What Is Alarm Monitoring and How Does it Work?

Alarm monitoring is quick and detailed communication between your home security system and the central station of your security provider. Your control panel registers an emergency event and sends a signal to the central monitoring station, where the appropriate authorities are notified and sent to your home.

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Types of home security alarms

The technical specifics may be slightly different for each security provider, but the basics of alarm monitoring are similar in any home security system. Your system control panel is the center of a network of sensors, which may include these:

When your system is armed and any of these sensors are triggered, a signal is sent to the monitoring station-typically via your telephone line, although some alarm monitoring systems also offer alternate or backup transmission options through Wi-Fi or cellular networks.

Monitored alarm response

The first signal sent by your control panel will alert monitoring personnel at the central station, who will call to notify you and confirm whether it’s a real emergency or a false alarm. If you don’t respond, the alarm monitoring service contacts the proper agency to dispatch emergency personnel to your address.

Some security systems offer additional features, such as immediate alarms, which don’t depend upon a confirmation call, or silent alarms (also called duress alarms) that don’t alert intruders to the SOS call.

Critical information is sent by your home security system to the alarm monitoring center, including account identification (to access your address and contact information) and the type of sensor that has been triggered.

For example, a smoke detector event will cause the alarm monitoring service to contact the fire department, while the signal from a medical alert pendant will be routed to ambulance or paramedic services.

Unmonitored alarm response

Unmonitored “local” alarms do provide some important benefits. If you’re home, the alarm noise lets you know that there’s a problem and allows you to take necessary action.

The noise may even frighten off some less-determined intruders, but most will simply ignore it and disarm your control panel as soon as possible.

We recommend professional alarm monitoring

Many emergencies are too serious for you to deal with by yourself. In most cases, you’ll want police, fire, or medical professionals on the scene as soon as possible.

Around-the-clock alarm monitoring is an essential feature offered by the majority of home security providers. Compare the top brands on our Best Home Security Systems page.



Compare the best home security systems

Brand
Best for
Lowest monitoring price
Starter equipment price
Contract required
Installation
Smart home compatibilityIcon Tooltip  Dark
Learn more
Read review
VivintVivint
Best overall$599.00
Icon Yes  LightNo *
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
FrontpointFrontpoint
High-end DIY pick$129.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave
SimpliSafeSimpliSafe
Reader favorite$245.00
Icon Yes  LightNo
DIYAmazon, Google
CoveCove
Best customer experienceQuote required
Icon Yes  LightNo *
DIYAmazon,
Google
ADTADT
Most experienced $0.00
Icon No  LightYes
ProAmazon, Google,
Z-Wave

Info current as of post date. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.
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Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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