Back in 1988, I was GM for an alarm company in Houston that was changing central stations. We had roughly 450 monitored alarm accounts. To transition the accounts, I had to make 450 site visits and burn 450 electronic programmable read only memory (EPROM) chips to add the new phone and account numbers. This endeavor took roughly 10 months to complete.
What we learned was that we could have purchased our own phone number and call forwarded it to the central station’s receiver number, and programmed our own number into our dialers. Had we taken this course of action, the whole conversion on our end would have been accomplished with a single phone call. We did have the wisdom, however, to program our own phone number into all the panels when we made the switch.
Since that time, I have been on a soapbox encouraging security and fire alarm dealers to take control of their destiny by owning the phone number programmed into their alarm dialers. This strategy puts the alarm dealer in the driver’s seat. If they want to move central stations, they just call the carrier and request that the phone number be forwarded to a new receiver number.
Control Your Own Destiny
Most alarm dealers have an exit strategy, which generally entails growing to a certain size and selling the monitored alarm accounts. Alarm dealers may not realize this, but they will be virtually assured of being paid less in a transaction if the buyer cannot take ownership of the phone number programmed into the seller’s alarm dialers. The reason is plain: the buyer will almost invariably want to move the accounts to their own central station and they do not want to deal with reprogramming the accounts.
Even if the accounts are downloadable, it ultimately will not matter from a valuation standpoint. Downloading is a great feature, but alarm dealers are doing well if they can complete 10 downloads per day.
For the last 10 or so years, most alarm companies have purchased toll-free or “800” numbers from long-distance carriers to program into their alarm dialers. Some alarm dealers even go so far as to purchase two numbers from two different carriers so they have a primary carrier linked to the primary number in the panel’s programming and a secondary carrier in the secondary slot. This builds carrier redundancy into the system and builds value for the customer.
If an alarm dealer is programming a local number that transmits to a local central station, I caution them to always program the area code and phone number into the alarm system, even if seven-digit dialing is permissible. This will protect the alarm dealer if the PUC institutes an area code overlay, which will mandate 10-digit dialing. This happens frequently across the country.
Of course, these days many alarm dealers are sending alarm signals via IP networks. In this case, the alarm dealer is transmitting the alarm signals to the central station’s IP address that points to the IP receiver. Dealers can still take control of this process by buying an IP address that is port forwarded to the IP address of the central station’s receiver. This is not accomplished at the carrier level, but rather through companies like KeepYourIP.com. Once again, this course of action puts the alarm dealer in the driver’s seat.
If your company does not own the phone number in your dialers or the IP address in your IP panels, it is never too late to resolve the situation. Fortunately you can purchase a toll-free number or IP address and point it to the receiver at the central station at any time. Once this is done, you can program it into systems when you make service calls or you can download systems at your convenience.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand to accomplish this task. It will require every system to be manually reprogrammed. But once again, it’s better to start now and take control versus giving in and conceding that it will never happen. I encourage you to be the master of your own destiny!
Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control Inc. (UCC), a wholesale monitoring station based in San Antonio.