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Alarm Monitoring and Winter Storms – Fact vs Fiction

By February 5, 2013 June 25th, 2019 No Comments

As Western New Yorkers, we’re no strangers to extreme weather.  Whether it be lake-effect snowfall, strong winds or heavy rain, we have experienced it all. Unfortunately, many burglars see power outages as an opportunity to commit their crimes undetected and under the cover of darkness. To stay one step ahead of these opportunists, and prepare for the inevitable winter storm, let’s take a look at what happens to your home security system when mother nature takes over and you’re left without power.

How Does Alarm Monitoring Work?

Just like any appliance, security systems need power to operate. Under normal conditions, alarm systems will use the home’s wired-in power supply to run the system. The power supply enables the communicator to send signals to the central monitoring station. Without power, your security system’s communication is compromised.

To provide power to your security system during a deliberate power outage (like when an intruder attempts to disable an alarm system by cutting the powerline), modern alarm systems are equipped with a 12-volt backup battery to provide backup power to your alarm panel for at least twenty-four hours. During a power outage, your system will utilize back-up battery power and therefore, continue to operate at the same arming level. However, the lights on your keypad may reduce to a flicker to conserve power.

When your power restores, your system automatically converts back to household power and begins charging the battery back to its original levels. So, this explains how your alarm system remains operational during a power outage. But what happens to your alarm system monitoring service if power is not restored within a reasonable time… say, 24 hours?

Can You Have Effective Alarm Monitoring Without Power?

In the past, most residential alarm systems relied on traditional telephone lines for communication between the control box and the monitoring station. These traditional land lines operated on a system that was independent of your home’s electrical service. Hence they were invulnerable to power outages. However, since the advent of fiber optic and VoIP telephone systems (which are digital and carry no electrical current to power your telephone), home land-lines have become more vulnerable than ever. Even with a backup battery, today’s VoIP and fiber optic systems only provide up to approximately eight hours of standby service. So, what can be done to maintain the vital communication between your control box and your monitoring company?

Cellular Radio Communications

Thankfully, the home security industry has stepped up to the plate with an affordable way to ensure that home security systems aren’t compromised during power outages: the cellular backup unit. This device sends secure wireless transmissions between your alarm system and your monitoring station—serving as a direct link for your alarm signal. Just as with your alarm system’s control box, cellular backup units operate on your household power supply until you experience a power outage, at which time the backup unit switches over to battery power. So, what happens when the battery runs out? Not to worry; once battery levels fall into the danger zone, a signal is sent to your monitoring station that assistance is needed to remedy the problem.

Wireless communication systems are ideal for both primary and backup central station communication, especially nowadays when so many people are doing away with their land lines entirely in favor of cell phones and other personal mobile devices. Cellular backup units can also be a valuable preventative measure for those using traditional copper phone lines in the event that these lines are severed due to falling branches.

Other Benefits of Cellular Radio Communications

One of the biggest benefits of having a cellular unit is that it allows you to stay connected to your home’s security features through the use of new SmartPhone and mobile device apps. With these new apps, you can do things like arm, disarm, and silence your alarm; receive text alerts of security and safety-related events occurring in your home, view real-time CCTV camera footage of your property, and you can even use these apps to control your house lights and garage door.

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