Alarm System FAQ
The following frequently asked Questions and Answers have been assembled to help new or potential customers become familiar with alarm systems in general and to help them better understand the monitoring process performed by the Central Monitoring Station.
Can I still have pets in the house and use my alarm system?
Yes, but with certain restrictions! Animals and motion sensors and/or under carpet mats do not mix.
Most people that have pets must take extra care when “arming” their alarm systems!
You must make sure that all pets are relegated to a portion of the premises that has no burglary protection.
Or, you could have the motion sensors and/or under carpet mats “by-passed” out of the alarm system in the areas where the pets roam freely before it is “armed.” Or, your security dealer can design a “Pet Alley” into your system, which provides certain “clearance levels” in which the pet can move about within the motion device’s protection area.
Can my alarm system be configured to let the central monitoring station know if the system is “On” or “Off”?
That type of functionality - “Opening” and “Closing” notification - needs to be specifically programmed by your security specialist at the control panel for the alarm system to operate in this manner. If this feature can be enabled, the Central Monitoring Station will then be alerted every time your alarm system is turned “on” or “off.” This feature is often enabled for commercial properties.
If you want to have this extra security, it should be brought to the attention of your alarm dealer. He or she will review the capabilities of your control panel and see if your alarm system can be programmed accordingly.
Can the central monitoring station shut off my alarm system from their location?
No! Generally, the Central Monitoring Station has no control over your alarm system. It can be “armed” and “disarmed” only from your premises by an authorized user.
Can the central monitoring station tell if my alarm system is "Armed" (ON) or "Disarmed" (OFF)?
Not usually! The Central Monitoring Station normally cannot tell if your alarm system is “armed” or “disarmed.” It is only alerted, if any alarm activation has occurred. If you fail to turn your system on before leaving the property, and an intrusion occurs, the Central Monitoring Station will not be aware of this emergency situation.
Therefore, it is very important you make sure when leaving the premises, that your alarm system is “armed” and that all necessary security precautions have been observed ahead of time.
Can the central monitoring station tell if my alarm system is non-operational?
No! If for any reason, your alarm control panel ceases to function, or if your telephone lines fail, the Central Monitoring Station will not be aware of it - nor will it be able to receive your emergency alarm transmissions.
That’s why it is an excellent idea to do the following:
- Have all increments of your alarm system tested professionally at least once a year.
- You should test the functionality of your alarm system yourself at frequent intervals during the year - always remembering to call the Central Monitoring Station beforehand!
- Always test your alarm system after any major electrical storm or significant power outage.
- Optimally, have your alarm system send an automatic daily Scheduled Test code to the Central Monitoring Station. This can be arranged through the alarm dealer. Then, the monitoring facility will be alerted on a scheduled basis, if the alarm system or the telephone lines are non-operational.
How does alarm system monitoring actually work?
When the alarm system installed at your property reacts to an emergency condition, the control panel is activated. A component within that panel is encoded with various alarm messages and other vital information. This data includes your personal account number and the type of functions being monitored - for instance burglary, fire, panic, medical, and/or other emergency codes.
At the time of alarm activations, the control panel dials out over your existing telephone line and sends your system’s coded alarm signals to the Central Monitoring Station. There, your alarm signals are acted upon immediately.
Upon receipt of this data the specially designed automated alarm monitoring equipment enables the security dispatchers:
- To access the confidential, mission-critical account information, which is maintained for all customers.
- To relay this vital information to the emergency responding authorities.
- To advise the authorities of the nature of the emergency and to give them any special information regarding the alarm.
- To advise the authorities of any specific procedures, etc. - according to the type of alarm codes received and in compliance with customer and/or alarm dealer requests.
- To contact and advise the key holders.
How does the central monitoring station know where the alarm is coming from?
The Central Monitoring Station has state-of-the-art alarm receiving equipment and automated alarm monitoring computers, which gather, organize and process a vast array of information. These high-tech devices acknowledge and identify all the alarm codes they receive as soon as the signals come into the control room. Within seconds the automated alarm monitoring computers interpret these codes and can instantly translate this data into:
- The time and date the alarm is received.
- The account number of the client.
- The name and telephone number of the client.
- The location of the property.
- The type of alarm code.
- The names & telephone numbers of the emergency responding agencies.
- The names and telephone numbers of the key holders, directions to the premises, special comments, special procedures and other such data.
What does the central monitoring station do after it receives an alarm code?
As soon as the Central Monitoring Station receives your emergency alarm signal, the following should happen:
- Your property is called - if applicable!
- Please answer your phone and stay as calm as possible.
- Please be ready with your passcode, abort code, or password.
- If there is no answer, or if an incorrect identification code is given, the security dispatcher immediately dispatches the appropriate emergency responding agencies - following all specific, pre-defined instructions.
- If there is an emergency at your premises, be assured that help will be dispatched immediately.
What happens after the emergency responding agency has been contacted?
All personnel at the Central Monitoring Station will continue to work diligently until the alarm condition is brought to a satisfactory conclusion - thus preserving the well being of the customer and safeguarding the integrity of the property. After dispatching the emergency responding agency, the security dispatcher will:
- Contact the key holders to respond to the property and to let the emergency responding agents into the building.
- Advise the emergency authorities, if no key holders are available to respond.
- Tend to all follow-up Procedures – such as contacting any other designated person(s).
What happens if my "Silent Duress" or "Hold-up" alarm is tripped by mistake?
If a "silent duress" or "hold-up" alarm is tripped by mistake, the procedures listed below are used - unless the client informs the Central Monitoring Station in writing that other procedures are to be followed.
- The Central Monitoring Station will call the police immediately.
- If the activation is accidental, it is imperative that you contact the Central Monitoring Station at once.
- Identify yourself by giving your name and customer identification or abort code. This will halt any further action taken by the Central Monitoring Station.
- Reset the alarm system.
- Please do not leave the property without first speaking to the Central Monitoring Station.
- If the Central Monitoring Station operator is instructed to call you first, please answer the phone immediately! The security dispatcher will identify him or herself and ask you for your customer identification.
- If the telephone is not answered promptly, or if the proper customer identification is not given, the authorities will respond to the premises.
What happens if my alarm system is tripped by mistake?
If your alarm system is tripped by mistake, the following should happen - unless the client informs the Central Monitoring Station in writing that other procedures are to be followed:
- Call the Central Monitoring Station immediately.
- Identify yourself by giving your name and customer identification or abort code.
- This will halt any further action taken by the Central Monitoring Station.
- Reset the alarm system.
- Please do not leave the property without first speaking to the Central Monitoring Station.
- If the Central Monitoring Station operator calls you first, please answer the phone immediately! The security dispatcher will identify him or herself and will ask you for your customer identification.
- If the telephone is not answered promptly, or if the proper customer identification is not given, the authorities will be dispatched.
What happens if my commercial fire alarm system is tripped?
Most states, adhering to NFPA requirements, have very rigid statutes regarding how the Central Monitoring Station handles commercial fire alarm activations. Therefore, based on these regulations, if a commercial fire alarm system transmits a code, the following should happen:
- The Central Monitoring Station will not call the premises for verification, but will call the fire department immediately.
- You should attempt to call the Central Monitoring Station immediately and indicate the cause of the alarm.
- The Central Monitoring Station will put you in touch with the fire department, so that you can indicate the cause of the alarm and answer any other questions they may have. Even if the alarm is false, most fire departments will choose not to cancel their dispatched run to the premises.
- Attempt to reset the system.
- Community based groups like “Neighborhood Crime Watch,” which are endorsed by your local policing agencies.
What if the telephone line is cut?
If your telephone line is cut, or if the telephone network fails for whatever reason, the Monitoring Central Station will not receive an emergency alarm signal from your security system. For this reason it is important that your telephone line has some protection, such as buried or concealed service. Another option would be back-up cellular reporting, which requires a special alarm panel.
This option can be discussed with your security specialist.
What is an RJ31X jack and why should I have one installed?
An RJ31X Jack is a special inter-connective device that is installed at your premises on the telephone line that your alarm system is going to dial out on. Your security system control panel is designed to plug into this jack.
The RJ31X Jack provides a means for unplugging, and thereby disconnecting, your security system from the telephone lines. This is done only in the event of a major security system malfunction, which prevents or interferes with the normal use of your telephone and must be reconnected after the problem has been solved.
The telephone company or your alarm dealer can install the RJ31X Jack.
What procedure of customer identification does the central monitoring station use for the purposes of security?
Before your alarm system is connected to the Central Monitoring Station, you will be given a customer identification code number or you may chose a code word. This serves several security functions:
- Your customer identification code is used to identify you to the Central Monitoring Station at the time of an alarm activation and also is used to abort any emergency dispatches.
- Your customer identification code indicates to the Central Monitoring Station personnel that you are not under duress of any kind. The customer identification code should be supplied to the security dispatcher only in the event of a false alarm. Do not give the abort code to the security dispatcher, if you are in any jeopardy!
- Your customer identification code is used to identify those persons designated and authorized by you to be at the property. This will confirm to the Central Monitoring Station that the person they are speaking with at your property is supposed to be there.
- Your customer identification code is used to identify any person who calls the Central Monitoring Station and attempts to change any customer information, receive any customer Information, or place any account on “Test/By-pass”.
What questions should I ask a potential alarm installation company?
- Do they have all the necessary licenses mandated by the state or local municipality having jurisdiction in the area?
- Do their employees have any security clearances and are they bonded?
- Does the company carry Liability and/or Errors and Omissions Insurance?
- Will they provide you with a written quotation?
- Will they provide you with a contract once the alarm system is installed? If so, make certain that you read and understand all contractual conditions and obligations before signing it.
- Will the alarm system be monitored? If so, by whom?
- Will there be a written warranty or guarantee on the system? For how long? What is and what is not included?
- Are there any local ordinances or registration requirements that you should be aware of? Whose responsibility is it to register your system with the authorities?
- Have all applicable permits and licenses been included in the price of the system? If not, how much are they and whose responsibility is it to obtain them and to pay for them?
What should an alarm system do for me?
A basic alarm system is installed to detect and deter intruders and to protect the premises against fire and environmental conditions. An alarm system can consist of perimeter devices, which secure vulnerable access points such as doors and windows. Interior devices, consisting of passive infrared detectors or under carpet mats, detect movement inside the premises. Smoke detectors, thermals, rate of rise heat sensors and such equipment are used as an early warning for fire detection.
The number and type of protective devices that you choose to have installed will determine the level of security you attain. The various additional features and/or functions of the alarm system, such as: medical alert, environmental protection (high/low temperature, gas leak, high water, etc.), employee access control, etc. will also effect the cost. All of these can extend your security and the protection of your premises.
What should I check when the alarm system has been installed?
Before the Alarm Installer leaves your premises, please make sure:
- You have established a proper customer identification number, abort code or password with the Monitoring Central Station to use for your security verification.
- All the devices within the alarm system have been tested and are working properly.
- The alarm installer trains all of the people who will be using the alarm system and that they also have been given a proper customer identification number, abort code or password.
- You have all necessary, emergency phone numbers written down for future reference. (Example: alarm installation company, Monitoring Central Station, responding authorities, etc.)
- You know how to “arm” and “disarm” the system properly and that you know how to operate all the devices within the alarm system, so that you feel comfortable using the system. If you don’t understand some of the functions of the alarm system, it is critical that you ask questions of the alarm installer and get the appropriate explanations before he or she leaves the premises! This will help to prevent false alarms later on.
What should I consider before having an alarm system installed?
Your need to evaluate your total security requirements by assessing your lifestyle and/or your business routine and determine your home or business needs, etc.
As an example:
- Do you live in a high crime neighborhood or a remote unprotected area?
- Are you away from the premises frequently?
- Do you have young children?
- Do you have many employees to keep track of at the premises?
- Do you have pets?
- Do you have an all-wooden building or a substantially older structure, which would be particularly susceptible to fire?
After your assessment, you need to do the following:
- Be sure to contact your local police depatment or crime prevention branch, alarm association, Better Business Bureau, consumer protection agencies and/or insurance company for a list of reputable companies in your area.
- Be sure that you advise each company that you are getting competitive quotes.
- Be sure that you make a true comparison of each proposal based on a site inspection. Then, thoroughly review the number and kinds of components to be installed, so that you are evaluating similar types of installations – comparing “apples to apples.”
- Be sure to understand what the differences are in the quotes given to you. If there are significant differences, how will they impact your over-all security protection?
What should I do if the alarm system is not working properly?
First, refer to your alarm system owner's manual and see if the problem you are having is described there. If you see a solution to the problem in the manual, please call the Central Monitoring Station before trying to correct it - just in case your corrective measures trip the alarm system by mistake. If you cannot get the problem resolved in that fashion, call your repair technician.
Who is responsible for making sure my alarm is working?
You are! It is incumbent upon you to test the alarm system frequently using the procedure established by the alarm installation company and/or the Monitoring Central Station. Be sure to contact the Monitoring Central Station before you conduct any tests and notify your installation company immediately, if you find any problems.
Why does my phone go “dead” during an alarm?
During the brief period of time that your alarm system is transmitting your essential emergency information to the Central Monitoring Station, you will be unable to use the telephone. That is because the alarm system "seizes" the telephone line and preempts normal telephone conversation. Only when all emergency transmissions are complete will your telephone line be released.
It should be noted that the “line seizure” function works every time your alarm system is tripped – even when you test your system – even when reset codes are being transmitted. Therefore, the more devices you trip during testing, the longer the phone will be inoperable.
Why should I buy an alarm system?
Alarm systems are an effective tool when used in conjunction with other crime prevention measures. They are a visual as well as an actual deterrent. Independent studies indicate that premises with an alarm system are many times less likely to be burglarized than premises without an alarm system.
Why should my alarm system have this “line seizure“ functionality?
“Line Seizure” is an added safety feature. It ensures that, when emergency conditions occur, any non-essential engagement of the telephone during the alarm incident (such as general telephone conversations, leaving the telephone off the hook, internet connections; faxes, etc.) will not interrupt or halt the transmission of your important emergency codes.
Will an alarm system give me total security?
No ethical sales person should ever tell you that an alarm system absolutely guarantees safety or makes your property “burglar-proof.” It does not! However, an alarm system significantly reduces your risks and should be only one of the tools used in an over-all strategy to make your property safer and your environment more secure.
Proper locks, lighting, landscaping, adequate doors, protected windows, taking appropriate safety measures when you are away from the premises, etc. ... are all part of the equation.
Additionally, it would be a good idea to support your local Neighborhood Crime Watch Program.
Will my alarm system be directly connected to the police department or the fire department?
No! Most municipal emergency departments have disbanded their monitoring capabilities. The day-to-day handling of false alarms, service related issues, customer questions and similar topics related to monitoring were requiring more time than over-extended departments could afford to provide. Consequently, a professional Central Monitoring Station, whose sole function is to handle all of your alarm-related needs, will monitor your alarm system.