alarm monitoring

What Is Alarm Monitoring and How Does It Work?

One of the key reasons for installing a security system in your home is to be alerted right away to any problems that arise. But, what happens when that alert is sent? Does your alarm just make a noise or send a notification to your phone to let you know someone has breached a door or broken a window — or does a alert trigger a series of steps that can lead to the proper authorities being notified of problems? The way in which your alarm monitoring operates varies from company to company and is entirely different if you are using a self-monitored system.

What is alarm monitoring?

Alarm monitoring is the direct communication that your alarm system sends to a central monitoring station where there are people on duty 24/7 who will process the communications and respond to it either by calling you or by reaching out directly to the authorities. Without alarm monitoring, your alarm may make a sound or send a signal to an app installed on your phone, but no third party is typically notified of a problem.

The specifics of home security monitoring vary from one security company to another. But, the reason for installing a monitored system is always the same: you have professionals looking out for your home at all times who can respond quickly in case of an emergency. If you’re incapacitated or unreachable, the monitors can take appropriate action to notify people who can help you.

How does alarm monitoring work?

When a security system is installed, the system usually consists of a centralized control panel and a network of sensors. Depending on the specifics of your system, these sensors could include motion detectors; door and window sensors; devices that detect tampering with your telephone line; smoke detectors; carbon monoxide detectors; temperature detectors; and flood detectors.

If a sensor triggers because something is amiss, a signal is transmitted to the monitoring station run by your security company — if you have a monitored alarm system. Typically, monitors who receive the signal call you to confirm there’s actually a problem, but some systems are set up so no initial call is needed and action is taken immediately to contact the authorities.

If you don’t answer the call, or your system is set up so no confirmation call is needed, then the monitor moves on to alert the appropriate authorities. A smoke detector signal could lead to a call to the fire department, for example, while a breached door could prompt the monitor to notify the police of a potential intruder.

In many cases, the alert is sent through the phone line when sensors detect a problem, but some systems use other transmission methods or have backup systems in place so intruders can’t disable the alarm. Some alarm systems are silent alarms so anyone breaking in isn’t alerted to the alarm at all which ensures that the intruders do not try to disable the system. It all depends what type of setup you and your security company decide is best.

What’s the difference between a professionally and self-monitored alarm system?

Home security system monitoring doesn’t have to rely on professionals alone. While professionally-monitored systems send alerts to control panels, self-monitored security systems send alerts to you and sometimes to other family or friends as well.

Unlike professional alarm monitoring, there’s no monthly monitoring fee for a self-monitored system. After all, your system isn’t alerting anyone but you of problems. Unfortunately, if you’re incapacitated or simply don’t get the alert, then the problem at your home could go undetected. This can happen if the alert is sent to your cell phone and you are not in an area with good cell reception of WiFi.

If you don’t want to rely solely on notifications your alarm sends to you, you’re better off with a professionally monitored security system instead of one that you monitor all on your own.

Is a professionally monitored system worth the price?

Professional monitoring for your home security system typically runs between $15 and $30 monthly, although the specific price will vary depending on which security company you select.

Paying between $180 and $450 a year is often worth it for the peace-of-mind of knowing that professionals are ready to respond to issues at your home 24/7. This is especially true if you are in an area prone to break-ins, if you have kids or pets left at home alone who could be hurt if something goes wrong or if you are frightened you wouldn’t be able to call for help on time if someone broke into your home or another problem occurred.

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Alarm monitoring is an important part of home security systems

If you have a security system that you self-monitor, it’s imperative you’re able to react quickly as soon as you receive an alert. If you’d rather not have the fate of your home resting solely on your own shoulders, you should consider a security system with professional alarm monitoring.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Officer Banta.

Officer James Banta

Officer Banta is the official SecurityNerd home security and safety expert. A member of the Biloxi Police Department for over 24 years, Officer Banta reviews all articles before lending his stamp of approval. Click here for more information on Officer Banta and the rest of our team.