According to the FBI, there are an average of more than two burglaries every minute in the United States. It’s little wonder, then, that so many people are installing home security systems. Do it yourself (DIY) self-monitored systems are popular, and at first glance it’s easy to understand why — for a one-time cost, you can set up a smart security system and get notifications on your phone if there’s a possible intrusion. But think about it for a second: What if you’re not watching your phone 24/7? What if you’re away from home when you get an alert? What if the thieves turn off your WiFi, disabling the alarm?
Home security systems with 24/7 alarm monitoring offer advantages that can make the difference between a successful robbery or home invasion and a foiled attempt. Here are six things you probably didn’t know about professionally monitored home security systems vs. self-monitored systems and why professional monitoring matters.
With DIY smart alarm systems, you do your own monitoring. If someone enters your home, you get a notification on your phone. That’s great in principle, but in practice, there are a plenty of moments when you’re not minding your phone — you’re in a meeting, you’re deliberately keeping your phone in your pocket during family time, you’re on a plane, etc. In those cases, an alert can come and go unnoticed. Worse, if you’re asleep in bed during a home invasion, you might not be able to call 911— but if you have professional monitoring, your alarm company will summon help even if you don’t respond right away to their call or text.
A real smart home security system protects your home from threats beyond burglary. Many modern alarm systems are compatible with add-on sensors, including smoke detectors, carbon monoxide monitoring and flood sensors. A disaster caused by fire or flooding from a broken water pipe can quickly devastate a home. With a self-monitored system, you have a tiny window of time to see a notification and react. If you miss it, you’re out of luck. But with professional monitoring, your alarm company can respond rapidly to any number of household crises and summon emergency services. In the case of a carbon monoxide event, the alarm company will dispatch first responders immediately, while also contacting you, so that even if you’ve lost consciousness — help is on the way.
Here’s something many people don’t know about 911: If you’re out of town and you call 911 because your alarm tells you something happened at home, 911 can’t send help. According to 911.gov, “With few exceptions, 911 calls cannot be transferred to other towns, cities or states.” You can store the phone number of your local police on your phone, but they might not respond because most police departments require a permit to enter your home to investigate an alarm. An alarm company with professional monitoring, like Brinks Home™, can help you determine the type of permit you need to file in your area.
Many alarm companies outsource alarm monitoring to third parties, some of which use foreign call centers. So, in a moment of crisis, you may find yourself talking to someone in another country. It’s not a bad idea to ask your home security company where its call centers are located. Brinks Home maintains its own alarm response centers, in the U.S., manned by Brinks Home-trained personnel. The centers are UL certified, which means they’re both resilient to outages and highly responsive.
You’re not the only one who wants to prevent burglaries and break-ins. Many insurance companies will give you a discount on your homeowner’s policy — perhaps as much as 20 percent — if you have a professionally monitored home alarm system in place. Self-monitored systems usually do not qualify for those discounts.
They have only one way to communicate a problem: Via your home’s WiFi. If a thief disables your WiFi router or cuts the cable line going into your home, the alarm system is probably a paperweight. Most professionally monitored systems, however, like those offered by Brinks Home, can communicate using a cellular phone signal when necessary. Brinks uses 4G LTE cellular backup as well as a battery backup to make sure your monitoring is uninterrupted.
A self-monitored alarm system can’t give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that the system will work even without WiFi, and that professional dispatchers have your back 24/7/365 if something happens while you’re away from home — or simply away from your phone — no matter what the emergency.
Dave Johnson is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been writing about all aspects of technology since before there was an internet.
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