At N E S Alarms, as we've worked with our clients in the Greater Toronto Area and beyond we've learned to anticipate questions about how alarm systems work, what their benefits are, and so on. Learn more about alarm systems and our solutions on this page. If you still have questions, or if you would like to get started with our services, contact us directly.
Choosing Your System
There are several steps to take as you choose the right alarm system. Read on to learn more.
Step 1: Learn what systems are available.
There are numerous brands of alarm systems on the market. They all do basically the same thing. When an alarm condition happens in a protected premise, the panel reports this condition to the central monitoring station for action. The main difference between the different panels is how they report to the central station.
The basic and most popular type of panel has a telephone dialer built into it that uses the regular phone line to transmit its' report. This is a very stable technology, but has one major drawback. If the phone line is cut, the panel cannot report the alarm.
Over the past few years, manufacturers have been solving this problem by allowing the panel to use a cellular backup or a radio transmitter to send the report if the phone line is cut. Cellular backup is available anywhere cellular phones can be used and is a good option to have. Radio transmission is starting to become popular. Our monitoring station has this capability if you choose to go this route.
The top of the line systems use a dedicated data line called a DVAC system. This is a buried cable used expressly for the alarm panel only. Because it is a dedicated line, the central station is able to transmit a signal to the alarm panel approximately every 30 seconds to make sure the line has not been cut.
If no answer back is received from the alarm panel at the central station then a signal is generated at the central station saying there is a problem with that particular panel. These systems can be very expensive and are generally used in high risk sites such as banks, jewelry stores, apartment building fire systems, etc.
There is also a new technology available that will allow your signals to be sent over the internet. This requires a computer on your end with an internet connection.
There are also two types of alarm system installations: hard-wired and wireless. There is a great debate over the reliability of wireless systems. To have a good wireless system requires the capabilities of a well-trained installation company. Your best bet is to get a hard-wired system and only use wireless components where wiring is impossible or impractical.
One thing you should remember, an alarm system is not intended to prevent a break-in, it is intended to report an alarm. Having an alarm system installed will only help to deter a break-in and limit the amount of time someone is in your premise.
Step 2: Having a system installed.
You have decided on the alarm system to be installed, you have picked your installer and they have installed your system. Now what? First, make sure the installer trains you on how to operate the system. Make sure the installer gives you a printed instruction manual so that you can train anyone else that will be using the system. Go over every component of your system with your installer so that you know how each piece is supposed to work and why.
Go over the procedures that are to be followed when an alarm condition happens. Make sure the installer is given a list of names of those people to be contacted if the alarm is tripped. Also decide on a passcode for every person authorized to be on the premise. This can be a word or number and can be the same for everyone or different for everyone. This is extremely important, if the monitoring station calls the premise after an alarm, and someone on site answers without a passcode, that person is automatically judged to be unauthorized on site whether they actually are or not. This can lead very quickly to a false dispatch.
Most installers will put new installations into "test mode" for a period of one to two weeks while the users are learning the system and getting any "bugs" in the system ironed out. What this generally means is that there will be no authorities dispatched on an alarm for this time period. The premise will be called, and the list of people (called "keyholders") that you have designated will be notified of the alarm condition.
Don't expect that your alarm system will be perfect the minute it is installed. There are almost always minor adjustments that have to be made to any good system. Lastly, you as the owner of the alarm system should test the alarm system every other month or so to make sure it is working properly. (Remember to call the monitoring station first, though!)
Step 3: Understanding the central monitoring station.
All central monitoring stations work along the same lines. That is, an alarm system reports an alarm condition to them, they try to verify the alarm condition, and then they report the alarm to the proper authorities or designated personnel. Some stations will stop verification of the alarm condition if a cancel / user open code is received in a specific time frame. This cuts down on the amount of false dispatches made and can, in some areas, save you money.
When talking to the central station you should know what is expected of you and what they can tell you. When calling the central station, you must be able to properly identify yourself with your passcode. Without this identification, the central station will not give you any information at all. Once you have properly identified yourself the station will give you any information they have at their disposal that you require.
If you have tripped your own alarm in error, it is always best to call the central station to report the false alarm. You can never tell if the station has tried calling you and received a busy signal or an answering machine. Normally any updates or changes to your system should be handled through your installer and not by calling the central station. For legal reasons the central station must receive these updates in writing and your installer can fax or email them to the station for immediate updating.
Any operator, at any central station, can tell you of false dispatches because the alarm system owner forgot to update his account. Here are some typical "I forgots" that central stations hear every day that cause false dispatches:
Forgot to leave alarm off and cleaning lady was coming in, forgot I have house up for sale and real estate agents coming and going, forgot to tell anyone I bought a new pet, forget to tell anyone plumber is welding at premise, forgot to tell anyone I moved out and new people are moving in, forgot to get my baby-sitter a passcode, forgot to tell anyone I'm on vacation and a neighbor is looking after the house, forgot to train new staff on how system works, forgot to tell anyone, painters or contractors are on site, etc., etc.
Most false alarms are caused by user error.
Step 4: Understand police policies.
Over the past few years police departments have set up new policies intended to cut down on the number of false dispatches and as a revenue generator.
Across North America each police department has a different policy. In some areas the alarm system owner must register his system with the police, either with or without a registration fee. In other areas fees are levied for each false dispatch. In yet other areas, police will not even respond unless the alarm is confirmed as an actual break-in.
Find out from N E S Alarms or your police, exactly what their policies are in your area.
Some alarm system owners are dissatisfied with the police policies and have requested that a private security firm respond instead of the police. N E S Alarms offers this service if you desire it.
Here are some police policies in the larger areas of Ontario.
Metro Toronto Police - A fee is charged for every dispatch whether false or actual, and even if the dispatch is cancelled there will still be a fee charged. If the alarm is found to be an actual one, you may apply for a rebate. If you have 4 false dispatches in a one year period, the police will suspend your account and no longer respond to any alarms for a one year period from the date of the 1st false alarm.
Peel Regional Police - At this time there is no registration or fees charged. However, 4 false dispatches in a year will cause your account to be suspended and police will no longer respond to any alarms for one year. Cancelling a dispatch counts as a false alarm also.
York Regional Police - You must register your residence or business with the police. A yearly fee is charged for registration. There is also a 4 false alarm policy as above.
Durham Regional Police - Registration policy in effect. 4 false dispatch policy in effect.
Kitchner / Waterloo / Guelph - Must register with police or police will not respond to any alarms. (no fee involved)
Hamilton / Wentworth - Must register with police, a fee is involved. Police will respond to unregistered premises but a high fee will be charged. 4 false alarms dispatch policy is also in effect. For registered systems, the 3rd and 4th false dispatches involve a fee also.
Halton Region - Must register with police, and a fee is involved. They also have a 4 false alarm policy.
Niagara Regional Police - Registration policy with fee in effect, also 4 false dispatch policy.
Ontario Provincial Police - No fees or specific policies at this time. However if there are numerous false alarms from the same site, they will cancel their service to that site.
Calgary - Police do not respond unless someone has already been to the site and has confirmed an actual break in.
Vancouver Area - Police will not respond unless the owner or employee is also responding (someone that has keys to the premise).