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Self Monitoring Security System


Using A Cell Phone For A Self Monitoring Security SystemAnother article by our anonymous security consultant. Enjoy!

Cell Phone or Internet Self-Monitoring implies that the homeowner is monitoring their alarm system by themselves without the use of a staffed Central Monitoring Station (live operator response). So, yes it is possible to monitor ones house alarm system without use of a central monitoring station but is not recommended.

Self Monitoring Before Cell Phones

Self-monitoring in the “old days” meant that alarm systems were connected to telephone lines and had automatic dialers connection setup that a homeowner could use to send a pre-recorded message to selected telephone numbers.  When an alarm occurred at the home, the automatic dialer would just call the previously appointed telephone numbers and play an alert message.  The automatic dialer would then hang up without knowing if anyone had heard, or paid attention to, its message.

Additionally, an automatic telephone dialer was triggered when the alarm system’s sirens were activated – the homeowner had to “guess” if the reason for activation was for a burglary or a fire and, therefore, had no way of knowing exactly which zone was triggered.

Today’s Technology Has Changed Self Monitoring

Today’s interactive alarm services will send detailed text or email messages to cell phones about specific alarm zones and trouble conditions. This could be looked at as “a modern and vastly improved version of an older automatic telephone dialer” which only transmitted a general and unspecified general alarm message.

Today, interactive house alarm system services enable homeowners to self-monitor their own alarm systems. Self-monitoring is a less expensive option for homeowners because this service doesn’t have the additional fees associated with the live operator response added onto the fees for providing interactive messages sent to your cell phone.

However, insurance companies will not provide the same discounts on your home insurance policy for self-monitored alarm systems as they will for a monitored alarm system.

Pros of A Professionally Monitored Alarm

A monitored alarm system has the advantage of staff around the clock, 24/7, who will respond to any alarm from your home, such as a smoke detector, and will ensure that the Fire Department is dispatched in a timely manner.

Cons Of A Self Monitored Security System

With a self-monitored alarm system, you may receive the message of an emergency when you are asleep or when you are out of town, and can’t react to it.

Additionally, there are numerous circumstances and reasons why you may never receive an SMS text or email message sent to your cell phone when you’re wide awake:

  • The cell phone is intentionally turned off, such as when you’re in a business meeting or movie theater
  • The battery dies unexpectedly, or
  • You’re in an underground tunnel or subway, or at your country home, where cellular reception is poor.

Conclusion – Due Diligence Is Needed Before Attempting A Self Monitoring Security System

In short, while it may be possible for homeowners to self-monitor their own alarm systems, insurance companies recognize the associated risks to lives and property by not having each alarm or fire signal treated by human intervention to ensure that an appropriate response is made. Sure, self monitored security systems are cheaper but are the monthly savings really worth it if an intrusion or catastrophe such as fire were to occur?

Now that you have the facts surrounding self-monitoring security systems, you should be able to make the monitoring choice that is appropriate for your needs and your family.

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About Alex Schenker

Alex has in-depth experience with security systems, security software, identity protection and privacy legislation. He loves tennis, hiking, and surfing.
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  • Woody

    My system is designed to send codes to central station. When my cell receives a call, I hear nothing and cannot stop the system from calling me over and over. Is there a way to handle this on a cell phone? I can separately call in and control the system.

    • http://www.coverstorymedia.com/ Jeff Butler

      I would love to help, what system are you currently using?

  • Todd

    Your insurance company won’t give you that big of a discount either way.

  • Anonymous

    Though I think you should self-monitor your system, I think it's a bad idea to make this the only thing that you do.  I think you really need to have a professional team on standby in case you cannot handle things in an emergency.  They can call the authorities and can also be audio witnesses to what is going on if you cannot speak.  These people are professionals, meaning they can instantly understand that an alarm was triggered at your back entrance instead of your front window. 

    Since you aren't a professional, you might not understand exactly how to read your monitoring feedback.  When time is of the essence, it's crucial that you understand what the monitoring messages are really trying to tell you. 

    Sometimes cell phones can run out of batteries or get wet from perfume or hand sanitizer in your purse.  I hope this doesn't happen to you though.  No matter what money you think you're saving by bypassing professional monitoring, you should know that it's not worth the risk.  If something really happens, you’ll wish you had spent the extra few dollars a month.

  • Anonymous

    The only possibele reason I can see for anyone to want to monitor their own system without any kind of third party monitoring going on as well is to try and save a bit of money. But I don't think this actually does save money in the long run. It also puts the customer and their home at risk during the night and when they are at work. If you are going to put yourself at risk during some of your most vulnerable moments, like when you are sleeping, then why would you eve bother with an alarm system at all?

    If you have renter's insurance or homeowners insurance and you have some sort of security system in your home, you probably get a discount on your insurance because of it. That mean that the money you think you are saving by monitoring your own system is probably actually going to the insurance company that did not give you a full discount because you did not have anyone else monitoring your home. When there are systems that offer monitoring for less than $20 a month available, why would you even take a risk?

  • a seeker of security

    Funny to see so many monitoring company rep's scramble to save their jobs from self monitoring people. 95% of tripped alarms are false. No need to send in the cops/swat teams. We do just fine with self monitoring with todays cell phones/and other technology. Self monitoring is for 75% of America. I do just fine without paying someone to send the cops out on every false alarm. Get a life monitoring companies. Save hundreds of dollars, monitor yourself.

    • a seeker of security

      You’ve stated that 95% of tripped alarms are false.  It sounds as if you believe that these false alarms are being caused by the alarm equipment, when this is not the case at all.

      80 percent of false alarms are caused by end-user error.  80 percent of false alarms are caused by the same 20 percent of all alarm users.

      This equates to over 50 percent of alarm users never (or very rarely) experiencing a false alarm.

      The article closed by saying that everyone can make the decision that is appropriate to them, whether they decide to self-monitor or not.  While you have determined that you are fine with self-monitoring your own alarm system, this does not hold true for everyone else. 

      In this regard, your comment of “get a life monitoring stations” is childish and totally uncalled for.

      What’s the next thing that you’ll be forcing upon us – that your religious belief is better than ours?

      • Jason

        I have seen this argument made in the original comment in other places before. Do emergency services respond to a lot of false alarms? Yes they do, this cannot be debated. However, the important caveat is that the user caused the false alarm! If you take the time to learn your alarm system in and out and then train everyone in your family to know the system as well as you do, you can virtually eliminate false alarms.

        I know that the security of a centrally monitored security system gives me is worth its weight in gold. When I'm traveling, I want to know that the home is being monitored. This is important when the house is empty, but even more important when my wife and kids are the ones at home without me.

  • Anonymous

    I feel that self monitoring systems are a horrible idea. While it might be nice as an option, in addition to professional monitoring, it makes the system useless. After all, many people install security systems because they are away from the home and need the home to be monitored so that should something occur, it will be handled. These are people that can't simply jump up in the middle of a board meeting to call the police about a potential break in. Not only that, but who has the time to monitor their own system?

    Being able to monitor your own system may give some people peace of mind because they feel they are more in control of their home. Unfortunately, there are just too many problems to overlook. For example, what can you do if you're on vacation, a 1,000 miles from home and have lost your cell phone, when a break in occurs? Absolutely nothing.

    Personally, I would never want the responsibility of monitoring my security system. After all, that's what I would be paying the company to do. If I weren't, I would just use a traditional alarm system or just forget about securing my home all together.

  • Anonymous

    While I think the advances in technology that allow for self monitoring are great, I do not want to use them. For me, half the reason I want to put in an alarm system is because I am a single parent who already carries the full burden of the house. In order to do that effectively, I sometimes have to delegate things where I can. If I don't, the result is that I constantly feel like I am not doing enough because I already have too much on my plate and I know that means something is going to suffer because it is not going to get my full attention. I really don't want my security to be one of the things that suffer.

    The whole point of someone like me getting an alarm system is to let the professionals monitor my home, especially when I am gone or sleeping. In other words, I am paying someone to have not just my back, but my children's backs as well. I am in no way ready to give that up. If I was going to do that, I may as well sit up awake every night on the porch with a shotgun across my knee. Thanks, but I will pass on this one and just go ahead and pay for someone else to do the monitoring.

  • Anonymous

    It is quite a thing nowadays that you can essentially be your own twenty four hour home security provider.  I suppose the technology has progressed to a point that it is possible, especially with the advancement of cell phone and smart phone technology that has allowed for our phones to become little “hand computers” that we can have with us at all times. 

    I do question the wisdom of being your own security provider though.  I mean, if you were in a situation where you were on the road, far away from home, and you got an alert that some emergency was taking place at your place of residence, how would you be able to handle it?  The wave of panic would surely hit first, and that could put you into a state of frenzy where you may not be able to make smart decisions on the fly when they are absolutely crucial.  Furthermore, what kind of back up plan do you have if your phone or computer runs out of batteries when you need it most? 

    It just seems this is best left to the professionals.

  • Anonymous

    I think this article was fantastic! Isn’t technology amazing?! Now, we are able to monitor what happens to our houses through the use of our cell phones. People don’t even need a monitoring station to protect their homes anymore. This method may not be recommended, but it does sound like a trendy idea. People can monitor their houses with a cell phone. Many people I know use this method to protect their property. Many of them cannot afford a home security system, so they will either use dogs or their own cell phone to protect their belongings.

    Because I live in a small town, many people think they do not need a home security system. There are not many robberies happening where I live, so people feel more protected. If you live in a large city, this self-security system may not work for you, but it’s ideal for people who live in small towns. People who live in larger cities may want a home security system because there are more robberies in large cities. Home security is always a good idea for people who may have criminals around them, but can people really protect their own homes?

  • Anonymous

    My how things have changed.

    I am frankly a little surprised that anyone today would even want to self-monitor their security system. Part of the point of having such a system, in my mind anyway, is that it can ease some of the anxiety of having to monitor your own home, especially while you are away. Yes, I see how it is nice that you can activate your lights from a smart phone while on vacation and such. But what if you are at your cousin’s wedding in another town and are totally carried away with family and friends? If you are like me, thinking about your smart phone and getting things activated from afar is the last thing you want to be doing. Plus, as the article makes a good point, your phone could die or be turned off, and then you would not get the alerts.

    Speaking of text alerts, am I the only one that can sleep right through an alarm sometimes? I mean, I slept through a small earthquake once, literally. An emergency text message may not wake me, so it is much more reassuring to know that professional backup is there just in case.

  • Anonymous

    There was a time when I thought a self-monitoring system would be a much better option. This was shortly after discovering that ADT was such a horrible company. At the time, I didn't realize that there were so many other great companies to choose from. The truth is though that self-monitoring systems are really a waste of money, especially if you live in a secluded area. Even if you do live in a residential neighborhood, many people have learned to ignore alarms because they are so easily set off by mistake.

    While there are companies that offer self-monitoring services it makes me wonder what you're really paying for each month, besides the equipment. After all, if I was able to monitor my home, why would I need a security system in the first place? The whole idea of arming your home is to protect it. If a fire occurs, you want someone to call the fire department. That can't always be done with a self-monitoring system.

    When it comes time to buy my own home, I will definitely be choosing a company that offers monitoring services. However, I also want a company that has features that allow me to look in on my home and make changes no matter where I am.