The Benefits of 3rd-Party Monitoring

How third-party monitoring helps security pros focus on what they do best.

As the electronic security industry continues to evolve, attitudes about proprietary alarm monitoring are also evolving. Thinking back to the early 1980s when I started in this business, there were many alarm companies that monitored their own alarm accounts (proprietary monitoring).

Most had some version of an alarm receiver located somewhere in their home, and that receiver printed the alarm with the account number and alarm information. Then, when the “dispatcher” (usually a member of the owner’s family) received an alarm, they would scroll through their rolodex to find the customer information.

After deciphering the handwritten dispatch notes, they would start making verification and dispatch calls. Because they were often working alone, if they were handling other alarms or perhaps answering the call of nature, alarms waited.

However shocking this may seem, I encountered situations like these fairly often when visiting small dealer-owned central stations in the Houston area.

UL Requirements Disrupt the Status Quo

The major turning point for small proprietary monitoring that I recall in Texas occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the state adopted a version of NFPA that decreed all central stations monitoring residential or commercial fire alarms had to be UL Listed.

Among other things, one of the requirements to be UL Listed was that central stations needed to have two operators on duty at all times. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Additional requirements such as standby power, backup generators, backup receiving equipment and other assets that improved reliability all made it difficult and expensive to comply with UL’s basic requirements.

This was a game-changer because it was the catalyst that caused many small central stations to move their accounts to monitoring centers with resources to maintain a UL Listing. In the end, this was probably a win-win for the alarm companies and end-user customer alike.

Instead of focusing resources on running a 24/7/365 monitoring center in their garage or basement (and risking family relationships), alarm dealers could focus on sales and providing expert installation and service.

Customers not only received better service from their alarm companies, they also experienced an improvement in the speed and reliability of their monitoring.

Monitoring Takes Away From Your Core Focus

In 1994, I decided to leave my job at an installing alarm company to work in sales at a company that specialized in third-party monitoring. I remember hearing a lot of dealers say, “When I get to X number of accounts, I am going to do my own monitoring.”

X may have been 5,000 accounts, or 10,000 or even 20,000. However, I don’t seem to recall any of these dealers actually doing their own monitoring, even when they reached X – which, in the end, I think was a pretty smart choice.

Instead of focusing resources on running a 24/7/365 monitoring center in their garage or basement (and risking family relationships), alarm dealers could focus on sales and providing expert installation and service.

The reason is that for a dealer to achieve the magic number of accounts while maintaining personable service to their existing customers required them to dedicate all their time, effort and resources to sales, administration and service.

Most successful alarm dealers find that they don’t have time to even think about building a central station, getting UL Listed and staffing the station 24/7 with at least two operators per shift – let alone spend time and resources learning and dealing with the general rigors of operating a quality central station.

These days, I don’t hear any dealers commenting that they will do their own monitoring when they get to X accounts because they’ve learned the benefits of focusing their expertise on revenue-generating activities and providing quality service, while leaving the monitoring to monitoring experts.

Dealers & Customers Benefit From 3rd-Party Route

As my customer and good friend John Loud (of LOUD Security, a large regional alarm company in the Atlanta area) said: “I could never afford the technology and staffing of the third-party monitoring centers. I have concluded that it is tough enough to manage a thriving alarm company for nine hours per day; I don’t need to deal with a 24/7 endeavor. I have great peace of mind knowing that I leave my monitoring to trained professionals that focus solely on providing excellence in alarm monitoring.”

Well said. It would appear that this is the prevailing sentiment among alarm dealers these days. Even some of the very large super-regional alarm companies are using third-party central stations to do their monitoring.

It is a very cost-effective solution for alarm companies of any size, and it allows them to focus on what they do best.

Though many things have changed and become more expensive and complicated since I first noticed a shift to third-party monitoring, the outcome is still a win/ win for dealers and customers.

From your first account, you can focus on growing your business, while still delivering tp-notch monitoring and service to your customers.

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About the Author


Mark Matlock is Senior Vice President at United Central Control, a division of Lydia Security Monitoring Inc.

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