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Why Alarm Companies Should Leave Monitoring to Central Stations

Alarm companies can reduce liability and exposure by deferring alarm responsibility to the monitoring pros.

Why Alarm Companies Should Leave Monitoring to Central Stations

Sometimes an alarm company owner wants to be involved in all aspects of the alarm services, often insisting that the central station contact the alarm company rather than the subscriber or contact both concurrently.

Many alarm company entrepreneurs believe their success lies in their unique marketing approach and hands-on services they make available to their subscribers.

I am sure most business-minded people believe they have something special to offer, something that makes them more successful than they would be without these business models or ideas, and something that sets them apart.

Sometimes these ideas work out and great success is achieved. Other times, it’s just a lot of hard work, failed ventures and busted dreams.

Sometimes an alarm company owner wants to be involved in all aspects of the alarm services, often insisting that the central station contact the alarm company rather than the subscriber or contact both concurrently.

The rationale is that the added involvement cements the dealer-subscriber relationship; it shows commitment to the subscriber’s welfare. It also creates a plethora of additional exposure and potential liability, all of which you can do without.

How so? What’s wrong with … central station instructed to contact only dealer upon receipt of signal; central station instructed to contact subscriber’s contact list and dealer upon receipt of signal; automated communication, signal or video or audio data transmission programmed to communicate to dealer and subscriber concurrently?

The customary and traditional model is dealer does installation, provides inspection and repair services. The central station does the monitoring and communicates directly with the subscriber as appropriate.

The dealer gets a daily, monthly or some other periodic activity report of all signals received by the central station and how the signals were handled, but the dealer is not getting called by the central station during the alarm signal event.

There are a few reasons a dealer decides to unplug the bedside receiver and subcontract out the central station monitoring. Why run a 24/7 operation when you can farm out the monitoring?

The monitoring company is, believe it or not, better equipped, better trained and more efficient in monitoring than you could ever be. That means it will handle the signals better and much cheaper than you can.

That’s not your experience? Well, then, you’re with the wrong central station. Unless you are paying your central station well over $100,000 a month you are not in a position to run your own central station.

But I’m off topic a bit. You’ve selected the central station so you don’t have to have a 24/7 operation. What’s the point of inserting yourself and your operation back into the loop so that now you still have to be available 24/7?

Maybe you have an answer to that question that satisfies you. In that case, let’s consider what additional exposure and liability you have. Presumably your involvement is for the benefit of the subscriber and the subscriber will be able to rely on your involvement.

If you’re getting a real-time signal from the central station presumably you are expected to take whatever reasonable action would be normally required.

Are you going to decide whether there should be a dispatch if the central station has called you for verification of a signal and emergency condition?

Are you sending a runner or providing guard response, which you want to dispatch rather than have the central station dispatch? Are you sending a repair person to the premises to effectuate repairs immediately?

Why run a 24/7 operation when you can farm out the monitoring? The monitoring company is, believe it or not, better equipped, better trained and more efficient in monitoring than you could ever be.

Or are you or your designated employee on call for the evening going to roll over, go back to sleep, and deal with the signal in the morning?

Your relationship with the subscriber should be defined and confined to the terms of your written agreement. Anything else you do for the subscriber will be outside the protection of that written agreement, will be gratis and your good deed.

Trouble is no good deed goes unpunished. What were you thinking when you told the subscriber you’ll take the calls and make the dispatch decision?

Sure, you sold an expensive surveillance system with audio, two or more modes of communication and charged way more for monitoring than you are paying the central station to provide the monitoring services, but is all that enough to justify the exposure and liability, which I can assure you knows no bounds?

Think your written contract with the subscriber will protect you when you “go the extra mile”? Probably not if that extra mile takes you out of the parameters of the relationship described in the contract.

I don’t think you should take on the additional exposure. Don’t agree to do things you won’t do, won’t do well, have engaged others to do, are not customarily and traditionally done by those in your industry, or haven’t documented and covered in your written agreement with the subscriber.

About the Author

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Security Sales & Integration’s “Legal Briefing” columnist Ken Kirschenbaum has been a recognized counsel to the alarm industry for 35 years and is principal of Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum, P.C. His team of attorneys, which includes daughter Jennifer, specialize in transactional, defense litigation, regulatory compliance and collection matters.

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