Monitoring Matters: Alert End Users About Alarm Communications Pitfalls

Countless articles and papers continue to be written on how the transformational changes taking place within the telecommunications world are affecting alarm communications in the residential market. Although the industry has made progress in addressing this marketplace evolution with alternative technologies, we sometimes have challenges when it comes to the higher security and fire applications.

I realize that several manufacturers provide alternatives such as IP and GSM, yet the industry still faces challenges as Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) keeps dropping off at a rapid rate. To compound this problem, certain municipalities and cities throughout the nation have tightened up requirements that narrow our choices even further.

In some cases where telephone lines are not available, and Internet connectivity is either not available or is unreliable, the choices really thin out.

Fewer POTS Lines, New Problems

To meet new market demands and overcome these problems, I know firsthand manufacturers are making great efforts to introduce technologies. Some are also working diligently with municipalities to get approvals to provide additional alternative means of communications while staying compliant.

For example, we recently learned that DMP became the first manufacturer to attain approval in New York for the use of their IP/GSM fire communicator for use as primary and secondary means of communication in the city. This was a big accomplishment as New York has some tight requirements. It is also a very big deal because of the very fact POTS lines are dropping out of service at such an accelerated pace.

Monitoring providers are facing this challenge every day as their subscribers generate telco-line failures and failed check-ins due to copper lines disappearing. The situation is compounded as business owners are switching to digital telephone service or outsourced, cloud-based telephone systems.
These end users are unknowingly relocating phone numbers that for years were used for their alarm communications and are now moved to their digital or cloud provider.

This has caused business owners and especially the monitoring companies to scatter as they troubleshoot and work toward getting these systems back online and compliant. The industry needs to work faster toward educating our colleagues, manufacturers, municipalities and end users in particular on this great proliferation that compromises security and safety on a daily basis.

It is difficult to get this message across to an end user after the fact, during a time when their security and/or safety are in jeopardy. And although it is sometimes more difficult to get this message across before the problem affects a cost-conscience end user, this is the right time in order to avoid a potentially horrific situation.

Help Spread the Word Wide and Far

We need to communicate this message from the mountaintops in a more comprehensive and cohesive manner. End users need to understand — and municipalities need to be part of — this solution. The industry has too many systems out in the field that require communications updates. The manufacturers are coming around and we are seeing more alternative solutions than before. This is not about selling and increasing revenues, it is about safety and security. 

Support from the associations, UL, etc., in disseminating a message to end users on what they should consider to secure their alarm communications properly and stay compliant would be a great step toward educating to the masses.

Although I know many monitoring providers communicate this to their subscribers on a regular basis, they sometimes meet great resistance from subscribers who prefer to avoid the expense. Still other subscribers negatively view this as a selling ploy by their provider, rather than a sincere attempt at mitigating the potential for a very bad and expensive circumstance in the future.      

Peter Giacalone is President of Giacalone Associates, an independent security consulting firm.

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About the Author

Peter Giacalone

Peter Giacalone is President of Giacalone Associates, an independent security consulting firm.

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