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Choosing A Company to Monitor Your Alarm System:  Questions to Ask Before You Invest

Finding a Listed Central Monitoring Station Locally

Finding a central monitoring station that's right for you might be determined by which services adapt most seamlessly to your existing security system. Alternatively, your homeowner’s association, insurance company or local government might have a preferred provider - either because they are affiliates or because they adhere to certain alarm system certification standards, like UL listing.

You might consider contacting your local law enforcement agency or state alarm association to see which companies they partner with or recommend, and what kind of deals are available.  Many state alarm associations provide contact information for listed companies on their websites. Some local governments will only allow you to register specific devices, so it’s best to know beforehand what local codes, such as false alarm reduction, are in effect, since you don’t want to be ignored in a legitimate alarm situation.

Choosing a Central Station to Suit Your Ideal System

On the other hand, you might choose to select the central station that best accommodates your ideal security system, which often is based upon the type of technology used to transmit the alarm signal or the features of the system itself.  For instance, while most central stations handle landlines (POTS signal transmission), fewer provide web-based (aka remote) or emergency medical monitoring.

Home security systems protect against threats like burglars, vandals and general invasions of privacy, instilling confidence in homeowners and residents by giving them peace of mind.  Choices like hard-wired vs. wireless systems are usually determined by the condition of your home; hard-wired systems are much easier to install while the home is being constructed and wireless systems are often more customizable.  If you choose a wireless system, then you will need a provider who can receive alarm signal transmissions wirelessly.

Your priority might be certain components within the system itself, in which case you should first clarify what features and technology you want, find the system and then select a provider who will be compatible.  Some home security systems are DIY, meaning they can be installed without professional help.  You might not need an “all-in-one” service provider to install, maintain and monitor the system.  These systems are often web-based resulting in DIY monitoring, others are hybrid allowing you to co-monitor along with the central station.  You could even opt for “non-dispatched” monitoring where the central station receives the alarm signal, notifies you and then you handle the rest of it, i.e., contacting the authorities who will be dispatched to your residence.

Questions to Ask Before You Invest

Remember that when you engage in a relationship with a home security service provider, you will most likely have to sign a contract for a couple of years, or longer.  The decision is not a frivolous one.  Below are some points to consider and questions to ask before committing.


Is the service compatible with your chosen security system (and all of its features and components), e.g., does the company conduct video surveillance and, if so, is there a limit to the number of cameras that you may have? 

Alarm Signal Monitoring Process

What procedure is followed when the alarm is triggered?  Make sure you understand this alarm signal process well, including:

  • The type of signal that is used to transmit the alarm  (POTS, VoIP, radio transmission or fiber-optics)?
  • Does the provider use ECV (Enhanced Call Verification) to notify you of the alarm event?  If not, does your municipality enforce any fines for false alarms
  • How will the company contact you?  (Most alarm systems drequire at least two contact channels.)
  • How detailed will the relayed information be, i.e., will it include point of entry and number of intruders (some information is only available to those with CCTV.)?
  • When will law enforcement be dispatched to your home, or does the company provide its own security force?

Security Company Affiliation and Your Contract.

Is the dealer local or are they a subsidiary of a larger company?  Some companies may seem local (you might even know the guy who installs the system) but chances are high that they are owned by one of the larger security companies (like ADT or Honeywell). 

  • Who exactly would you be engaged in a contractual relationship with, especially if dealing with one company is preferable to dealing with multiple, i.e., one parent company and several sub-dealers?  Some companies outsource separate services to distinct sub-dealers.  They might have one dealer do the installation and another handle the monitoring.  Some independent security providers use redundant monitoring (double or triple) to ensure that alarm signals are never lost.
  • Who do you contact in case of equipment failure?
  • How often should equipment (including back-up batteries) be maintained and/or serviced and what are the costs for this.

Customer Service

Does the company have a 24-hr customer service center?  All monitoring agencies have 24-hr monitoring, but this is not the same thing, since you don’t want to have trigger the alarm just to speak with a technician.


Is the monitoring service certified by a nationally recognized agency? If so, they will be classified as a “listed central station,” meaning that they have passed standards-complying assessments that cover their signal reception and monitoring equipment.  You might also be concerned about the expertise of the staff.   Are they well-trained?

Types of Monitoring Services.

Does the service include monitoring of emergency response/ panic buttons?

  • Is the monitoring service compatible with software that allows you to “co-monitor” your home remotely?  Many systems can be upgraded to work with innovative technology that allows you to “co-monitor” your home in real time via the Internet.
  • How easy is it to customize the system? Many home security systems are compatible with more complex and automated systemsthat activate electrical equipment and appliances, e.g. windows, gates, tvs, stereos, lights, sprinklers.   As technology evolves, it will become even easier (and cheaper) to purchase additional components.  Know what your boundaries are.


Be cautious when it comes to “free alarm systems.”  Many systems are advertised as “free,” but that’s with several caveats: 1. usually you will have to sign a contract for several years; 2. the free system will not be compatible with other equipment so it will be difficult to upgrade and/or 3. the system itself will not come with enough sensorsto effectively monitor an entire home.

Your home security system should be compatible with fire protection, carbon monoxide and climate gauging sensors and detectors.  Panic buttons and/or emergency monitoring systems are included in most reliable packages.