US homeowners are increasingly investing in peace of mind, and for many of them that means a monitored home security system. One big reason for this trend is that crime has been on the rise in many parts of the country - to the point where a burglary occurs just about every 14 seconds, according to the FBI. Today only about one in five homes has a monitored alarm system, but that number could double if alarm industry observers are right - primarily because today's alarm systems can do so much more.
Basic Home Security
First let's describe how an alarm system works. When sensors in the home detect an alarm condition, the control panel (or "brains" of the system) communicates to a 24/7 monitoring center. The monitoring center attempts to verify the alarm condition by contacting the homeowner: if no contact is made with someone who can provide the security password, then the monitoring center dispatches the authorities. It sounds simple, but there is a lot of technology and operational discipline involved in getting it right, every time.
Old School Alarms Defined
For years, the "traditional" alarm system detected intrusion, and maybe fire - and that's about it. All the sensors had to be hard wired to a large metal enclosure, usually in the basement, and the system relied on a vulnerable phone line to communicate to the monitoring center. There are millions of these systems still in use - sold and still monitored by some of the biggest names in the industry. They work, but the technology is seriously outdated.
One of the first big improvements was the wireless sensor. Alarm systems became easier to install, easier to troubleshoot and expand, and less susceptible to service problems caused by rodents, renovations in your home, or general wiring problems over time. Today most of the sensors being used for home alarm systems are wireless - and the cover everything, from intrusion to fire to carbon monoxide to low temperature to water/flood conditions.
Wireless monitoring, meaning cellular monitoring, started as a backup to the phone line - but has now taken over as the most reliable and robust solution. And, you no longer need a phone line in the home. You'd be surprised how many households have switched to "cell only" because their alarm system still requires a hard copper line, or an equally vulnerable Internet connection. The industry knows that cellular monitoring is safer - and that's what the best companies provide.
Advances in remote technology followed, meaning you can feel not just protected, but connected as well. Now you can arm and disarm from your tablet, PC, or smartphone, and receive text or email notifications on anything happening at home - even when the system isn't armed. And mobile apps make it that much easier. Any alarm company not offering these features is being left behind - and the best companies offer interactive features over the more reliable cellular connection.
Smart cameras really are the next best thing to being there. You can remotely access your cameras from any Internet connection (including your smartphone) and see what's happening at home. The cameras are color, high resolution devices, operating inn little or no light, and some will even pan and tilt at your command. The best video services even include motion-activated clips, where the cameras can send the clips right to you, and even store them off-site in a secure location where you can access them later.
Once you start adding home automation to the mix, the reasons for getting one of these systems are pretty hard to ignore. Now you can remotely control your lights, appliances, locks, and even your thermostats: users love the convenience of mobile apps on their smartphones for leveraging this advanced technology. And again, the most robust connection to the home is over the cellular link, vs. a vulnerable Internet connection.
The next logical step was for an alarm company to develop a true "plug & play" approach that allowed homeowners to easily set up, expand, and even move their systems form one home to the next. And there are companies that specialize in these "DIY" systems, so that you get all the modern features listed above with the convenience of doing it all on your schedule. No mess, no strangers in your home, and when you move, your alarm system moves with you. This approach is rapidly growing in popularity as more homeowners experience the benefits.
What happens if an alarm is triggered?
If the alarm is triggered it must sound for at least 30 second before a signal is sent to the monitoring center. If you cancel the alarm prior to the signal being sent you will not receive a phone call from the monitoring center, but you will still receive an alert notification via email or text if you have your system setup to do so.
If an alarm signal is received by the monitoring center they will attempt to call the Primary Contact. If they do not reach the Primary Contact they will attempt to call the Secondary Contact. If neither is reached they will not leave a message but will immediately dispatch emergency services. If a Contact is reached and the incorrect Monitoring Pass code is given the monitoring center will NOT inform the Contact and they will dispatch the authorities.
If emergency services are dispatched as the result of a false alarm and a false-alarm fine is levied, the alarm user is typically responsible for all false-alarm fines.
During an alarm event the Primary Contact will be called first to verify if it's a true emergency. If the monitoring center cannot reach the Primary Contact they will call the Secondary Contact. If they cannot reach either then they will dispatch the authorities. If a Contact is reached and the incorrect Monitoring Pass code is given the monitoring center will NOT inform the Contact and they will dispatch the authorities. Also, many people do not know that the alarm must siren for at least 30 seconds (in addition to entry delay) before the signal is sent to the monitoring center. Learn more about a triggered alarm.