Blog


The latest in MyAlarmCenter news.

Subscribe





Update Your Home Alarm Emergency Contact List

by Brian O.22. April 2014 15:53

What if you had an emergency and could not reach anyone to help you? It’s not a pleasant thought.

 

Millions of home alarm system owners put themselves in that very position every year. They don’t maintain current emergency contact information with their alarm monitoring center. That results in a delay in reaching a responsible party, or in no one being reached at all.

 

The homeowner is left with an emergency and there is no one to help them.

 

Think it’s not a big problem? A 25 year veteran of the security industry describes the issue as “epidemic” and one that ultimately costs homeowners in terms of safety and false alarm fines.

 

Right now, make it a point to verify the emergency contact information on record with your alarm monitoring company. Make sure emergency contact names are spelled correctly, phone numbers are correct, and that emergency contacts are listed in order of preference/priority. Then, around New Year’s and the Fourth of July each year, verify the information with the monitoring center. It’s a convenient, easy way to keep emergency contact information up-to-date.

 

Who should be on your emergency contact list? Quite simply, anyone you trust to represent you and check on your home in the event of an alarm or emergency situation. You’ll want to make sure they:

 

·         Have quick access to your home.

·         Understand how to arm and disarm your alarm system.

·         Have a personal emergency identification number or code, as that indicates they are authorized to act on your behalf.

·         Know the phone number of the alarm monitoring center.

·         Know how to reach you in the event of an emergency.

 

Just a few minutes spent verifying your alarm emergency contact list information twice a year greatly improves your overall security.  Do it today.

Why It's Important to Test Your Home Security System

by Brian O.17. April 2014 17:01

 

 

How realistic would it be to expect a car that sat idle for three years to start up and operate perfectly? Or how about a home that sat vacant for five years. Would you expect the air conditioner to work?

 

Just like with any piece of equipment, periodic testing of your home alarm system is essential. In the event of an emergency, there are no second chances. Your security system and home fire alarm system must work flawlessly when needed.

 

Testing helps to ensure that your home security system will work properly. It identifies problem areas that may require attention from your home security company.

 

You should test your system each month. Here’s how to do it:

 

·         You want to test alarm signals as they appear on your alarm system control panel and at the alarm monitoring center.

 

·         Procedures for testing your system may vary by manufacturer. Consult your owner’s manual for more details. If you don’t have access to your owner’s manual, the rest of the steps in this blog post work well for most systems.

 

·         To test for signals on your alarm system control panel, do the following:

 

o   Put your system in the READY mode. Do not arm it.

 

o   Open each protected window and door, one at a time.

 

o   Verify that the alarm keypad displays the window or door that it should display during the testing process.

 

o   Walk in front of motion detectors. Each detector has a maximum coverage distance…test it to make sure it registers at the maximum distance.

 

o   Make sure you test each alarm device in your home.

 

·         To test for alarm system communication with the alarm monitoring center, do the following:

 

o   Call the monitoring center and ask them to put your system in TEST MODE. You’ll be asked to provide your account number and unique personal identification password or code.

 

o   Arm your system and then open a door, window or walk in front of a motion detector. Allow the alarm to activate (sound) for about one minute.

 

o   Turn off your system and reset it to the READY mode.

 

o   Call your alarm monitoring center to make sure they received the alarm signal. Once you’ve verified that they have, instruct them to take the system off of test mode.

 

Testing monitored fire alarm smoke detectors are a little different. You’ll need HSI canned smoke, available from any local hardware store. Once you have your canned smoke, here’s what to do:

 

·         Make sure you contact the alarm monitoring center and instruct them to put the system in TEST mode.

 

·         Stay about 2-4 feet from the detector and spray the canned smoke at the vents or side (chamber) of the detector. Spray for about two seconds or as manufacturer’s instructions indicate.

 

·         Your alarm will sound within 1-10 seconds if everything is working properly.

 

·         Reset the alarm system.

 

·         Call the alarm monitoring center to make sure they received the fire alarm signal. Then, tell them to take the system off test mode.

 

My Alarm Center customers can see specific instructions about how to test their home security systems at https://www.myalarmcenter.com/support/testing-your-system.

 

In addition to this monthly test (I do mine each month when I change the air filters in the house), it’s a great idea to have a preventive maintenance inspection performed annually by your home alarm company. They can check the power and useful life of your back-up battery. They’ll inspect wiring and panel components for wear and functionality.

 

Like any other piece of valuable equipment, your alarm system needs testing to ensure it is operating properly. Begin your testing today, and make testing a regular part of your routine.

How to Answer Your Door with Security in Mind

by Brian O.15. April 2014 13:53

                                                

 

Many of us have taught our kids to never open the door for a stranger. How many adults take those same safety precautions before answering the door?

 

Sure, we all want to be friendly and courteous. Yet not everyone coming to your door may have the same good intentions. In today’s society, you can’t trust that the person on the other side of the door is a friendly visitor.

 

Here’s what you should do when you hear a knock at your door:

 

·         Use a security camera to see who is at the door. Make the camera visible. A camera could deter someone with devious intentions. The camera itself will allow you to see who is at the door.

 

·         Interact with the visitor using an intercom. This is an effective and affordable way to talk with a stranger without actually answering the door.

 

·         Look out a window. If you don’t have a home security camera watching the area outside your door, look out a window adjacent to the door. You can see who is there without them knowing you are home. Based upon what you see, you can make a decision about how to proceed.

 

·         Talk through the door. Ask the visitor who they are and what they want behind the closed and locked door. Ask for identification. A legitimate visitor will understand and be happy to share ID with you.

 

·         Use a door chain. A chain lock provides some security while allowing you to open the door enough to get the visitor’s identification for review. You can also use the chain lock to accept a small package or special delivery envelope.

 

·         Send them home. If an unwanted visitor calls, or someone visits claiming to have an appointment you can’t verify, send them home. Tell them you’ll call to schedule their visit for another time.

 

·         Use your phone. Take a picture of the visitor and email it to a friend. Call the company the visitor claims to represent to make sure things are legitimate.

 

·         Trust your instincts. If your gut is telling you that something is wrong, then don’t open the door.

 

It only takes a second for a criminal to seize an opportunity to bring you harm. Be cautious. Be safe

Four Security Tips for Your Second Home

by Amy S.10. April 2014 15:26

 

The start of spring brings the high season for second homes. It also poses a dilemma for second home owners.

 

When you are not at your second home, how do you keep it safe? Not only are there threats to the home from humans (vandalism, burglary), there are also natural disasters and plumbing emergencies. Second homes by their very nature are often several hours from first homes and the greater the distance, the greater the security complexities.

 

With popular vacation home rental sites like Flipkey.com, Airbnb and Vacation Rentals by Owner, many homeowners recoup some second home costs by renting to vacationers. These rentals pose even more security risks: how do you deliver and retrieve keys and how do you make sure renters haven’t trashed your place?

 

To simplify the security and protection of your second home, we offer these tips.

 

Install a Complete Home Alarm System

 

Advances in technology make security systems an attractive protection option for second homes. Cellular technology has eliminated the need for traditional phone lines for alarm system monitoring. Protect doors and windows, plus make sure to include interior motion detectors, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detection. Your best protection against burglar and vandalism at your second home is with a monitored security system.

 

Include Security Cameras

 

Security camera systems are highly affordable, and they allow you to look in on your second home from your smartphone or any other web-enabled device. This means you can check in on your home from anywhere at any time. You can also record activity, which is highly useful if you need to prosecute any criminal activity. Want to see if you place has been trashed by vandals? Simply look on your phone and check! Cameras outside your home are a must. Inside cameras are great even if you don’t rent your place to others.

 

Add Home Automation Features

 

Home automation features can integrate with your second home security system. You can remotely control and monitor temperature settings, which can help keep pipes from freezing without wasting energy. You can lock and unlock doors, turn on and off interior lighting, and a variety of other convenient options for second home owners. Set it up to run automatically or control it through any web-enabled device.

 

Maintain a Lived-In Look

 

Keep things up-to-date while you are away. Hire a service to periodically check on your home. Use your home automation system to turn on and off lights at designated times. Have your service or neighbors pick up any flyers or newsletters left on your property. Have a service keep the property in good repair while you are away. And make sure to use a yard sign and window stickers from your home security company so criminals know that your property is protected.

Security Alarm Monitoring 101: No Landline? No Problem!

by Amy S.8. April 2014 16:09

                                                                                                  

 

With cellular technology and smartphones, many of us no longer have a traditional landline telephone in our homes. It’s estimated that nearly 40% of Americans don’t have a landline phone and that number is growing.

 

Many prospective security system owners are concerned. They believe that a landline is necessary to monitor a home security system and, because they don’t have one, they’re worried about their protection.

 

There’s no need to worry.

 

Home security systems can be monitored using the same cellular signaling technology used for your smartphone. It’s effective and secure and eliminates the need for traditional landlines.

 

Cellular monitoring involves placing a cellular module into the alarm system control panel. This module acts as a communicator between the alarm system and the alarm monitoring center. Signals are sent through the data portions of cellular towers, which make sure they arrive quickly and efficiently to the monitoring center.

 

Cellular alarm monitoring also makes remote control (through your smartphone, tablet or any web enabled device) faster and easier to use.

 

Not all home security companies offer cellular alarm monitoring. We do at My Alarm Center and we’d be happy to answer your questions and protect your home. Call us at 855-334-6562 or send us an email for more information.

How Does an Alarm Monitoring Center Work? Take a glimpse inside the operation of a U.L. Certified Central Station

by Brian O.3. April 2014 16:09

 

The most important part of a home security system is who responds and the time of the response.

 

After all, what good is a system if no one is watching it to take action when needed?

 

The alarm monitoring center (often called a “Central Station”) is the place where home alarm systems are monitored for burglary, fire, carbon monoxide and other supervisory conditions. These centers should be in highly secure, well-constructed buildings. They are staffed with central station operators who review and respond to alarm system signals and alarm events.

 

Through the use of software, communications equipment and staff, Central Stations monitor alarm signals and take appropriate action when necessary, including dispatching police and fire as well as private emergency response services.

 

Not all Central Stations are equal, nor do all provide the same services or the same quality of service.

 

Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a leader in certifying and inspecting Central Station standards and performance capabilities. UL has rigid standards and only a select percentage of Central Stations qualify for their listing. UL conducts annual inspections of listed Central Stations to ensure compliance.

 

UL certified Central Stations must be able to withstand attack, operate on back-up power sources in the event of power loss and meet a whole variety of other security and operational standards.

 

You can generally expect higher levels of security and better service from UL listed Central Stations. That’s because they are required to meet or exceed certain levels of performance. You’ll also find UL certified Central Stations offer more services and their fees run about the same as other quality home alarm monitoring companies (in the interests of full disclosure My Alarm Center, the owner of this blog, monitors its alarm systems at a UL certified Central Station).

 

Here’s how Central Station alarm monitoring works.

 

Your alarm system is programmed to communicate with a signal receiver at a Central Station. The information provided includes your information, the type of signal, and in most instances, the zone (s), or device (s) that triggered the signal.

 

A Central Station operator will view the transmitted signal and take appropriate action. Actions may vary by customer, municipality and emergency condition. For most home burglar alarm systems, the operator will call the premises to verify the alarm before dispatching police (many communities require this to reduce false alarms). Alarm users can cancel alarms by using their personal identification password or number on record with the Central Station. If no one answers the operator’s call, or someone gives incorrect information, emergency authorities are dispatched at once. You can expect the Central Station to react differently to supervisory, fire and personal emergency response system conditions.

 

Detailed electronic records should be kept by the Central Station concerning all alarm signal transmissions and Central Station response to all signals. There should also be electronic and audio recordings of all Central Station operator interactions with you and/or responding parties, including the authorities.

 

So what do you need to know about alarm system monitoring?

 

You need it. An alarm system is only as good as who responds and how long the response takes.

 

It makes no difference who installed your alarm system. Most alarm systems, regardless of installer or manufacturer, can be monitored by most reputable companies.

 

Keep your alarm monitoring with a UL certified Central Station. They offer better performance and higher levels of security, which is why you invested in a home security system in the first place.

 

Train all system users on the proper operation of the system and make sure all know their personal identification codes so they can properly cancel and manage alarm signals with the Central Station.

Moving? Here’s What To Do With Your Home Alarm System.

by Amy S.1. April 2014 15:27

 

If you have a monitored home security alarm system and are planning to move, this blog post is for you. In it, you’ll learn the exact steps you should take concerning the security system in the home you intend to vacate.

 

Most security companies require an agreement to monitor your home alarm system. These agreements have a term and most security companies enforce the term, even if you aren’t using the system or no longer live in the home in which it is installed. 

 

Companies enforce their contracts because they often take a loss on the installation of the system, and earn their profit during the term of the monitoring contract.

 

The last thing you want to do is abandon the system without fulfilling the alarm services contract. Most security companies will begin actions to find you and collect their money, and your credit rating may be damaged in the process.

 

With most home security companies, you have three options for your monitored home alarm system when moving:

 

·         Take it with you to your new residence and resume monitoring service at the new location. This is the option selected by most people. After all, your new home needs security just like the old one did. Simply take your wireless home security system with you to your new home.

 

·         Get the people who are moving into your home to assume the contract term for the monitoring of the system. With this option, you leave the security system with the home for the new homeowners. This option only works for you if the new home occupants sign monitoring contract with the alarm company. If the new home occupants don’t sign a contract for alarm monitoring, in most instances you are still obligated for the contract term with the alarm company.

 

·         Pay the remaining amount due for the term of the monitoring contract. If you aren’t taking the system with you to your new home, or the new home occupants won’t assume your responsibility for the monitoring contract, then you’re left with paying the remaining term of the agreement.

 

The best thing you can do for yourself when you know you are moving from your home is to contact your alarm company. They’ll be happy to review your options and recommend your best course of action.

Alarm Permits - What You Need to Know Many cities require home alarm system users to have an alarm permit

by Brian O.27. March 2014 14:58

                                                                              

 

 

Lots of cities use the revenue collected for alarm system permits and false alarm fines to fund police department response to home alarms.

 

In fact, many police departments won’t respond to home alarms if no alarm permit is on file with the city.

 

How do most of these alarm permit registration programs work? Here’s how it happens in most American cities:

 

·         The authority having jurisdiction requires you to register your monitored home alarm system with the local police department. There is an annual fee – usually $25 to $100 – which is payable by you, the alarm system user. Your home alarm security company should make you aware of all local requirements and should assist you in the registration process.

 

·         Your local police department will provide you with a permit number. You share this number with your alarm company so that, in the event of an alarm, the monitoring center can reference your permit number when dispatching the police. Keep in mind that many police departments will not respond to home alarms that don’t have a valid permit.

 

·         By registering the alarm system with your local police, you are also agreeing to your jurisdiction’s false alarm fine structure. These fines vary by city and in most instances the fine amounts escalate with each occurrence. Make sure you clearly understand the rules in your community.

 

·         Permits renew annually. In most cities, permits renew automatically and you get a bill from the jurisdiction to renew the permit each year.

 

Alarm system permits are a necessary part of most home security systems. You can keep you alarm costs down by controlling false alarms. Here’s our list of ten ways you can prevent false alarms.

Safeguarding Your Passwords

by Amy S.26. March 2014 11:05

 

Passwords are a way of life for all of us in the internet era. Many of us use passwords daily to access everything from our bank accounts to our email.

 

Since passwords are used to access sensitive information, it’s important to safeguard your passwords from others. Follow these tips:

 

·         Never give your passwords to others. There are no exceptions to this rule. Legitimate companies will never ask for your password to their services.

 

·         Make it hard to guess. Don’t use birthdates, pet’s names, spouses or kid’s names, names of your hometown, etc. Create passwords that are truly unique.

 

·         Never use the word “password” or the letter combination “abcd” or the number combination “1234.” These are common passwords checked by most hackers.

 

·         Remember the “Eight Character Rule.” Your password should be at least eight characters in length and should contain numbers and/or symbols and a combination of upper case and lower case letters.

 

·         Don’t use the same password for all accounts. A different password for each account offers you the highest possible security.

 

·         Don’t write them down. Don’t store passwords on your smartphone or in places easily accessed by others.

 

·         Use a password manager. Try a free service like LastPass. Simply remember your password to LastPass and allow the service to create, save and fill in your logins for all the sites you need to access. It’s safe, easy and secure. And best of all, it’s free!

 

·         Be careful when using other computers to access your accounts. Clear all browsing and access history when finished so your passwords aren’t automatically stored by the computer.

 

These are our favorite tips for password security. What are your favorite tips?

10 Ways to Prevent False Alarms

by andrew20. March 2014 16:08

 

 

It’s no surprise that most communities fine homeowners for false alarms. It’s estimated that police spend billions of dollars annually responding to false home alarms.

 

Police departments in some cities won’t even respond to a home alarm unless it has been verified in some way by cameras, sound or people.

 

So how can you prevent false alarms from your home security system? Follow these ten tips:

 

1. Have your home alarm security system designed by a trained security professional. Don’t buy a “one size fits all” package special you see advertised on TV or in the mail. Get quality security equipment applied in the right way to protect you and your home without causing false alarms.

 

2. Train all system users on the proper use of the system. Hold a training session to make sure all users know how to turn the system on and off, and how to cancel an alarm. Make sure each system user knows the contact telephone number of the alarm monitoring center and have them practice cancelling an alarm.

 

3. Secure all doors and windows before turning on the system. Many false alarms are caused by doors and windows blowing open.

 

4. Use home security cameras. Home security camera systems can send an alert to your smartphone when an alarm occurs. Use your smartphone to watch what’s happening in your home to cancel an alarm when needed.

 

5. Get an annual system inspection and tune up from your home security company. Make sure your home security alarm system equipment is operating properly.

 

6. Keep the area in front of motion detectors free of clutter, including dust, insects and spider webs.

 

7. Take care with holiday decorations. Check for drafts that move decorations or plants in motion sensor areas that could trigger false alarms.

 

8. Contact your alarm company if you add a dog or cat to your home to make sure your new friend won’t trigger false alarms.

 

9. Keep your emergency contact information current with the alarm monitoring center. Your monitoring center can call the contact list before calling the police if instructed to reduce false alarms.

 

10. Don’t try to beat the system. Too many homeowners turn on the alarm and then remember they forgot something inside the home. Rather than turn the system off before re-entering, they attempt to sneak back in and out during the delay time set on the system. Don’t do this. Turn the alarm off upon entering the home for any reason, and turn it on when needed.

Get Protection from Fire and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

June 17, 2013

Headquarters

3803 WEST CHESTER PIKE
SUITE 100
NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA 19073
T 866.484.4800
F 484.468.1507

Regional Offices

Philadelphia
Seattle

We're a great friend to have.