Most alarm dealers would prefer a root canal versus moving their monitored alarm accounts to a different central station. Transitioning alarm accounts can be frustrating, or it can be a fairly simple and seamless process. The end result will be dictated by the planning and preparation undertaken by the alarm company in concert with the new central station prior to the conversion.
The initial factor to consider in a conversion is the contract with the existing central station. The alarm dealer is legally bound to the contractual terms. Proper notice of cancellation must be submitted to terminate the agreement. The recourse for terminating the agreement early is a clear breach of the central station’s duty in fulfilling its contractual obligations. Poor customer service by the central station may be a reason to move, but in most cases it usually will not constitute a breach of the agreement.
Assuming the dealer can terminate the agreement and move the accounts, there are several other factors to consider. Among them, make sure that the electronic customer database is available from the current central station and send it to the new central station, usually on a CD. From the day that the data is sent, all account changes and new accounts must be memorialized to add back into the database before the conversion.
Alarm companies must be careful from Day One to purchase their own receiver phone numbers that are pointed to the central station’s receiver(s). This is imperative and is probably the biggest impediment to dealers being able to quickly and seamlessly transfer their alarm accounts.
The same logic applies to IP alarm communications. Dealers should go to a source like Keep Your IP and secure their own IP address for their IP alarm transmitters. If these steps were not taken upfront, the alarm dealer is looking at either having to download every account, or rolling a truck to each site to reprogram the system. It is also good business to own the voice line, if any, that goes into the central station. If both the receiver and voice lines can “swing” to the new central station, this will preempt any notification of change to the alarm dealer’s customers.
It is always good to closely review “VIP” accounts and make absolutely sure that the new central station converted them properly and that they properly noted any instructions on the accounts. In fact, instructions for all accounts need to be closely reviewed in the new system to ensure they will be handled correctly. The new central station should also let the dealer know if any existing account instructions will be a problem.
Technologies to Consider
Alarm dealers are wise to carefully track special technologies like IP and video and communicate this to the new central station. It is also very important to memorialize alarm transmission formats that are unique. Those accounts need to be mapped to the correct receiver. The new central station will also need to accommodate all of the alarm dealer’s account numbers.
The central station needs to be aware of overlapping account numbers (i.e. the same account number multiple times). This will necessitate multiple receiver number assignments. Special technologies like cellular accounts and interactive accounts should also be addressed. The dealer ought to reach out to these companies and see what is involved to convert the accounts.
It is important to understand that account numbers consist of two parts: the receiver ID and the actual four-digit account number that is programmed into the alarm panel. If possible, it is always preferable to have the new central station assign the dealer the same receiver ID so that the whole account number string can remain unchanged. If the alarm company’s receiver ID is currently in use at the new central station, a new receiver ID will need to be allocated. But assuming the dealer owns the receiver phone number, the accounts will not need to be reprogrammed.
The alarm dealer is duty-bound to thoroughly test all receiver lines before the conversion. It is not good to find out there are communication issues after all the accounts have been converted. Lastly, dealers should try to avoid conversions late in the day, on Fridays or on weekends.
To be sure, the aforementioned advice is only an overview of the changeover process; there are many more considerations. But if alarm dealers follow these key recommendations, it will make for a much smoother transition.
Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control Inc. (UCC), a wholesale monitoring station based in San Antonio.