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Alarms – how they talk…

An interesting question people seem to be curious about is how do alarms communicate to their monitoring home base so that the proper action happens quickly and efficiently?  Ever wonder?  We get asked this question quite a bit – mainly because they are worried that if a line goes down or something happens, is the alarm still going to be able to “talk” to some and let them know there is a problem.  Here are some insights that might help…

There was a good summary of these written by Rich Abrams from Yale University called, How Do Your Alarms Communicate.  In this he summarized four main ways alarm systems can communicate.  Here is a summary of the four ways:

  1. Regular telephone line – that’s right, just over the primary telephone line you have.  Only problem is if this is cut from the pole or underground, the connection is lost.  This has been phased out in most parts of the country because of its reliance on having a connection at both ends to make it work.
  2. Derived Channel Monitoring – took the place of most telephone lines.  Here there are devices at both the switching station (phone company) and the alarm company.  The digital signals are then monitored by the phone company for quality control – so line faults can be reported and alarms transmitted more securely.
  3. Cellular monitoring – similar to what we use in our own personal cell phones.  These allow the alarm user to transmit data on the same system that local cellular phone companies provide.  This device allows for alarms to be transmitted even if local phone service is down, providing that it can “hand-shake” with a cellular tower site.
  4. Radio – this is a newer technology developed in the past twenty years. The simplest type simply substitutes a two-way radio (such as your officers use in the field) to transmit alarm information from one building to another instead of a phone line. This requires a dedicated radio channel as well as line-of-sight reception.

So there you have some of the basic ways that alarms can communicate to keep everyone protected and secure.

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