Security Alarm Essentials
Monitored burglar alarm systems are composed of a series of devices
that detect an intruder on the premises and sends a signal to a monitoring
station. Central monitoring stations provide year round twenty-four-hour
service and alert the proper authorities as required. Standard equipment for a
monitored burglar alarm system usually include the following:
The control panel is the power source of the entire system and is
connected to all other alarm components including an existing Plain Old
Telephone System (POTS). Motion detectors These devices trip the alarm by
sensing changes in the infrared energy levels when an intruder is in the area.
Sometimes referred to as passive infrared (PIR) detectors Glassbreak sensors
These devices sense the acoustic shock waves of glass breaking and set off the
alarm system. Door and window contacts If the door or windows are opened these
magnetic devices set off the alarm system. Sirens These systems are known as
Instant Alarm systems designed to frighten off the intruder before they can
cause any damage to the property. Loud sirens draw immediate attention to the
intrusion and some systems include colored strobe lights.
Audible Delay Systems
Audible delay systems sense the intrusions but first trigger the
alarm system and then sets off the sirens. This is designed to help the
authorities catch the intruder while committing the crime.
Hard wired vs. wireless
Depending on customer preference monitored alarm systems come in
hard-wired and wireless formats. Hard-wired requires drilling, lifting floors
or carpets and general disruption to the work area while being installed.
Wireless systems are more practical since they don't require disruption to the
business area. These systems are installed out of site and reduce the risk of
being disabled by anyone.
Features and add-ons for commercial security systems
To enhance your level of security and to protect your service in
the event of system failure additional monitored burglar alarm system features
and add-on can be purchased.
A two-way monitoring system allows the central monitoring station
to instantly communicate with your office. Your security keypad acts as an
intercom system, so the monitoring service can verify if a person who has
tripped the alarm is authorized to be there.
Open and close schedule monitoring
A method to track who has opened and closed your office. There are
two methods to track this information.
A supervised system tells you who and when the security system
was armed or disarmed. If the system is left off the monitoring station can
also notify someone.
A non-supervised system does keep track of when the alarm is
armed and disarmed, however, you need to call the central monitoring station
for the status.
A burglar alarm system offers a 24-hour backup component that kicks
in should something go wrong. If the phone line is cut or dropped a radio or
cellular backup system will send a signal to the central monitoring station. If
all electrical power is lost, a backup battery system will keep your alarm up
and running. If your phone system is Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) a
backup system is essential. Most alarm systems do not work reliably and are
incompatible with VoIP technology since it is not mandated by the same FCC
standards as POTS. VoIP customers require a backup system for the monitored
signal to go through.
For a business commercial fire alarm systems must adhere to strict
guidelines set forth by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
You can supplement your monitored burglar alarm system with a wide
range of video surveillance equipment. A simple system will consist of a single
video camera and monitor. Complex systems usually consist of closed circuit
television systems (CCTV) with several cameras, multiple operators, and digital
recorders. Access control A system mounted outside the locked door/office that
uses special cards with magnetic strips or other technologies. This allows you
to keep track when authorized personnel gain access into the office or
Central Monitoring Station
The central monitoring station is the force that actually protects
your business. So understanding the role of the central station is an important
part of your purchasing process.
In most cases small business alarm system companies license the
services of a third party monitoring station. You will need to find out how
they monitor their alarm systems.
Larger companies have their own central monitoring stations and
usually cost more because they are held to a higher standard through
verification from the independent, non-profit Underwriters' Laboratories (UL).
These companies pay for the UL to test their products and services for maximum
safety and reliability.
Internally managed central monitoring stations are required to
contact authorities within 45 seconds of the alarm going off. If they lose
power, they must have a reliable backup source - either a backup generator with
10-15 days worth of power on reserve or a second station.
It is important to find out how the central station monitors their
business alarm systems.
Buying commercial alarms from security companies
When you're ready to buy a monitored commercial alarm system, talk
to a few different companies before having anything installed. A reputable
commercial alarm system company should meet with you in person - never
exclusively by phone - to determine the best system for you. They will perform
a risk assessment to assess your security challenges by looking at your
facilities, discuss your security needs and possible limitations, and suggest a
Commercial burglar alarm installers usually provide all-inclusive
services that include equipment and monitoring service. Many commercial alarm
system installers provide name brand or private label equipment compatible with
most central monitoring stations. However, some companies install proprietary
systems - this is equipment that only works with their licensed monitoring
stations. In reality there are fewer than 10 companies that actually
manufacture the monitoring equipment. These companies provide the equipment for
the thousands of commercial alarm system dealers that sell and install the
systems. If you own your equipment make sure you have full access to master
programming and lockout codes so you can make adjustments to your system as
required or switch monitoring services when your contract expires.
Tips for choosing a commercial alarm system dealer
Get quotes from three to four different installers.
Get all pricing quotes in writing - including setup, equipment,
monthly monitoring fees, and warranties.
Ask for their licenses and check to make sure their valid.
Make sure the contract is clear and specific.
Review the contract fees carefully and make sure they are
Take your time and find out who offers the best security and
Ask questions about their quality of service
Get references from each dealer/vendor
Contact previous clients about that dealer/vendor's service.
Example of questions to ask previous clients
Was the installation guaranteed and performed in a timely manner?
During the installation did anything go wrong and if you had a
problem were they available?
Did they provide complete training to you and your staff?
Was the training straightforward and easy to understand?
If they had a burglary did the central monitoring station respond
and alert authorities as guaranteed?
Once you make a decision and before you do business with any dealer
you're considering, make sure you research them with outside organizations such
as the Better Business Bureau, the National Burglar & Fire Alarm
Association (NBFAA), or your Attorney General's office. They can provide
information on if the vendor has all necessary state and local licenses,
service complaints and service quality.
Pricing for monitored security alarm systems
Setup fees vary based on the type of security equipment installed,
the security devices purchased, and the size of the business. This can range
from $100-$4000 for the equipment and installation, the higher end cost being
for more comprehensive systems. Basic commercial alarm systems equipment - door
contacts, motion detectors, glass break sensors - are usually provided as part
of your contract, and you get to keep it after the contract expires.
Standard monthly fees are $25-$40 per month.
Dual communication capabilities - radio or cellular backup system
will typically add about $10 to your monthly service fees.
Tracking systems for commercial alarm systems, like open and close
schedule monitoring, can run you an extra $250-$600 per year. If you lease
equipment, expect to pay $300 - $500 per year, which is usually included in
your monthly fees.
Some local police departments require annual permits to have
monitored commercial support. The standard contract is a three-year obligation
but they can be month-to-month. The contract guarantees what your rights are
and that your fees will not increase. Keep in mind that breaking the contract
before it expires will result in penalties - find out what they are before you
make a commitment.
Monitored fire alarm pricing is really dependent on how elaborate a
system you install. Due to the varied and complex requirements of NFPA-72, you
can expect to pay between $1,000 - $25,0000. Contracts are typically three
years long with monthly fees of $40 - $50.
Some companies will provide warranties that range from one year up
to the life of the contract. Some come with a 90 day warranty covering parts
and labor. Do not agree to a commercial alarm system that does not include some
kind of warranty.
Once the warranty expires you can purchase additional maintenance
or repair agreements to cover the system.