The ABCs of Security Alarm Signaling

Let’s examine the most prevalent types of alarm signaling systems, the pros and cons of each method, and discuss how they’re being applied.

Effective security requires a response. Without one, security is but a name only. In order to invoke a response on the part of police, firefighters, paramedics or a private security force, the transmission of information from protected premise to a central monitoring station is required.

There are five alarm signaling methods used by security dealers to transmit to central stations: 1) dedicated lease lines; 2) traditional telephone lines (POTS); 3) long-range radio; 4) cellular; and 5) network/Internet.

“POTS [plain old telephone service] is still least expensive, provided it is already installed. Next would be Internet, again provided that it is already installed,” says Mark Hillenburg, executive director of marketing for Springfield, Mo.-based DMP. “Cellular, although it has a small monthly cost, it has a fairly low creation cost and because it’s virtually available everywhere, it’s easy to standardize on. Long-range radio, although it has no actual monthly fees, has a steep creation cost and the cost of maintaining the network can’t be discounted.”

In this article, we’ll explain the most prevalent types of alarm signaling systems, examine the pros and cons of each method, and discuss how they’re being applied. Just as importantly, we’ll explore the opportunities available to installing security contractors to generate both more business and recurring monthly revenue (RMR) associated with upgrades and alternative communication paths.

Alarm Business Built on POTS

Dedicated lines were once the only way alarm signals could travel from an alarm system to a central station. In the beginning it was Edwin Holmes, a visionary and entrepreneur, who pioneered the manufacture of alarm systems as well as alarm monitoring. He began sending alarm signals across dedicated lines in 1866.

Shift way forward to the utilization of POTS for the transmission of alarm signals involving the use of digital communicators (digital dialers). Early on, these devices were designed to send two, three or four general signals to central station operators, such as burglar, hold-up, medical and fire.

The first digital dialers were add-on modules that the alarm dealer placed inside the alarm panels they installed. Standalone slave dialers are still available where relay and/or voltage outputs on the alarm panel motherboard connect to channel inputs on the dialer. Most slave dialers in use today are for fire alarm applications.

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About the Author


Al Colombo is a long-time trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. His work includes more than 40 years in security and life-safety as an installer, salesman, service tech, trade journalist, project manager,and an operations manager. You can contact Colombo through TpromoCom, a consultancy agency based in Canton, Ohio, by emailing allan@Tpromo.Com, call 330-956-9003, visit www.Tpromo.Com.

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