The Changing World of Alarm Monitoring

The State of Alarm Monitoring

Hi this is Russ Vandevanter, the Alarm Professor. Today we’re going to start a four part series guiding you through the world of home alarm monitoring. I will take you step by step to show you how it affects you and your home.

We’ll start with the evolution of alarm monitoring and the state of the monitoring industry today.

I got into the business in 1969. At that point in time there was virtually no monitoring in residential applications. All the monitoring was really heavy commercial equipment with direct wires or dedicated phone technology to monitor the alarms.

In the mid to late 70’s, they started to use tiny tape recorders. They would hook them to the phone line. When the alarm tripped, it would start the tape recorder.

The tape would actually pulse dial and give a recorded message. It didn’t know whether it was getting through, it would just say, “There’s an alarm at Joe’s house.”

You might have it call one or two people and it was a continuous tape so it would go through until it got to the beginning of the tape and then start again.

In the late 70’s, it was Ademco came out with the first digital dialer, as they called it. It was really an electronic dialer that dialed the phone. You would put in little screws that would determine what phone number it dialed, and it went to a receiver.

The receiver would capture the message it would give you on a screen. It would give you an account number, a three digit account number. Then they would give you a one digit code.

The code might be burglar alarm code two, might be burglar alarm code three,  etc. The codes would indicate what happened and you could respond accordingly.

As time went on, they integrated the alarm controls more and more with the dialer, so we got more and more information.

At that point, we were good friends with the police department, but there wasn’t a lot of alarm response. In the 80’s a man by the name of Peter Coland, made an agreement with the Brinks Armored car company. They started Brinks Security. Brinks Security changed the face of monitoring all together, because they started putting in alarm systems below cost and charging 25, 29 dollars a month for monitoring; above the going rate for monitoring, but subsidizing the installations.

From the alarm company perspective we thought it was the end for the small alarm company because, as business men, we couldn’t afford to wait 18 months to make a profit on a new account. We needed our funds by Friday to stay in business.

But the result was dramatically different.

What happened was the whole growth of alarm systems in residential applications just blossomed. Monitored alarm systems were in less than 1% of homes in 1979. By the mid 90’s we were around 20%. That stayed relatively stable, it may be up to 25% or 28% now.

It changed the whole way alarm companies dealt with monitoring.

We use to have little small companies that had 100, 200, or 300 accounts that they monitored. They made a little bit of money on monitoring, but they made their main money on service and installing new alarm systems.

Then the big companies came in. They bought out all the little companies and all of sudden they became marketing companies that were selling monitoring.

The monitoring rates went from $25 to $30 to $40. And even today there are some that are charging 60 dollars a month. They’re starting to add even more because they want to add services like locking and unlocking cameras and things like that onto the alarm monitoring contract.

Then they also lock you in to automatically renewing two or three year contracts! ( Make sure to check on when your contract renews so you don’t get stuck in it. They can renew as soon as 60 days before your contract ends or more, depending on the terms of the contract! )

It has really changed the dynamics of home security for the average person, and not necessarily for the better.

My next segment be talking about police relationship with alarm companies and the many false alarms.

Intro to Alarm Monitoring Series: