How to Alert a Subscriber, Let Us Count the Ways

Counting the ways to alert your account base besides calling.

MONITORING IS the premier RMR for the alarm industry. The costs are relatively fixed and once set up the central station does all the work. It’s the monitoring of the system that maintains the continuous relationship between dealer and subscriber. It’s the response to the monitoring that is the topic of this month’s article.

It’s shocking how little attention is given to the communication process by all parties concerned, the subscriber, dealer and central station. I’ve advocated for written response policies, and in fact added that provision to the Standard Form All in One Agreements ( The dealer is in the middle. It should be the responsibility of the dealer to insist that the central station provide a written response policy and provide that policy to the subscriber. The policy should address how every type of signal the system is programmed to send is handled by the central station.

“When calling people on cellphones and 70% of the time not being able to reach them, why would anyone want to continue to do this when other technologies are significantly more efficient and effective?”Morgan Hertel, Rapid Response Monitoring

It’s not enough that industry regulators such as UL, FM, ETL and NFPA have specifications. Not all types of signals may be addressed and not all guidelines may be followed, either because of intentional deviation by the central station or requests by the dealer or subscriber.

It’s not until there is a loss that someone points the figure at the dealer and central station and wants to know “Why was it done this way instead of that way?” The dealer and central station are left scrambling to explain the activity report and justify, hopefully, how signals were handled.

Communicating with subscribers is challenging. We can attribute this to technology, which has progressed to the point where no one need be out of touch for even a moment. We aren’t waiting for the mail to arrive, or telegraph message to be delivered. There’s the phone, the one in the house or office and the one in our pocket. We get our emails, text and calls almost instantaneously when sent.

Are those who set industry standards and the AHJs who make and enforce the law keeping pace with the technology and changing mores of our highly mobile society? Those in the central station business are of course acutely aware of this issue.

Here is Rapid Response Monitoring Systems Vice President of Technology and Innovation Morgan Hertel’s take:

Technology is changing especially with communications. NFPA and UL have also recognized this and are slowly adapting to the new paradigms. Our job is to notify, calling people on the phone is not only slow and tedious but in my experience we only contact actual people on their cellphones about 30% of the time and are leaving messages on electronic voice mails, which isn’t much different than sending an email, SMS or having an IVR leave a message. It certainly does not guarantee a positive contact by leaving messages.

While technology is radically increasing, what seems to be decreasing is the subscribers’ ability to manage the systems. When calling people on cellphones and 70% of the time not being able to reach them, why would anyone want to continue to do this when other technologies are significantly more efficient and effective? I can send out 10 emails or SMS messages in less than a second where it would take me 10 minutes to call five people and leave messages on their phones; calling people on a voice channel is going the way of the dodo bird.

For those subscribers who want to be woken up at night, have them set up a custom notification for the sender that will wake them up. I think by having multiple ways to contact people we will find that methods like SMS and push notifications will dramatically increase the percentage of notifications, and will also increase the speed in which it’s done.

The other part that is changing is consumers. Newer generations in America want to be texted or have push notifications, that’s their preference and we should acknowledge this and provide them what they want. What the central station can’t do nor should we do is attempt to make the subscribers more responsible. Most of us don’t own the buildings we protect and if the people on call lists choose to ignore calls, SMS, push notifications and emails there isn’t anything we can do about it; we can’t be the call list police. Subscribers must take the responsibility to make sure systems are maintained and repaired when necessary.

Dealers should be following up on trouble and supervisory signals as a service-related function and an opportunity to have a positive touchpoint with the customer vs. a central station operator giving them the bad news that they have a problem with the alarm system (again). It’s time to keep up with technology and options, not run from it.

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About the Author


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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