you can make sure that it will work when needed while lowering the chances of false alarms.

Being aware of how your system works and taking the appropriate steps to optimize its value allows you to avoid the anxiety and sudden irritation caused by false alarms. Learn how to use your system, make sure it is properly calibrated to your lifestyle, and conduct regular checkups to keep it in its best working order. By doing this, you don’t just avoid false alarms. You make sure that the security system will work properly if you do suffer an intruder.

Heather Cowart is the Brand Manager for Brinks Home Security, where she specializes in a deep understanding of smart-home products and thoughtful design. She is passionate about developing personal customer experiences and educating about home security.