What is it?
Every burglar and fire alarm system should be monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Since you can’t be available every moment of your life you’ll need to pay someone to do it for you. Don’t worry, it’s not expensive and worth every penny. Central station monitoring services work around the clock to receive signals from systems and respond according to a set of pre-determined directions.
How Does it Work?
Central station service providers must adhere to strict standards. They are the eyes and ears of your alarm system while you’re away. If they make a mistake it could cost millions in property loss. Or even worse, a failure to process a fire alarm signal properly could result in loss of life. Central station operators are highly specialized and skilled at what they do.
Every signal is processed by a real live person. When an alarm or trouble event takes place at your home or building the panel immediately begins looking for a way to transmit that information off-site. If you have an account set-up and programmed the panel will send the event data directly to the central station receiver. When the receiver gets the signal it is then displayed on a PC monitor to be processed by a dispatcher. The dispatcher has all of the account information including site address, contact phone numbers, and instructions on how to handle every particular signal. The signal processing instructions are completely customizable.
The dispatcher’s job is to receive the signals and make contact according to your directions. There are some very specific rules to follow when working with fire alarm systems about how and when to contact the Fire Department. You can have the dispatcher call the White House and leave a message with the tour guide supervisor if you want to.
Devices & Functions
- POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) Communicator
Most intrusion detection and fire alarm panels communicate to the central station through a POTS telephone line (landline). When the panel has an event to transmit the communicator seizes the line and listens for a dial tone. When the line is clear it dials the pre-programmed phone number to reach the central station receiver. Fire alarm panels require two lines, a primary and secondary, while intrusion detection panels only use one.
- Cellular Communicator
Cellular communication for fire alarm and intrusion detection is quickly becoming the industry standard. No phone lines needed. The manufacturer of the panel will provide a cellular option complete with hardware and service subscription offering. There is, of course, no shortage of third-party cellular communication providers that can help make the transition from analog to digital.
- IP Communicator
IP (Internet Protocol) works very much the same way as cellular. IP and cellular signals use the same account information and transmit to the same central station receivers. The difference is you do not need to maintain a cellular subscription. However, many providers charge the same price to route your IP or cellular signals through their service before transmitting them to the central station. On average cellular tends to be a little more reliable than IP.
- Central Station Receiver
There are many varieties and options of receivers to choose from. Some receivers are proprietary to specific manufacturers and will only work with their equipment. As an end-user, there isn’t much that you need to know about the receiver. Just remember to confirm with your central station beforehand that they can accept signals from your system.
- Alarm Monitoring Software
Central Station Software is designed to quickly present the signals collected by the receiver on a screen for review by a dispatcher (real live person). This software is crucial for efficient signal processing and workflow. When a signal is received, the software associates the transmission with the account holder and displays all the pertinent information for the dispatcher to work effectively.
Central Station Monitoring Standards
UL 365 Standard for Police Station Connected Burglar Alarm Units and Systems
UL 827 Standard for Central Station Alarm Services
UL 864 Standard for Control Units and Accessories for Fire Alarm Systems
UL 1076 Standard for Proprietary Burglar Alarm Units and Systems
UL 1610 Standard for Central-Station Burglar-Alarm Units
UL 1635 Standard for Digital Alarm Communicator System Units
UL 1641 Standard for Installation and Classification of Residential Burglar Alarm Systems
Question: Is your alarm system monitored?