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Your Guide to Alarm Monitoring Providers, aka Central Stations

What is a Monitoring Provider and What do They Do?

 A monitoring provider ("central monitoring station") is a company that receives the alarm signal when your security device detects an alarm event.   Monitoring providers are also referred to as central monitoring stations or “central stations.”  Not all monitoring providers are alike; for instance, while nearly all companies are set up to handle alarm signals that are transmitted using the POTS (plain old telephone service) or landline network, only some can handle digital technologies, and even fewer allow consumers to co-monitor using their PC or Smartphone.

 Types of Services

Monitoring Providers also differ by the type of services they provide.  Some monitor intrusion alarms, but do not monitor video feeds, while others specialize in video surveillance or PERS (personal emergency/ medical alerts). Almost all central stations handle fire alarms and carbon monoxide, while the monitoring of other environmental factors like excess moisture, radon and extreme changes in temperature are becoming the industry standard - although these factors are often more easily managed using DIY wireless sensors that can be set up with software and self-monitored on your PC.

 Advanced Features

Many home security systems include panic buttons, two-way voice (that lets the company listen into your home via speakers in real-time during an alarm event) and redundant monitoring as part of the package.  If the central station handles wireless or web-based monitoring, a picture of your home and the breached zones might be transmitted to your PC or Smartphone during an alarm event.

Other choices include: dispatched and non-dispatched monitoring, “self-monitoring,” (aka Do-It-Yourself) which, in effect, is non-dispatched monitoring without the central station and “co-monitoring.” However, if you prefer the “hands-off” approach, then you can let a central station handle all of this for you.  For people who have health concerns or want the safety of a panic button, supervised monitoring by a professional central station is often preferable.  Some central stations can even act as guardians and contact their customers up to 2x per day just to check in.  Central station monitoring can cost anywhere from $15 to $65 per month with an average of around $35, depending on the company and the package you choose