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Why Self-Monitored Security is a Bad Idea

By on November 25th, 2014

In today’s connected world, it has become an expectation to be able to do virtually anything and everything through a smartphone, tablet or mobile device. After all, when we can remotely control lights, locks, and thermostats through apps, it would only seem natural that we would be able to self-monitor our security system through our smartphone as well. The fact of the matter is, you can do this, but there are a number of pitfalls and reasons why self-monitored security is a bad idea.

Self Monitored Security

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the fact that monitoring security and life-safety systems are a huge component of our business here at Damar Security Systems and to be fair, I may come across as a bit biased in trying to illustrate why self-monitoring is a bad idea. However, I do feel that the benefits of having a third party involved in the monitoring of security and life-safety systems far outweigh the benefits of self-monitoring.

First, let’s break down what all self-monitoring entails: At some point a security system of some sort has been installed in your home. This may have been a DIY kit, a professionally installed system by a reputable security company, or something in the middle of those two. At the forefront, these systems are designed to detect something. That something can be a person moving around in your home, the sound of breaking glass, the detection of smoke or heat, or a multitude of other things. On the backend, the security system has been designed to alert someone to the fact that a detection has been made. This can be done by sounding a siren on site, but let me ask you this – how many times have you heard a car alarm going off and done anything about it?

In the case of a self-monitored security system, the notification that something has occurred is going to be sent to your smartphone. Okay, that’s great. You’ve just received a notification that something abnormal is occurring in your residence in London, Ontario and you’re on vacation in Florida – now what are you supposed to do? You can’t dial 911 (well you can, but I would advise against it …) as you would reach the local dispatch center which is really not going to be happy with you when you try to get them to respond to your home back in CANADA. Unless you have the 10-digit phone number for your local police department back home already programmed into your phone, it’s going to take you a while to look it up. Meanwhile, thieves have already cleaned out your house and are long gone. But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume you had the forethought to build the 10-digit phone number for your local police department into your phone and you are able to reach dispatch. When you explain what has transpired, they will ask you what your registration number is before they will dispatch. Registration number? What’s that?? In many municipalities, there have been alarm response bylaws enacted whereby alarm systems must be registered with the local authorities before they will respond. This is not to say that they won’t respond without a registration number – they will, however count on being the absolute lowest priority call for them. If (and that’s a big if) they decide to go and it turns out to be a false alarm, you can count on receiving a fairly decent fine as well as another fine for not being registered.

As you can see this has now become a terribly inefficient process, when time is of the essence in catching the bad people. Let’s change up the scenario … let’s say there was slow smouldering fire that has broken out in your home while you are asleep. Now the DIY security kit that was installed included smoke detectors, but they turned out to be the cheaper, less effective ionization style that unfortunately take longer to operate versus other smoke detector types. By the time the smoke detector triggers an alarm, you’ve already potentially started to succumb to the effects of smoke inhalation. At this point, I seriously need to question how the cell phone buzzing on the nightstand beside you indicating a fire alarm condition is going to do you any good. This same scenario holds true for carbon monoxide as well.

In all of these situations, having a third party involved that can receive and act upon the signals, it would be a very different outcome. The alarm system would already be registered with the police department enabling a quicker response. In the event of a fire or carbon monoxide situation, the appropriate responders would be contacted and lives could be saved.

As a monitoring station, we can still send alerts and notifications of events to customer smartphones and we will gladly do so. However, let us handle the dispatching of authorities and first responders – it’s what we are here to do and to do it as efficiently as possible.

  Image provided by Shutterstock.

One response to “Why Self-Monitored Security is a Bad Idea”

  1. Edward Walsh says:

    Hello Mr. Currie:

    A very balanced view for those considering doing a DIY Home Automation and Home Security as I have been.

    Thank you for the article.

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