Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Central Station?

You may sell fire and burglar monitoring services to your customers, but are they the best you could possibly offer?

RECENTLY I had the chance to attend the annual MKS (Micro Key Solutions) Users Conference in Orlando, Fla. The theme of this year’s conference was “Partners in Progress.” As I sat in the audience and listened to many of the central station (CS) automation software manufacturers’ product features and enhancements, I had a flashback to when I was an alarm dealer who used a third-party central monitoring provider. I must also disclose that in the past I worked for a CS automation software company. So my perspective on this subject comes from both the user and provider sides of these services.

My initial question to readers is, “As an alarm dealer, how well do you really understand the central station services you are reselling?” Sure, you sell fire and burglary monitoring to your customers, but what about CS features and services that can make your operations run smoother?

Let me give one simple example. You have a customer that is having false alarm issues with their motion sensors. You have scheduled a service call for a technician to wire a cross-zone configuration of the motion sensors so two of them must activate simultaneously before an alarm is generated. Did you know that you may be able to do that cross-zoning through CS software? You would save a service call and better yet, if only one motion trips you will get an indicator of the culprit.

Learn More: Is a 3rd-Party Central Station the Right Move for Your Alarm Company?

This multi-day MKS Users Conference was comprehensive. One of the things that has always impressed me about today’s CS automation software is the many automated services available. During the conference someone commented that one of the biggest ongoing challenges of CS operations is human error. Let’s face it, people can make mistakes and the more you reenter information into a database the more chances for human error. The goal has always been to enter the data once correctly and then use that same data for various operations.

Another impressive performance feature for the dealer is the use of in-field mobile devices to directly access alarm account information. Using their smartphone, a technician can now quickly and securely place accounts on test without having to wait for CS operator intervention.

TOOL TIP: There is a new testing device hitting the street, and you heard about it here first. It is the AG SmartBot from AG SmartHands. This handy pocket-sized, self-contained device will rapidly test a variety of network performance issues before you make that IP camera sale. The device will also E-mail you a complete summary report. It’s potentially great for any post-installation issues with the customer.

Guides, Certifications Further Dealers’ Cause
As an alarm dealer, do you know operationally what you should expect of a central station? Would you like some guidelines to assist you? The Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) has a document called STA 1 Guide, which was prepared by the CSAA Standards Committee. It is a 19-page opus that provides a solid overview of what is expected of central stations. This document also refers to several standards documents from UL and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). And good news is it’s available as a free download to the public at csaaintl. org.

Many end users do not understand the comprehensive nature of a central station. It is crucial that your central station service provide detailed information to help better convey the importance of a professionally monitored alarm system. Central stations should be UL Listed and, even better, CSAA has certification programs such as its Five Diamond program that rewards monitoring providers that satisfy five rigid requirement areas. This demonstrates to your customers that you take your job very seriously.

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About the Author

Bob Dolph

Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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