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Alarm Monitoring Services

Updated on October 10, 2010

Alarm monitoring services are designed to help you get the most out of your security system, whether you have installed it yourself or sought the help of a professional. These services can mean the difference between your security system merely watching your home catch fire or calling the fire department to put it out. This article will show you how these services work with a typical security system.

What is Alarm Monitoring?

Also called central monitoring stations, alarm monitoring links your security system to a security company. This is done through the use of computers, dedicated phone lines and software in order to alert the office or technician to contact the appropriate authorities in the case of an emergency.

The trigger for the monitoring service can be anything from an alarm to a switch or sensor that can detect of a window or door has been opened or breached.  A popular example is the “silent alarm” at the bank that the teller can discreetly press if there is a robbery. The trigger and associated software can be set up to respond in a variety of ways depending on the application.

It is important to note that monitoring services will differ immensely between providers so it is important to do your research properly before you commit to one company over another.

Alarm System Monitoring
Alarm System Monitoring

Alarm Monitoring Prices

The range of services does vary from company to company and this is also a factor in pricing. Basic home alarm monitoring services can start from as little as $5 a month through to more thorough providers offering installation and product warranties on top of their monitoring for around $25 a month. These prices do not factor in the discount insurance rates you may receive from your home and contents insurance company once you have subscribed to the alarm monitoring.

The Benefits of Alarm Monitoring

The entire point of having a security system installed in your home or office is to both prevent problems like intruders and other emergencies and be able to act on them in a timely manner. There is little point in having an alarm go off only for it to annoy your neighbours and nothing more. Subscribing to a monitoring service can dramatically reduce the chance of burglary and other accidents like fires in your home getting out of control by alerting the proper authorities the moment an alarm goes off.

Monitoring can protect you when you even when you are inside your home. If you arm the system in the evenings when you sleep, the authorities will be aware of intruders in your home and on their way before you have decided to find out what went “bump” in the night. This also removes the problem of any intruders waiting for you inside your home when you are out.

Many people feel that installing a security system is enough and are reluctant to pay for extra services like monitoring. It is important to note that there are other ways to save money aside from using a combination of a real and dummy cctv camera to monitor you property. Your monitoring service can save you a considerable amount off your homeowners insurance and lower your premiums. Because the use of alarm monitoring according to the home insurance company means the likelihood of having to pay out on the policy is minimised.

Certified Providers

More important than the cost is having the right people looking after your property. The classifications and ratings for monitoring services differ depending on where you live so the following information will help you find a reputable provider. These services can be outsourced by some companies so there is the potential for your security data may not be secure. The following certifications can guard against such practices.

In the United States the UL (underwriters laboratories) is the principal authority that conducts audits and certification of alarm monitoring companies, in addition the UL also certifies security equipment like sensors and cctv camera housings. These standards include how your data and security systems make up is stored, access to your cameras and sensors and who can access this information. Other organisations like the national burglar and fire alarm association will be able to provide you with a list of companies that conform to these standards.

Similar bodies like the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization have their respective evaluation criteria. These extend to specific building requirements for where the monitoring stations are housed. Hence an appropriately certified company will be more reliable and offer better quality service due to having met specific criteria.

Do It Yourself

Alarm monitoring needn’t be something that you pay a provider for. There are a number of solutions that you can set up yourself with a little bit of knowledge and these are becoming increasingly popular. As 3G networks become more common in urban areas monitoring systems are less dependent on the phone lines. This has the dual advantage of your systems being harder to bypass and also a savings in terms of being able to disconnect your phone line completely.

Alarm monitoring, including the do it yourself versions can be set up to provide a video feed of your property once the alarm has been triggered. This footage can be streamed directly to your computer or smart phone. This data is recorded and passed on to the authorities to be used as evidence and identification purposes. In fact footage such as this has already led to a number of successful convictions. Because the information is streamed live it increases the chances of the intruder being caught. Other alerts via sms and phone can also be set up. All of this can be done through an existing broadband connection.

Alarm Monitoring
Alarm Monitoring

Testing and Maintenance

Testing is something that you should get into the habit of doing with any of your alarm systems. If you subscribe to a monitoring service then conducting a simple test should only take a matter of minutes and should be done monthly. To do this you first need to call your monitoring station and tell them, the idea is not to have the police or fire brigade come over. Once you have done so, arm your system and wait for several minutes then trigger a variety of sensors including door and window breaches.  When you have disarmed your system and called the monitoring station they should be able to tell you which sensors were tripped.

Car Alarm Monitoring

Your home or office is not the only thing that can benefit from alarm monitoring. Many government bodies and members of the public are installing systems that enable them to track their car. The benefits here extend from keeping an eye on where your children are to being able to partially control the vehicle.

If you car is stolen you can activate the hidden GPS unit to find your car and alert the authorities. Some of the more sophisticated companies take this a step further and will have the ability to remotely sound the alarm, flash the car’s lights to help police identify it and even slowly decelerate the car and prevent the ignition system from engaging. Needless to say, these measures help not only to prevent your car from being stolen as the monitoring company sticker is enough to ward off thieves but also increase the chances of recovering your car in a worst case scenario.

Questions are Key

When it comes time for you to meet with the monitoring company representative don’t be afraid to ask questions about their qualifications and ask for proof that they have met the appropriate certification standards.  Questions about their facility including secure data storage and backup power reserves should be addressed at this time and you will always remain well within your rights to ask for proof behind their answers.

Your security and peace of mind are important and as such it simply isn’t enough to have a good security system if there is nobody there to keep an eye on it when it counts.


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