Central station monitoring is the most valuable part of your alarm system for both you and the Alarm Company that has the pleasure of providing you with this service. For the alarm user the peace of mind that comes with knowing that help is on the way when needed is always welcome and often insisted upon. For the alarm dealer, the recurring revenue that comes from this side of the business is what sustains them.
Monitoring firms come in all sizes. The largest are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) listed facilities with Fort Knox like security. These facilities have large backup generators as well as the ability to instantly switch your Alarm systems to the closest available station in the case of a natural or man made disaster. There is great stability in doing business with these firms due to the fact that your account will rarely be sold to another company, who would constantly raise your monitoring rates. Small alarm dealers use monitoring agreements as a way of infusing cash into their business as often as needed, To them your account is like stock.
The largest National and International companies are at an advantage because they have a great number of facilities, and are able to provide local monitoring for their clients. Local monitoring is preferred because you are less likely to loose a signal if it is coming over a local phone line. An example of this is as follows. Lets say you live in the central US and your alarm is being monitored on the east coast over an 800 number telephone line. If a storm knocks out the phone lines between you and the monitoring station, how would they receive your signal for help?
The smallest firms could be a couple of people taking turns watching a digital receiver in a home office. These are undesirable because you may not be able to depend on them when needed. Your personal information is also at risk, due to a potential lack of security in this type of facility. All of the advantages of the large well- funded central stations are reversed when your alarm dealer saves money by doing business with these smallest of companies.
Monitoring stations large and small all have the same function. When your alarm is violated it sends a digital signal to the monitoring stations receiver. The receiver takes only a few seconds to decipher where the signal is coming from and what type of response is required. This information is than translated by computers and a dispatch screen is shown to the first available dispatcher. The dispatcher connects to the proper authority and relays your systems request for a response.
On most non- panic situations the monitoring station should call the house before they dispatch to the proper authority. If you answer the phone and give the correct password they should disregard your signal as a user error. If you give the wrong password, the better monitoring stations will say “Thank You” hang up and dispatch for a holdup/ hostage situation. This is yet another great people protector that is built into your monitoring service.
If you are not home to answer the call a dispatch will be made and the monitoring station will begin at the top of your call list in hopes of contacting you or your agent with a warning of dispatch. This is not so you will go check; it is so you will not walk into a dangerous situation. Looks like another one of those people protection features when used properly doesn’t it? This process of dispatching and then calling you or the people on your call list has come under the microscope of late, and many municipalities are adjusting this process. More about ECV (Enhanced Call Verification ) is posted on the “Experts Know” web-site at the provided link.
Your local authority, based on how the signal is reported to them, prioritizes dispatch responses. Your monitoring company should also have dispatch protocol based on the signal type.
A request for a response to a hold up or distress will usually take precedence over a burglary signal.
A request for an ambulance should be dispatched immediately and a phone call to the house made afterwards.
A request for a fire dept. response should be dispatched immediately and a phone call to the house made afterwards.
A distress call made by the use of an ambush code or panic buttons should trigger an immediate dispatch with no phone call to the premise.
An alarm signal dispatch that is trailing a burglar through a protected area such as:
Zone 1 entry, front door.
Zone 5 main floor motion detector.
Zone 3 Upstairs hallway motion detector.
should excite your local authorities into a quicker response, as they are sure it is most likely not a false alarm. This type of reporting format is called “Extended Reporting” and while some cities require it to help prioritize dispatch, most do not. It is always available to you if your control is capable of reporting that way and you request it. Now that you know about it you should ask for it by name.