Alarm monitoring is a frequently requested feature for both commercial and residential alarm installation clients. Many owners want that added guarantee of a professional center monitoring their property and contacting the authorities if it looks like something is wrong. They also often have questions about fees, reliability, response time, and more.
Arranging for monitoring services doesn’t have to be complicated. Many installers already have a roster of monitoring companies that they trust and can make recommendations about. But it’s also important to avoid any mistakes when recommending and setting alarm monitoring. These could have serious liability issues for your own business, as well as increasing the risks for the client. Here’s what to avoid.
Monitoring Services That Don’t Actually Contact the Authorities
That may seem unusual, but it’s a problem with some monitoring services, and has led to lawsuits in the past. In this example, the plaintiff was led to believe that the monitoring service would contact the police and the owner in the event of a burglary. Instead, the service only sent him a warning email, which ended up in their spam filter while the burglars made off with rare items. Clearly, you don’t want to set up a client with a service that does that!
Instead, make sure that the client can access the details of the monitoring service for themselves so they can decide. If a client specifies that they really want a service that will call the police, make sure the companies you recommend can do so. And most importantly, don’t make any claims in your contracts or other legal documents about what an alarm installation will do if you can’t guarantee it yourself.
Built-in Alarm Delays
Alarm delays can be a controversial feature. Monitoring companies may use them to help cut down on false alarms, so that the alarm will stop on its own without taking valuable time from monitoring employees. Owners, on the other hand, want alarm responses to be immediate to help stop theft and reduce fire damage, where just a few minutes can have great consequences.
Some monitoring companies will state outright that they don’t use delayed responses. Others won’t give any details at all. When possible, encourage clients to use services that aren’t known for alarm delays – they won’t be pleased if they find their monitoring service has a built-in delay at a critical moment in the future.
Misinformation About Fines
Because of delays and similar issues, some clients ask for alarm monitoring that automatically contacts law enforcement or other services. This has become rare (and in some areas heavily regulated) because it can lead to wasted calls to law enforcement, and resulting fines for the client. These fines typically escalate over time, so that an alarm system that trips frequently without criminal activity can become prohibitively expensive for the client. That leads to clients simply keeping the system permanently disarmed, which is also risky.
It’s best to address this issue head-on by explaining fines to clients, and which monitoring services can reduce fines by checking out alarms before the authorities are contacted. Clients that understand this will have a better idea of what they want compared to clients that don’t know about fines.
Bypassing Owner Devices
These days, there’s not much excuse for monitoring services to leave owners out of the loop. Recommended services should always have options to text or use app alerts so owners will get immediate notifications about alarms, even if they aren’t currently taking calls. Your clients will want to stay updated on the actions that a monitoring service is taking. Some alarm systems allow for a more self-monitoring approach, where the owner can decide whether or not to contact authorities themselves. Plans like these are generally low-cost compared to other options and a good way to save money.
No Duress Feature
Duress features silence an alarm while still silently contacting the monitoring center with a distress signal to send help. It’s a high-value feature if a client is worried about being actively robbed and forced to disarm a system. If that’s a concern, check that the system includes a duress option.
No Choice for Phone Connections
Today’s alarm monitoring can use landline connections, cell tower connections, or Wi-Fi to contact monitoring centers. Each option has its pros and cons, and it’s a best practice to offer different choices. Clients who don’t have a choice could feel betrayed later if their monitoring system goes out because their internet is down or they cancelled their landline phone service.
Since monitoring services are filled with important details, consider addressing questions about monitoring on your installation website with a quick FAQ. This is a simple way to save time by explaining how alarm monitoring works and what owners can expect – and not expect – from a monitoring system. It’s also a good idea to direct clients to a monitoring service’s own website if they have specific questions about fees, or what’s included in a package. You can talk about your past experiences with monitoring companies, but you don’t want to make any false claims about what they currently offer.