Upgrading/Reactivating Your Existing Home Security System

Home Security Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

See our Glossary of Common Security Terms too!

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Security Systems

How does a security system work?

A home security system (alarm system) has a centralized control panel which has a computer CPU (central processing unit), memory, and screw terminal connections for hard wired devices. In addition, there is almost always a keypad with keys allowing a user/technician to program, arm, and disarm the system. All-in-one wireless systems have the computer, keypad, and siren all integrated together. Hardwired security systems can have sensors on doors and windows that are physically connected to the control panel.  Wireless systems on the other hand have sensors that communicate with a system’s wireless receiver through radio waves. No wiring to the sensor is required. When a security system sensor is tripped, the system will begin a sequence using some sort of communication method such as a phone line, Internet module, or a cellular communicator. This signal is then transmitted to our Central Station and we react according to the instructions specified on your account.

What is meant by a "zone"?

A zone is a security industry term for a sensor or group of sensors installed in your home. These “zones” are physically and logically connected to your alarm/security system. An examples would be: Zone 1: Front Door; Zone 2: Garage Door, Zone 3: Kitchen Motion Detector, Zone 4: Hall Smoke Detector.  In older hardwired systems there were limited number of physical zones available so alarm companies grouped multiple sensors together such as all of the windows in your living room connected to the Zone 3 terminals in the control panel.  Today’s systems however have a large number of both wired (physical) and wireless (logical) zones available which eliminates the need to group protection devices together allowing better identification of where an alarm is originating.

If I lose power will my alarm signal still reach the central station?

When your electricity goes out, the alarm system will temporarily be powered by the backup battery within the control panel.  In most cases, our Central Station will receive an AC loss signal and we will notify you or others on your Call List.  We say “most cases” since this really depends on communication path to the central station.  For example landlines usually stay up even when electrical power is interrupted, except when a pole is knocked out which provides both telephone and electric services to your home.   Broadband Internet communications, which includes WIFI, are generally impacted by power outage unless you have a backup battery on your home router and modem which to keep the path active during a power outage.  The best option is using a cellular communication path with our central station.  The cellular “modem” is powered by the security system panel which has its own backup battery.  Another advantage is there are no lines to be cut outside your home either by environmental events (storms) or intruders.

Why should I consider cellular backup for central station communication?

With cellular backup you create a redundant level of security. If your landline or broadband Internet connection gets interrupted, the cellular communicator connected to your system will report to the Central Station. It is rare for cellular communicators to lose communication with the network so if you really want the highest level of protection cellular backup is the way to go.  Its also possible to use cellular as the primary or sole communication path, but we always recommend two redundant paths for peace of mind.

Does your monitoring work with VoIP?

Yes and no.  As long as your carrier has designed their VoIP service to work with digital transmission (alarm, fax, etc.) then communication to the central station is possible though reliable communication is rarely acheived.  Examples of supported VoIP carriers are Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, Cox, Time Warner.  However providers such as Magic Jack and NetTalk do not support reliable digital communication. We highly recommend a communication path over broadband Internet (IP) or cellular instead.  These fast links also can support Interactive Services (remote control) depending on communicator.

What broadband Internet and/or cellular communicators do you support?

Any of the communicators shown on our site (see list here) will work with our central station. If you previously used services such as Honeywell Alarmnet, Telguard, Securenet, Alarm.com, or IPDataTel we also have agreements in place and can monitor their specific communicator models.

Do you do professional installation or just DIY?

While we started with professional installation in the Philadelphia region in 1987 we have slowly transitioned to DIY-only in 2010.  Since then we have focused on remote programming and troubleshooting for thousands of customers nationwide in the US as well as Canada.  The days of custom wiring have gone the way of more reliable encrypted wireless connectivity between the system’s main control panel and security sensors.  The need for onsite technicians are rarely needed any longer especially with DIY homeowners driven to save money doing everything themselves which is definitely possible with today’s modern hardware.

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Alarm Monitoring

How can you offer monitoring service for just $8.95 a month?

The business model for your local alarm dealers as well as the big nationwide companies such as ADT focus on “monthly recurring revenue”.  This is where the real money in home security is made especially when they lock you into a long-term contract for three to five years.  Vanguard Security Corporation has been partnered with the nation’s largest UL central station services since 1987 and receive excellent pricing.  Because we serve the DIY market we offer reasonable monitoring pricing with no long-term commitments or cancellation penalties.

What is the difference between UL Central Station Monitoring and Self Monitoring?

What sets us apart from your local dealer is the option for Self-Monitoring. Not everyone feels the need for traditional central station monitoring yet still want to know immediately when an alarm or other event is triggered and take appropriate action themselves.  This is a cost savings and you still have the option to control home automation Z-Wave devices in your home as well as video streaming to your smartphone or computer when ordered with interactive services.  UL central station monitoring is the more traditional approach using trained operators that can respond to burglary, fire, medical or environmental (flood and temperature) dispatching local authorities and notifying people on your call list depending on the type of alarm you have: One thing to consider however is the homeowner’s insurance discount many carriers provide for UL central station monitoring.  This is typically 10-20% annually off your premium. It may be more cost effective getting the better security protection with 24x7x365 dispatchers responding to your alarms when factoring in the insurance discount.

What is covered in the price of my monitoring service?

Our monitoring fees include standard burglary, fire, and medical signals. We also monitor trouble signals such as AC loss and low battery (system and/or wireless transmitters). There are optional services that includes enhanced features such as opening and closing reporting (usually for business customers), weekly or daily communications test, interactive services such as remote arm and disarm, control of Z-Wave home automation devices (door locks, lights, thermostats), and finally video services.  Details of each offering can be found at https://safehomecentral.com/affordable-no-contract-alarm-monitoring-from-8-95-same-day-switch/http://safehomecentral.com/security-system-monitoring/.

Why do I need a password when talking with the central station dispatcher?

A verbal password is required so that we may verify your identity during any interaction regarding your account. It is meant for providing you with the highest level of security and protecting the confidentiality of your information. We will never give out information about your account unless you provide us with the verbal password.  No sense having an intruder answer your telephone and say they are you and to disregard the alarm triggered by mistake!  This is why a password is needed.

Who do you contact for burglary or fire alarms?

We will dispatch your local police or fire department according to agency jurisdiction over your home or business.  This information is provided by the customer during monitoring enrollment.  We must have the local emergency contact telephone numbers, not 911!

What is a central station Call List?

The Call List is provided by customers so we know exactly how to respond in the event of an alarm. For example when either a burglary, fire, or medical emergency signal is received, contact Bill Smith at (215) 555-12334. If he can not be reached contact Mary Jones at (215) 555-9876. Special instructions for dealing with medical emergencies for example can also be added.

What is the Authorities List for central station monitoring?

This list is provided by customers so the central station dispatchers know who to contact depending on alarm type.  For example for burglary signals contact Lower Southampton Police Department at (215) 555-2233.  It is important to provide the local emergency telephone number for your particular authorities (police, fire, medical) and not 911!

Can more than just burglary or fire sensors be monitored?

We can monitor any type of sensor connected to your alarm system. This includes sensors such as panic, heat, carbon monoxide, flood, and temperature.  Keep in mind we can only monitor sensors programmed into your security system.

What is the response time for your central station?

The moment your alarm is triggered (meaning the siren is now blaring) your panel will initiate a call to the central station via landline (slowest) or IP Internet/cellular (fastest) depending on service selected.  Generally once the signal is received by the central station (15-30 seconds depending on path) you will get a call from a dispatcher within 30 seconds.  Some alarm installers program a “dialer delay” in the panel of 15-30 seconds so that users have an opportunity to disarm in the event of a false trigger (you opened a back door to let your dog out while the alarm was armed) before calling the central station.  We do not recommend dialer delays since this obviously delays response time for valid alarm signals.  Worse case for a mistake is getting a call from the central station dispatcher.  Just give the proper password to disregard the alarm and continue on with your day!  While the traditional landline path is the least expensive signalling mode, its also the slowest and highest risk of line cut by an intruder.  When response time is a key concern consider broadband Internet or cellular communication.

What hours is the central station protecting my home?

Our Central Station is operational and on duty 24x7x365.  We never sleep!

My alarm panel will call or text me when the alarm goes off. Does the central station do the same?

Central Station monitoring means your alarm system will contact our monitoring center and then we will contact the appropriate authorities per alarm as well as individuals you have on your Call List. The central station can contact you and anyone on your Call List by phone, text, or email as desired. The key advantage of Central Station monitoring is we have the ability to dispatch the proper authorities in the event you are not available to make that decision.   Dispatchers are on duty 24x7x365 protecting your home and family.

Why do I need to know the Installer Code for my alarm panel?

Your control panel configuration contains information such as central station telephone number as well as your account number to identify your home.  Its not very hard to change this information but you will need the ability to get into Program Mode which requires the Installer passcode.

What if I don't know the Installer Code for my alarm panel?

Its typical the installing alarm company did not provide their customer the “Installer Code” for the panel they actually own.  Some will also lock customers out of their own alarm panel to retain the high profit monitoring account.  If you own the panel you have every right to have the Installer Code which is needed to reprogram the telephone number for landline central station communication (or other paths).  Its possible they could charge you a fee to get the code since its possible they have standardized the Installer Code on all of their installations.  There are back doors into all alarm panels however and detailed how to get into program mode if you lose (or never knew) the Installer Code.  The inside door of hardwired alarm panels will show the brand and model of control panel.  You can probably find the Installation Manual on our site and other sites on the Internet regarding how to get into the panel when locked out.

What locations can you monitor?

We monitor alarm systems, both residential and business, anywhere in the US and Canada.

How long does it take to monitor my home?

Select your desired monitoring plan and billing cycle (e.g. month-to-month or annual pre-pay), Checkout, then complete our Monitoring Enrollment Form to get started.  We can usually have a tech to work with you on the phone guiding you through the set-up during business hours within an hour of receiving your completed Monitoring Enrollment Form.

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Terms of Service

If I move can I transfer my monitoring service to my new address?

Since we do not have long term agreements transferring your service is never necessary.  Just cancel the existing service and start service at the new address when ready.  This is what sets us apart from companies such as Comcast or ADT!

Do you have an auto-renewal clause with your monitoring?

No.  We do not require monitoring, nor do we lock customers into long term agreements like most providers.  You can go month to month, or prepay for a better discount, but you can still cancel without penalty at any time.  The only condition is we cannot refund or prorate any unused monitoring time.  We recommend starting with a monthly plan first to “try us out” then move to a pre-pay annual plan saving 15% when ready!

What about false alarm fees?

We will never charge you for false alarm signals. However, you should check with your local police and fire department for information on their fees for false alarms. If false alarms are a frequent occurrence we recommend contacting your alarm installation company to investigate and resolve.  You never want to lose faith in your security system!

How long are your monitoring agreements?

We do not require monitoring, nor do we lock customers into long term agreements like most providers.  You can go month to month, or prepay for a better discount (15%), but you can still cancel without penalty at any time.  We cannot refund any unused time for monitoring service however since we do not get a refund from the central station service.