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.

The technical specifics may be slightly different for each security provider, but the basics of alarm monitoring is similar in any home security system. Your system control panel is the center of a network of sensors, which may include window or door sensors, motion detectors, tamper sensors on the telephone box, or specialized temperature, flood, and smoke detectors. 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.

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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 trigger. 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 that don’t alert intruders and give them a chance to disable the system before the follow-up signal is sent.

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 “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. Many emergencies are too serious for you to deal with by yourself, especially if you’re disabled or otherwise incapacitated; 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. For more provider-specific information on alarm monitoring details and services, we recommend a visit to our provider pages for ADT, Vivint, and SimpliSafe.



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Info current as of 04/12/21. Offers and availability may vary by location and are subject to change.

*$0 due up-front with consumer financing.

†No-contract options available with outright equipment purchase.

‡Landline monitoring only. Some restrictions apply. (Full disclaimer)

**With $99 installation charge and new monitoring agreement. Early termination fee applies. See full disclaimer for full offer details, terms, and conditions.

Celeste Tholen
Written by
Celeste Tholen
Celeste has dedicated her decade-long career to reporting and reviews that help people make well-informed decisions. She oversees editorial strategy and production for SafeWise, with a goal to help people find the information they need to make their homes and lives safer. Prior to SafeWise, she worked as an editor and reporter for KSL and Deseret News. She continues to report on local news as a volunteer with the community paper. For the last six years, she’s led a Girl Scout troop, teaching girls about safety and preparing for whatever life throws their way.

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