I have made it my business to watch out for subtle security alarm industry changes over the years. Each and every year I can see these changes slowly take shape and take hold on the Alarm Companies that provide systems for consumers like you and me.
The majority of these changes in the past went unnoticed by the average Alarm System protected household and business. They were slight adjustments made by the Alarm Dealers, Manufactures and Service Providers and unless you were looking, you missed most of them
The changes that I have seen take place in late 2005 and early 2006 will definitely effect you, and if you don't know about them could cause you great hardship.
The first big change is the fact that more and more consumers are switching from regular phone lines to VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) phone lines. These phone lines are tied to your PC and cost a fraction of what the Bells are getting for local and long distance phone services.
As the majority of security alarm systems report over the phone lines, any changes in your phone service after install could effect the reliability of your monitoring service. You could and should send a test signal often, but the problem is that your signal may transfer perfectly over VoIP this time, and not work when you need it most.
The larger Alarm Companies are refusing to monitor these VoIP signals at all, until the phone companies can prove reliability in signals transferred over these types of lines. Many of the smaller companies are taking a chance that it will work, in a way gambling with your life safety.
There are alternatives available for you if you have VoIP as I do, and you can read more about VoIP and alarm systems at the following link:
The next change that you need to know about is ECV (Enhanced Call Verification).
ECV has been a topic of discussion for years between the alarm dealers, their governing agencies and the local authorities such as Police, Fire and Ambulance. Did you know that the majority of alarms are false alarms? Burglars have plenty of victims without security alarm systems to choose from, so dispatches during actual burglaries are a small portion of them.
The largest numbers of alarm dispatches from the monitoring companies are due to user error. Home and business owners might set their security system off on accident and if the phone lines were tied up because they are trying to call in, the monitoring companies would dispatch the authorities. Or maybe they took too much time leaving and the system went off as they drove away.
In defense of the people who had actual emergencies, many police departments around the world STOPPED RESPONDING to alarm systems. After many legal battles between the alarm industry and local governments, they agreed to test ECV for a few years in certain markets and make a decision in the last quarter of 2005
The reduction in false alarms across the board was astounding!
Here's how ECV works
When your alarm goes off your alarm company will have to:
Call the premise first and get a pass-code.
If there is no contact with a pass-code holder they must call each person on your call list, until a live person says "Please send the police" or "this is not a false alarm". Very often they will reach the alarm owner on a cell and they will say "I just left there and must have set it off" preventing a false dispatch.
If there is no contact, there is a good possibility that no dispatch will be made.
If a dispatch is made without this ECV, the authorities will probably not respond! if they do, it will most likely be a response with low priority.
Heres what you can do to help insure a dispatch is made when you need it
Many alarm companies will be switching to 2-way voice systems as the only type alarm system they will install. This means that as an alarm is triggered, a microphone opens up allowing the monitoring station to talk to you without a phone call. If they hear any activity in the house or business, this will be considered a verified response and a dispatch will be authorized.
2-way voice can be added to many existing systems. I would be wary of the Alarm Dealer that does not notify you of these changes, or at the very least be willing to have a knowledgeable discussion with you when you call to talk to them about it.
Another way to ensure verified response is to have perimeter and interior devices on seperate zones. If your alarm system reports in
it will show the motions of a burglar with multiple signals, and justify a high priority dispatch.
It is important for you to know that ECV will not effect your panic buttons and distress code. These signals will be handled as they always were.
I would also advise that you take a few moments to call your local authorities and discuss their alarm response policies with them. This way you are hearing it from the person's that will make the decision that may safe a life.
There is no doubt that your Alarm System is a very important part of your security plan. However it is only as good as the consumer that depends on it, being educated on its use and limitations.