Ask the Expert

This month's expert, J. Matthew Ladd, discusses the value of central station monitoring

A family leaves their home early in the morning expecting to return to it as they left it. But when they arrive home that evening, they find their house ransacked. During the day, burglars broke a window to gain entry and rummaged through personal belongings, helping themselves to expensive jewelry, cash and electronic equipment.

Across town, a large data center was left unattended over a long holiday weekend. The air conditioning units failed as temperatures outside topped all-time records. Computers began to overheat and shut down, jeopardizing critical information.

When a downtown bakery’s water pipe burst overnight, the water began to quickly build up in the walls, eventually bursting through and ruining hundreds of pounds of sugar and flour and damaging costly equipment.

Each event may have had a better outcome if a central station were monitoring the home and businesses. Had the homeowners installed a monitored burglar alarm system, operators at the central station would have been immediately notified of the break-in and called the police. Temperature sensors in the data center could have triggered an alarm, alerting a station operator to call a business manager to remedy the situation before the computers overheated. Moisture monitors in the bakery could have helped prevent costly damage by giving the business owner early notification of a problem.

ISSUE: How does central station monitoring work?

SOLUTION: Monitored systems can help protect against property damage and even save lives. Trained professionals watch over their customers’ homes and businesses 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Today’s technology goes far beyond basic burglar and fire alarm systems and now provides a host of protective services.

According to reports from municipalities across the country, up to 98 percent of alarm calls to police and fire departments are false. However, this analysis does not include the thousands of systems that do not signal an alarm unless there is a real threat. User error is the leading cause of false alarms, and an experienced and trained central station company can help prevent such alarms, thereby providing better security for all.

ISSUE: What role can video surveillance systems play in monitoring?

SOLUTION: Video monitoring helps deter false dispatches. With video monitoring, station operators not only receive an alarm signal, but they also can obtain a video clip of what caused the alarm. Operators can check to see if there is a valid explanation for an alarm.

Many businesses already have surveillance cameras in place. By integrating them into the alarm system, first responders can access visual verification of an event.

Some central station operators also provide their own private patrol units and can send a security officer to check on alarms. This can save false alarm fees and, in the event of a real emergency, put a trained officer on the site within minutes. After assessing the situation, the officer can determine if the police or fire departments are needed.

There are more than 2,700 central stations in the United States, but less than a hundred have Five Diamond Certification. Be sure to look for a station operator with experience and expertise to ensure you get the alarm system you need, as well as the training and support to make sure it functions as intended.

READER QUESTION: The surveillance cameras in our parking garage are routinely vandalized. At first, they were smashed with baseball bats and crowbars.We put them into hardened casings, but now the vandals sneak in at night and paint them with black spray paint. Do you have any suggestions for how to overcome these problems?

SOLUTION: As video verification is a tool for standard burglar alarms, video analytics is a tool for video surveillance. With analytics and integration to burglar alarms, if your system detects the approach of a vandal or criminal, the system triggers video recording. A clip of the action can be stored and sent out for video verification by a central monitoring station. Contact your local system integrator for a demonstration on how this technology can provide you with prevideo monitoring.

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