What You Need to Know About Burglar Alarm Systems

Why so Confusing?
Burglar alarm systems, or intrusion detection systems as we call them in the industry, are widely misunderstood. And not just by the average end user. Even professionals get things wrong much of the time.

Years ago I was a young entry level sales person at an alarm company. One of my responsibilities was to be first on the phones. When the phone would ring I’d drop what I was doing and grab it. I learned to dread the calls I’d get from a customer in need of immediate help to figure out how to operate their alarm system.

I’d hear the alarm going off in the background and try to find someone to help but there were only a couple of people in the company that could, and they were always busy doing something else important. So, as the only person available to attend to an immediate client need, I was useless. Over time I learned how to translate the end user’s description of the problem into the real issue, but it took years.


What You Need To Know
As an end-user, you should not expect to be able to call the company that installed your alarm system and get immediate telephone tech support. Most alarm companies will not even try to provide telephone support. It’s not that they make a deliberate effort to reject the need to do so; it’s more like it gets overlooked.

This happens at most alarm system companies across America from the Mom & Pop shops right on up the huge multi-national corporations. The bigger the company the more likely it is that they have some sort of formalized process in place to handle telephone tech support but it’s probably not worth paying for if it works at all.

When you call for help you’re likely to get directed to a dispatcher that can set up an on-site service appointment but has no knowledge of how to talk someone through alarm system functions. Even if you do get someone on the phone that knows about your particular type of alarm system it can be difficult to troubleshoot the problem verbally.

So What Should You Do?
Take a proactive approach. Reach out to your alarm company before something goes wrong. Ask them about how they handle service issues. You can also ask them for an orientation and training session. If something doesn’t seem right don’t waste your time. Move on to the next company.

Many of the resources you need to understand and use your system are available online at the manufacturers’ website; User Manuals, Quick User Guides, Installation Manuals. Every end-user should have the manual to their system downloaded or printed out.

Test Your System Monthly
If your system is monitored by a central station you need to test it monthly to make sure that the signals are transmitted properly. Especially if you are still using a plain-old-telephone-systems (POTS) phone line. Communication failures can happen often and when they do you will receive a notification on your system keypad display or the central station, but sometimes you may not. Test your system yourself on a regular basis. Go ahead, arm the system and set it off! Remind the whole neighborhood that you have an alarm system. But, be sure to call your central station first and let them know you’ll be testing so they don’t dispatch the police.

When was the last time you tested your alarm system?