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How Home Security Monitoring Works


Without home monitoring, your home security system is just a machine that makes a loud noise. You can hope the ruckus scares away intruders, but the system will not notify the alarm company or police to get the help you need.

Clearly, home monitoring is a crucial component of a home security system. But have you ever wondered how it works? Here’s a step-by-step explanation.

  • When your alarm is triggered, a signal is immediately sent to the alarm company’s monitoring center via telephone lines or a cellular network.
  • The signal, or electronic message, provides the company with several pieces of information: the type of alarm (fire, burglar or carbon monoxide), the date and time of the alarm activation, and the location of the sensor or motion detector that triggered the alarm.
  • If the alarm was activated because someone in the home held down the panic or fire alarm button, police and emergency workers will be notified immediately. Typically, these calls cannot be cancelled.
  • Otherwise, the monitoring company will contact you to assess the situation. Some companies contact you by phone, while others have advanced two-way voice technology that allows you talk to the monitoring agent from any place in the home. (Keep in mind that many monitoring companies also receive signals and contact you when batteries are low are sensors are broken - the goal is to fix any problems before an emergency arises.)
  • If you provide the proper passcode to deactivate the alarm, the monitoring company will cancel the call. This prevents emergency officials from being contacted in the event of a false alarm. Some monitoring companies wait to contact you until a couple minutes after the alarm has been triggered to give you time to enter a passcode and deactivate the alarm yourself.
  • If the alarm company can’t reach you, suspects trouble, receives the wrong password, or if the phone line is busy, an agent will contact emergency officials and have them dispatched to your home. Alarm companies err on the side of caution with this one - when in doubt, police are called.

When you’re shopping for a home security system, find out as much information as you can about the company’s monitoring service policies. Does the company wait several minutes before calling you when an alarm has been activated, and if so are you comfortable with that? Does the company have more than one monitoring center, in case one of the centers experiences network or technical issues?

Make sure to read customer reviews, paying special attention to response times. A home security system is useless if it doesn’t work when you need it most.

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