You can read all of our articles on our website. Having trouble getting our emails?   Change your spam controls and white list 

Abort / Cancel signals and potential liability for you and your central station  
January 22, 2022
Abort / Cancel signals and potential liability
          In 2021, the central station monitoring my accounts sold to another central station.  There have been some transition issues along the way, but nothing insurmountable.  However, there is one issue that is causing me some concern, which is how the new central station handles Abort / Cancel signals.
          The old central station would call the premises, regardless of any Abort / Cancel signal received, which I think is a good thing, and would handle the event as if no Abort signal was received. The new central station's procedure is somewhat inconsistent here. Some operators simply "clear the event" upon receipt of an Abort or Cancel signal.  Or, the operator will make a call, which may go unanswered, then get an Abort signal and simply "clear the event." Some operators will call the premises, talk to someone, will ask the person's name, and clear the event without a code word challenge because they received an Abort signal. Some operators have done an admirable job, calling the subscriber regardless of the Abort / Cancel signal and processing the event by challenging them for a code word. 
          There are instances where people have been accosted upon entering their home or business, and have been forced to disarm after the alarm has triggered.  I know of one instance where a person returning home in the evening, was accosted by a group of criminals while pulling into their garage.  The homeowner "fumbled" trying to disarm the alarm after being escorted into the home by the criminals, causing an alarm to trigger.  The homeowner may have intentionally "fumbled" to allow the alarm to trigger upon expiration of the entry delay, and probably thought (and hoped) the central station would receive a signal and take some action. (I assume a signal was sent to the alarm company's central station.)  But, the home owner was subsequently forced to disarm, which may have sent an Abort / Cancel signal as well.  As the story was told to me, the central station did not call the premises, there was no dispatch to law enforcement, the homeowner was beaten but survived, and later called the police to report the incident.  Could the Abort / Cancel signal be the reason why the central station did not intervene? I think that is most likely.
          Another issue I see, that could be problematic under the scenario above, is a standard ANSI/CP01-SIA feature that delays the timing of when a burglary signal is transmitted upon alarm.  This delay can be as little as 15 seconds.  Using a panel that's hardcoded for this standard, apparently you can "override" this feature with extra programming steps, but this might be counter to the local jurisdiction's ordinance.  So, given the above scenario, assuming a 15 second delay, the poor homeowner would need to stall long enough for a signal to send, before turning off the alarm.
          I've asked the new central station for some clarification, and whether they would change the procedure to process a burglary signal, which is quickly accompanied by an Abort/Cancel, as simply a burglary signal that must be verified and processed as simply a burglary signal, and not just accept the Abort / Cancel as a "cleared event."  I've gotten a response that leaves me wondering.  Reviewing the history of my accounts, under this new central station, I noticed inconsistent procedures being performed.  Some operators are calling and challenging for code words, despite the Abort signal being received, while other operators are clearing events simply based on the Abort signal, with no calls made and no further action taken.  Some operators make one call, which is sometimes unanswered, and simply clear the event citing the Abort signal as justification.
          For decades, I've instructed alarm users to call the central station to avoid an unnecessary response by emergency personnel should they accidentally trigger the alarm, and that the central station will call emergency services if they fail to do this or give their code word.  Now, I'm getting calls and comments from subscribers wondering why no one called them or asked them for a password when they accidentally triggered their alarm.  Since the procedures of the old central station were expressed in my original paperwork, along with your contracts, I'm providing my subscribers with the document provided by the new central station, explaining their Standard Operating Procedures.
          So, now I'm considering reprogramming my subscriber's systems to eliminate the Abort / Cancel signals entirely.  I hate to do this because I found these signals beneficial when reviewing a subscriber's complaint or inquiry.  (I relied on the old central station to call on these, which they did routinely as a backup, and did not just rely on the Abort signal.)  So, I think reprogramming may be in order to achieve some consistency.  If there is no signaling delay programmed, no Abort / Cancel signal programmed, a burglary signal will be sent, and the central station will have to make some phone calls, and conduct a code word challenge. 
          I've resisted programming Duress codes, but have done so only when the subscriber insists.  Duress codes are easily forgotten and confused by the multiple alarm users.  But, I may revisit this now.
          But, there is another catch, which is a central station feature called "Chat" which, upon a burglary alarm, sends a text to mobile phones giving a select group of people on a contact list, the option to press a "button" on the text message to instruct the central station to  Disregard the alarm.     I see this as a convenience for the subscriber while, at the same time, introducing another potential failure point.  This feature can be easily disabled by the Dealer.
          I'd be interested to know your opinion as well as others in the industry about this issue.
          You’ve focused on an important issue that doesn’t have one right answer.  The issue is conveying enough information so that there should be no misunderstanding or misconceptions between you, your customer and your central station on the subject of how alarms are going to be responded to.  We know it’s not as simple as a signal comes in and the central station dispatches.  There are many different scenarios that dictate the central station operator’s response to the signal.  The main point I want to emphasize is that whatever response policy your central station has must be presented to the customer.  Your customer’s expectation how an alarm will be responded to create reliance and that reliance creates liability.  Managing expectation will reduce and perhaps eliminate liability.
          I can’t comment on whether your central station is responding to the abort signal properly.  If UL or other regulatory laboratories or NFPA doesn’t address it then custom and practice in the industry should develop the appropriate response policies.  But, whatever those policies are, they need to be communicated to the customer.  Obviously it makes no sense for your contract, your promotional material, your proposal or your verbal instructions to your customer to be inconsistent with the response policy of your central station.  I also don’t like the idea of your customer telling you how it wants the alarm signals responded to, you telling your central station and then the central station telling their operators to ignore what they have been trained to do and do it this or that way for this particular customer.  I think that’s a mistake waiting to happen.
          There are different ways to deal with abort signals and verification.  Each way depends on the customer and the central station operator and every elaborate policy you devise leaves room for mistakes and potential liability.  As I mentioned to a client recently regarding contract provisions that he requested, I told him I already had a round wheel that rolled pretty well but I’d be happy to make him a square one to see how that goes.  Stay with custom and practice. 
          Pin your central station down regarding its response policies.  The Standard Form Agreements actually advises monitored customers to ask for the central station response policy, in writing.  It’s the dealer’s responsibility to obtain that policy from the central station.  This is not central station operating procedures or confidential information.  It’s very simple.  As a dealer you know exactly what signals your systems are capable of communicating.  You need to get from your central station a written response guide how it will respond to every one of the possible signals.  Then give it to your customer.  This pertains to more than just abort signals; it pertains to all signals.
          Comments from alarm professional experts welcome.

To order up to date Standard Form Alarm /  Security / Fire and related Agreements click here:
CONCIERGE LAWYER SERVICE PROGRAM FOR THE ALARM INDUSTRY You can check out the program and sign up here: or contact our Program Coordinator Stacy Spector, Esq at 516 747 6700 x 304.
ALARM ARTICLES:  You can always read our Articles on our website at  updated daily             
THE ALARM EXCHANGE - the alarm industries leading classified and business exchange - updated daily
Wondering how much your alarm company is worth?  
Click here:
Getting on our Email List / Email Articles archived: 
    Many of you are forwarding these emails to friends or asking that others be added to the list.  Sign up for our daily newsletter here: Sign Up.  You can read articles and order alarm contracts on our web site

Ken Kirschenbaum,Esq
Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
Attorneys at Law
200 Garden City Plaza
Garden City, NY 11530
516 747 6700 x 301