Monitored alarm systems explained by security experts Unique
Monitored alarm systems explained by security experts Unique

Some of our most frequently asked questions here at Unique are regarding monitored alarm systems, and with a few different options available, it’s understandably difficult to know what’s best for your property.

As your prospective installers, it’s our responsibility to best inform you of the types of monitoring available, the benefits and drawbacks to installing monitoring on your alarm system, and to explain exactly why monitored alarm systems are vitally important for effective fast response. In this brief guide, you’ll learn what alarm monitoring is, how it works, and our final recommendation.

So what is alarm monitoring exactly?

Alarm monitoring is the additional signalling (communication) that’s installed on your alarm system and linked directly to our Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). The ARC will be notified of any confirmed activations (intrusion) and can then alert your designated key holders or the police to respond. A confirmed activation can be:

  • Sequential confirmation
    The most popular form of confirmation on a professionally installed system. Occurring when two different detection devices activate within a short period of time. This is usually a door contact first and then an interior motion sensor.
  • Audio confirmation
    Using microphone technology in the alarm panel, small but sensitive microphones enable the ARC to listen for suspicious noises. For privacy, the microphones can only be active when the alarm is sounding, meaning the operators in the monitoring centre can listen to all activity  for gathering evidence throughout a break-in.
  • Visual confirmation
    This is an effective way of definitely confirming intrusion when your CCTV Camera System is linked to the ARC with the whole security system so the video footage can be watched live. A valuable asset to have especially if your property is unoccupied regularly for long periods of time.

Key holder response
In the event of an alarm activation on a monitored system, designated key holders (yourself, family, or a professional company) will be notified by the ARC to respond and confirm intrusion or clear the property. False activations can be costly by causing unnecessary call-outs for the alarm company attending – a monitored system has the ability to reduce the chance of those call-outs. This is a safe and cost-effective way to ensure a response to your property if you’re unable to attend.

Police response
The ultimate peace of mind for property owners with high-value items inside. As soon as the alarm activation is confirmed by the ARC, the police are dispatched immediately. There are additional costs involved with this type of monitoring as we have to apply for a Unique Reference Number (URN) from the police to comply. And since the introduction of the ACPO 2004 Policy, if the police respond to 3 false alarms within a 12 month period, the immediate response will be withdrawn unless a secondary witness to the crime occurs.

Important note: unmonitored Burglar Alarm Systems that have been activated will not receive an automatic police response. If you’re at work or on holiday and a neighbour calls the police because your alarm is sounding, then there’ll need a be a secondary witness to confirm intrusion before police dispatch.

How do monitored alarm systems work?

As mentioned above, monitored alarm systems use what’s called signalling to communicate via a pathway to the manned Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). There are two main types of signalling that are used within alarm systems that we install here at Unique Fire & Security.

Single Path Signalling
A BT pioneered monitoring solution that’s been around since the ’90s and uses one path to dial out activation alerts to the ARC using either a fixed phone line or a mobile network. Commonly known as BT Redcare, this type of monitoring can report breaches from alarm activations including the specific zone to personal attack alarms anywhere. The main benefit of Single Path Signalling is its affordability, for installation and with maintenance. The main drawback is that there’s only one path, so no backup in case the line is tampered with.

Dual Path Signalling
Two lines of signalling are better than one, right? Correct! If there happens to be an issue with the primary line then this type of monitoring will automatically utilise the backup mobile network to alert the ARC of activation. The main benefit of this system is self-explanatory, when it comes to protecting your property, having a backup is always recommended. The main drawback of this system is the cost involved in both installation and maintenance – these systems require pricier equipment and require more checks during maintenance.

For all our alarm system monitoring needs, we install CSL DualCom products exclusively. They are the original inventors of integrated Dual Path Signalling back in 1996 and have pioneered the move from wired systems to wireless radio technology in the electronic security industry. A great company to be partnered with.

How much does alarm monitoring cost?

As with any alarm system installation or maintenance inspection, the cost of monitoring has multiple different options available that depends on your specific requirements (we would have to conduct a survey in order to provide a valid quotation). Having a monitored alarm system is a future-proof investment.

For an average 3 bedroom house or small/medium sized retail shop you can expect to pay an additional £150-£200 for the initial installation of basic single path monitoring with key holder response only, then on a yearly basis, a similar price for maintenance on the system. Larger properties that require dual path monitoring with police response on their system can expect to be paying an additional £250-£400 for the initial installation and a similar price for maintenance on that system per year going forward. Read more about alarm maintenance.

Do I really need my alarm system monitored?

If you want a response to the alarm sounding then absolutely, yes.

Knowing that your property is connected with our monitoring centre 24/7 really gives complete peace of mind. Not only for the intruder aspect but for the fire alerts too. If you have smoke detectors within your alarm then this alone is enough of a reason to have a monitoring station keeping a watchful eye on your property.

Monitoring is the most important part of an alarm system. Knowing the police are on standby to respond gives me complete peace of mind – Bradley Williams MD

If the burglar alarm on your property wasn’t enough of a deterrent for the intruder, then a quick response to reduce the damage caused should be of paramount importance to any owner with high value items inside – family included! If by any chance the intruder manages to break-in and silence the alarm from sounding, the confirmed activation will still be acted upon and key holders or the police will be dispatched.

That rounds up our guide to monitored alarm systems, thanks for reading, hopefully you feel better informed to decide whether or not it’s integration you need. We’re always on hand to discuss your requirements on 01202 743231 or please send an enquiry through to the team below. If you’re interested in learning more about the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) we’re linked with, watch the full explanatory video below.

Monitored alarm system enquiry