Several months ago, we created a post answering the question Should I Have My Security System Monitored? We always recommend adding home security monitoring services to your home alarm system. A monitored security system can create a police or fire station response to an emergency situation. Additionally, adding this service can trigger a sizeable homeowners’ insurance discount.
Unfortunately, however, customers who intend to monitor their home alarm systems occasionally experience issues. For example, this article from an NBC affiliate in Florida describes the story of a family who’s alarm monitoring services stopped working. When the family called their security provider for information, they found out the alarm monitoring had been inactive for over two years! This type of experience can frustrate customers. Furthermore, it can even lead to customers paying for monitoring and not receiving it. In this post, we share some tips to help you ensure your alarm monitoring works when you need it most.
We will begin by helping you choose a reputable alarm company and the right security system. From there, we will discuss choosing the best monitoring methods for your alarm. Having the right company, equipment, and type of monitoring will go a long way in guarding against potential issues. Finally, we will discuss the importance of manual alarm communication tests. As part of that discussion, we will also provide tips to complete these tests. Let’s begin with a look at choosing a security company that you trust to monitor your alarm system.
Use a Reputable Company for Your Home Security Monitoring
In the article described earlier, the family involved used their cable company to install and monitor their alarm system, rather than a dedicated security company. This type of decision often leads to issues down the road. Many technology-related companies offer home security monitoring as an “add-on” to other services. Unfortunately, most of these companies do not prioritize their home security offerings. Instead, they use them as another “branch” to create revenue while sticking to cable, phone, or internet service as their main concerns.
We recommend calling a dedicated security company to handle your alarm installation and monitoring. Consider seeking out local security companies and choosing the one that fits your needs best. Our 6 Important Questions to Ask Security System Providers can help you sort through your options. Asking alarm providers the right questions can lead you towards finding a price point, security system model, and alarm service plan that works for you. Just as importantly, it can lead you to finding a consistent means of monitoring your alarm panel. Now, let’s look at an important security system feature that helps ensure your alarm monitoring works when you need it.
Choose an Alarm Panel That Tests for Communication
The heart of successful security system monitoring lies in the ability of an alarm panel to send signals to a central station. It is only after receiving this communication that the central station dispatches the proper authorities. Often, an alarm system uses a customer’s phone lines to send these signals. However, there are also a few other communication options that we will discuss in the next section.
When shopping for home security, make sure that you choose a panel that sends periodic test signals. These “test” signals do not create any type of central station response as long as they are successfully sent and received. However, our customers do receive a notice if test signals stop reaching the central station. This feature would have saved the family from the NBC article quite a bit of trouble! When talking to alarm companies, make sure that they provide alarms capable of sending these test signals. Furthermore, make sure that your installing technicians program this feature in your alarm, since it is an optional feature. Now, let’s look at some of your options for alarm monitoring services.
Find the Most Consistent Monitoring Path for Your Alarm
Traditional alarm monitoring involves connecting a security system to a customer’s home phone line. This still remains a popular option for our customers. In addition, other methods of alarm communication have gotten more popular in recent years. Of course, many homes do not have traditional land lines anymore. This makes these other monitoring services more popular than ever. In this section, we will discuss a few monitoring options. We always encourage our customers to explore their options and choose what suits them best. We’ll begin with a discussion of how “modern” phone services often fail our customers. From there, we’ll share some phone-free options for home security monitoring.
The Problem with VoIP
Many of our customers who believe they have home phone service actually have something much different. If you have a “bundled” phone service provided by your cable company, you likely fit in this boat as well. Traditional phone services use hardwired lines for voice communication. We often refer to this service as “Plain Old Telephone Service,” or “POTS.” Cable companies provide “Voice Over Internet Protocol” service, or “VoIP.” These VoIP services send phone communication as “packets” of information over public internet networks, rather than over an interconnected, hardwired communication system like POTS services.
So what does this mean for alarm customers? Well, during times of high traffic, occasionally these packets of information get scrambled or dropped. During a phone call, this leads to “choppy”-sounding reception. In the case of alarm communication, it can lead to your central station failing to receive an important signal. For this reason, we do not recommend customers using VoIP to monitor their alarm systems. For more information on this topic, check out our post explaining why VoIP is a Poor Choice for Alarm Systems.
If you are a VoIP customer, you have a couple options to improve the reliability of your alarm monitoring. For starters, you could call a phone company about activating a land line. Additionally, you can use one of the other monitoring options described below. These “non-traditional” options often provide both security and cost benefits over purchasing traditional telephone service for your home. Let’s look at a couple of these options now!
Non-Traditional Monitoring Options
Our most popular monitoring option is our cellular monitoring service. This service involves installing a cellular dialer in your alarm panel. The dialer acts just like a dedicated cell phone for your alarm! Upon alarm activation, the cell dialer sends a signal to the central station through a cellular network. The cellular aspect of the communication adds a couple security features. For starters, cell network communication is much more reliable than communication through VoIP services. Additionally, cellular communication will work even when phone lines go down. Many burglars cut the phone lines of their victim’s houses before attempting a break-in. Cellular monitoring will work for you even if this does happen.
Additionally, our cellular dialer powered by Alarm.com allows for interactive cellular monitoring! Interactive cellular monitoring allows users to control their security system with a smartphone. Our Alarm.com customers can arm and disarm their security systems remotely. Additionally, these customers also receive instant text alerts to notify them of any alarm activity.
Finally, we also offer internet-based alarm communication equipment. This works well for customers who do not have reliable phone lines or consistent internet service. While not our most popular monitoring service, this is a reliable option that has worked for our customers who need it. Feel free to read up on our post describing Unique Security Monitoring Options for more information on this subject!
Learn How to Perform Manual Alarm Communication Tests
After installing an alarm, we always instruct our customers on the use of their new security system. Obviously, we cover arming and disarming the alarm, as well as adding and deleting user codes. Just as importantly, we instruct our customers on how to test their alarm’s communication. For our customers, this involves calling our office and placing the alarm on “test” mode. This tells our central station to avoid dispatching the authorities for any signals that come through during the test. After this is complete, our customers activate their alarm system. This can be done by arming the system and opening an armed door. It can also be done by activating a panic button.
Since we can track our customers’ central station communication in real time, we can stay on the phone with them during this process. Once the signal comes through, we alert our customer of the successful test. We recommend monthly testing of the alarm panel’s central station communication. If you have an alarm, call your security provider and ask how you can perform these tests. Doing so regularly will help you catch any potential “spotty” communication issues your alarm panel may experience. Consistent alarm testing will also give you peace of mind knowing that your security system will be ready to provide you help in the event of an actual emergency.
Finding the Home Security Monitoring Service That Fits You Best
We hope that this post has given you some ideas for finding reliable home security system monitoring. If you have questions about any of the material in this post, we encourage you to contact us. We will be happy to answer any alarm monitoring or security-related inquiries you may have. Additionally, we provide free site surveys for homeowners. During our visit, we can make security recommendations based on your needs and the layout of your home. Together, we can design a security system that consistently monitors your home to keep you and your family as safe and secure as possible!