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Understanding
Monitoring Procedures

Regardless of the company that is doing the monitoring of your system, the procedures are identical.

  • Signal of alert/alarm is sent to the monitoring center
  • Monitoring centers have operators with computer screens that receive alert/alarm signals from all the systems that they follow
  • It may be put into a queue, if there are too many calls at once, for up to 5-minutes before it arrives at an operator’s station or is transferred to another call center where it may be put into the queue there for up to 2-minutes
  • Operator reads signal and calls you at the phone number you provide, starting with the first number on your list and proceeding to the next in order that they are provided
  • Operator asks you for your password to ensure that you are in fact the customer and not the intruder who may have you tied up and is answering your phone
  • If you cannot provide the password that you set up with the company, the operator is not allowed to give you information
  • The operator will then start down your call list in the order that you provided it
  • Once the operator has reached someone that you designated to be notified, the information about the alert/alarm will be given to them
  • If the alarm is an intrusion alarm, the person answering the phone (you or one of your contact people) will be asked to go to your home and verify that an intrusion has occurred or is in the process of happening
  • The person answering the phone must call the police and let them know of the burglary in progress or intrusion that has been verified with their name and phone number
  • The person answering the phone must meet the officers at your home in order to make out a report and verify that the officers have permission to enter your home
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Panic Button Alerts Monitoring Process

  • Panic button alarms are silent and by pressing the panic button, a signal is immediately sent to the next available monitoring station
  • Panic alerts are never put into queue
  • The operator will call the appropriate first-responder company – fire, police, medical and report a silent alarm from your address
  • The police, fire or medical personnel will arrive with no lights or sirens at your home within 3 to 5 minutes after being notified
  • You will not receive a call from the monitoring service operator at any time
  • The reason that no call to you is made is because you may be held at gunpoint or in an extremely dangerous situation and a phone call from the company could cause the situation to deteriorate.
  • The operator will put the call back into the queue for 5-minutes and it will pop up on another screen when the hold expires
  • The operator receiving the hold alarm will then call your next contact on the list until someone is notified that you sent out a panic alarm and that the officials were sent at that time

Panic buttons can be both a blessing and a real hassle!

Many people put them on their key chains but since they do not provide information to the monitor of your location, carrying the button with you is really useless.

If someone pushes the button – even accidentally – you will not know it until the SWAT team is coming through your front door with guns pointed and shouting for you to lie on floor!

Children are notorious for pushing panic buttons and babies for gnawing on them when teething!

Beware of where you keep the button!

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Fire and Smoke Alarm Monitoring Process

  • Fire and smoke alerts will skip the queue and arrive at the next available monitoring station ahead of all other alerts except for Panic alarms
  • Your fire department will also receive the signal from your system simultaneously
  • The monitor will call your fire department and verify dispatch to your address and give them any location information that the alarm is covering while they are enroute.
  • The monitoring service will then call you and inform you that the fire department is on the way and if they are close to your home, may be in your front yard
  • Fire and smoke alarms cannot be cancelled by you, the monitor or the fire department
  • Fire and smoke alarms need to be checked every 30 days. Allow 30 minutes for the complete process – setting off the alarms and changing any batteries that had a delayed signal and resetting your fire system. The process for doing this must be followed to the letter to prevent being charged for a false alarm:

  • Call your local fire department before setting off your alarms and let them know that you are running a test.
  • Call your monitoring service and let them know that you will be running a test for the next 30-minutes so that they do not respond to your fire alarm when it goes off.
  • As soon as your testing is complete, call your local fire department and tell them that the test is complete
  • Then, call the monitoring service and confirm that the test is complete and ask them to send you a copy of the signals received during the test period to ensure that the system worked

If your fire alarm goes off when there is no smoke or fire, the fire department will still come out.

This will be registered as a “false alarm” and the fire department will keep track of how many false alarms they receive from your system.

Generally, the fire departments allow between 2 or 3 false alarms per year maximum. If they receive more than that from your alarm, they will charge you a fee which can be as little as $150 per false signal to $1500 per false signal.

All of the major companies offering DIY wireless systems include Fire & Smoke monitoring as well – whether you want it or not!

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Wireless Companies –Pay
Attention to the Parent Company

Knowing who owns and sets the contract policies for each company is important if you want to know what kind of service and protection to expect. Not only should you read reviews of the division operation (such as FrontPoint, Protect America and LifeShield) but also of the Parent Company.

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Is owned and operated by Guardian Alarms which is part of the Guardian Alarm Company in the U.K. It has a U.S. based outlet in Michigan and remains the largest privately owned alarm company in the U.S.

The U.K. business has been operating in the U.S. since the 1930s and in 2007 began buying out alarm services from telephone companies. [Guardian Alarms should not be confused with Guardian Protection Services or Guardian Guard Services of which there is no affiliation whatsoever.]

In 2011, Guardian Alarm bought out FrontPoint and upgraded its services and equipment to meet the specifications of the parent company’s protocols.

Since then, Guardian has purchased RSIG Security-Midwest, Allstate Alarm Systems, Inc., Alert Alarm, Inc. and Complete Protection which was part of Cincinnati Bell Telephone Company.

Under the name of FrontPoint Security, Guardian also provides equipment and operates part of Brink’s Home Security Alternative Alarm System per Amazon.com

FrontPoint lowest package of $ 34.99 per month includes only alarms and fire/smoke monitoring.

The highest-priced package $49.99 includes interactive video camera surveillance and monitoring with high-def. and night vision camera equipment and automated lock/unlock door keypad.

According to the Better Business Bureau, Guardian Alarms has had only 31 complaints since 1974 and all were resolved before January 2015. The majority of complaints were focused on problems with the product or service.

Guardian Alarms has maintained an A+ rating with Better Business Bureau for 40 straight years with no indication that their rating has ever been below that.

FrontPoint Security has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau since its accreditation in 2009.

There have been a total of 51 complaints over the last three years with 23 focused on products and service and 16 about billing. The best part is, all have been resolved before January 2015.

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Protect America is essentially the wireless security service of the mother company, ADT Security Services, Inc. which primarily offers hard wired security products.

Protect America, a division of ADT, Inc., a division of Tyco, Inc. advertises the lowest alarm service package at $19.99 but fail to mention in the boast that this is for a landline (through your home phone line not cellular) only.

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The package includes a basic Simon XT control panel that can handle up to 39 sensors with semi-partitions; 3 sensors to be used on either doors or windows; 1 motion detector for wall mounting, 1 keyfob and signage.

Only the Platinum Package offers a “swap and add” equipment option that allows for a security camera to be included in the $42.99 per month fee for a landline phone connection only.

They do not state if the camera is eligible for the “swap” part of the deal or if it is only available as part of the “add” part. But, the fee for monitoring the camera will be at least $54.99 per month.

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The Simon XT panel is made by United Technologies for several alarm companies including ADT, LifeShield and Vivint. There are no specially made control panels for either Protect America or its parent company ADT such as there is for FrontPoint Security.

All equipment is sent to you by overnight delivery and you are responsible for installing the panel and equipment within 20 days of receipt.

ADT Security Services, Inc. has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. This rating was just reinstated over the last 12-months from B-rating that it was tagged with for several years in a row.

There have been 4,533 complaints over the last three years with 2,679 focused on products or service issues and 1,354 for unfair billing practices or failure to reasonably resolve

Protect America, a division of ADT, has an A rating (down from A+) with the Better Business Bureau and has a total of 390 complaints over the last three years with 219 focused on product or service and 98 on billing complaints.

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LifeShield, Inc. (formerly known as InGrid, Inc.) was originally founded in 2004 by Louis Stilp who is best known for inventing wireless home security alarm products.

DirecTV purchased the alarm service company in 2013 in order to remain competitive with Comcast and Time Warner cable companies.

LifeShield outsources its monitoring services to Guardian Protection Services, which is a division of Armstrong Group. What this means for the consumer is that there is no one in charge of resolving your complaints about the monitoring part of the service.

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The control panel is a specially made Simon XT panel for European specifications rather than U.S. specs and is therefore limited to GSM cellular frequencies which operate through radio signals that are transmitted at 2G (compared satellite signals of 4G for cell phones in the U.S.).

This will result in grainer /images on the optional cellular camera.

The basic package which is highly advertised at $29.99 per month for monitoring services includes one control panel which is a desktop model that is hooked into your hardwired telephone line, a touchpad that is used to arm and disarm the alarm at one entry location, 1 keypad that can be installed in other areas of the home to arm/disarm the system, 1keychain remote, a single motion sensor, 4 door or window sensors and fire/smoke sensor (similar to a smoke detector).

It is imperative that all sensors be within 30-feet of the control panel which may limit your ability to place sensors in exterior buildings, basements or second story windows.

The mid-level package at $39.99 does come with one wireless video camera and additional door or window sensors. Both the mid-level and highest cost packages offer interactive wireless services and monitoring with phone apps for notifying you of signals.

Mobile apps are compatible with iPhone, Android or Blackberry systems.

LifeShield is the only one of the three major companies offering DIY installation that also offers the option of professional installation if you prefer.

DirecTV is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau but BBB has received and closed 16,144 complaints over the last three years. Of these, 7,021 were focused on products or services and 6,800 were for billing issues.

LifeShield is not accredited with the Better Business Bureau but the BBB has received and closed 91 complaints in the last three years. Of those, 55 were focused on products and service while 17 were for billing issues.

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Parts and Pieces– Breaking it Down

The three major businesses that we are detailing here each use different equipment and offer similar products and services. In order to compare one to the other, you should know what differences may exist, if one is more adaptable than another and if one has a better application than another. Control Panels

The control panel is the brain to your entire system.

It sends and receives signals from all the sensors and remotes as well as being the part of your system where all your preferred settings are stored.

FrontPoint uses GE manufactured products specifically designed for their customers, including the control panel.

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There are currently both LED and LCD control panels and the option of touchscreen or voice activated models, as well.

GE’s panel manufactured is a NetworX product manufactured and distributed by United Technologies. This panel is made specifically for Guardian Alarm Company and its divisions, including FrontPoint.

The smallest control panel has the ability to cover 39 sensors simultaneously which can handle up to 8 touch pads per partition. The largest control panel handles 192 sensors, 99 individual users with 16 outputs for peripherals. No internet connection is required since the transmission operates off cell towers and satellites.

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FrontPoint has paid GE to design a Control Panel that will automatically send a silent alarm directly to the police department and to the monitor if for any reason the panel is smashed and other signals will not be able to transmit. This panel is part of their two upgraded packages [$42.99 per month and $49.99 per month] and is called the “crash and smash protection”. FrontPoint is the only company that offers this technology.

The control panel is outfitted with a loud audible intrusion alarm that can be heard throughout your home-- and even outside your home by passersby. This means your trusted nosey neighbor will not have to “see” an intruder – he/she will hear your alarm.

And, that is something that provides an extra layer of safety even at night.

Extra Keypads or Mini Pads

Extra keypads or touchpads allow you to control the arm/disarm and settings from areas other than the main control panel location.

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Keypads are very useful for saving steps as long as they are placed in appropriate areas. Keypads are extremely sensitive pieces of equipment and when placed near areas of heat or moisture, they can stop working correctly.

Some have been known to lock when they were supposed to unlock or become temperamental about accepting codes.

For example, some people would love to have a keypad in their bathroom so that if their children come home early from school or the mother-in-law shows up unexpectedly and you’re in the shower, you don’t have to run to some other area of the dripping water behind you to unlock the system.

Another popular area that people like to place the extra keypad is in the kitchen work area.

Kitchens are known for their humidity (steam) and heat (stoves and ovens) as well as grease particles that will settle inside the components of a keypad. You can place extra keypads in hallways outside the bathroom door, inside linen closets or walk-in closets in your bedroom area, in bedrooms, basements or in exterior spaces such as the garage area or a work shed detached from the home.

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FrontPoint is the only one of the three companies that offers more than one type of keypad and all are Z-Wave compatible:

  • touch screen type with icons
  • talking remote touchpad with voice recognition that allows someone who has difficulty with their hands to arm and disarm the system
  • mobile app that allows you to use your cell phone, laptop or iPad as a remote control for any changes you want to make to your control panel
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Protect America offers a touch screen type mini pad that has built in voice recognition.

There is also an optional “pin pad” which only arms and disarms the control panel and consists of buttons with numbers 0 – 9 and the stay and away button options. These are small keypads that can be placed in individual rooms throughout your home.

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AT & T is making their product line and the kit includes the base, one keypad and no separate control panel. The base is wired into the Direct TV system.

Remote Keypad

One of the most useful pieces of equipment is the keypad door lock system offered by both FrontPoint and Protect America is operated remotely to allow you to lock or unlock doors from anywhere you happen to be. The remote keypad door lock includes a timer feature so that you can set the lock and unlock to particular hours.

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The remote keypad is a handheld device that looks like an older styled cell phone. Because it is not stationary, this gadget can be carried into the bathroom or set on a kitchen counter while you are working without being subjected for continuous periods of moisture, heat or grease that can disrupt its functions.

This is especially useful for opening your door for your parents who arrive out of town or for your child coming home from school when you are in the bathroom or kitchen.

This can be an important feature for a disabled or elderly person who gets home care service but not the same nursing staff every day.

You can set the timer to open 2-minutes after their designated arrival time and relock within a few minutes after that.

Combining remote security cameras with the door lock system allows you to double check the inside of the home to make sure no intruders are hiding before you open the door for your child.

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Then, you can lock your doors and watch your child via virtual feed without the child leaving or opening the door for strangers.

LifeShield does not offer any remote keypad with similar functions. However, you can remotely access your system with your smartphone since the Base is connected to your Direct TV wireless signal.

Another type of remote keypad is the Key Chain Remote control.

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This is tool is for arming and disarming your system as you pull up into your driveway and includes both a Z-wave module to turn your lights on and a silent panic button with a star icon.

FrontPoint’s key chain remote control is square and larger than the one offered by Protect America.

The Icons on Protect America’s model are smaller and closer together because of the size of the module than those on the FrontPoint style. Another issue that you should pay attention to is the location of the panic button which looks like a snowflake or star.

Protect America has the panic button just beneath the unlock icon and right next to the light bulb icon. The icons are “touch” sensitive rather than push sensitive. Because of the size and placement of the panic button, people who claim to have “fat fingers” could easily touch the panic button at the same time that they disarm the system.

FrontPoint’s panic button is an actual push button located beneath the unlock button.

However, because the size of the keychain remote is larger and the shape is square, it is designed to avoid accidentally touching more than one button at a time and the size of the icon is easier to distinguish. The panic button requires two pushes instead of one which prevents many accidents setting off the alarm instead of unlocking the door.

LifeShield’s keychain remote is nearly identical to the one offered by Protect America and ADT.

If you are a person who typically has their hands full of groceries, textbooks, files from the office or laptops and other gadgets, the keychain remote is a great option as long as you keep it away from children and pay attention to which button you are pressing.

Keychain remotes can be very handy and some people love them – at least until one of the kids gets hold of it and pushes the panic alarm. There is nothing more traumatic to a toddler than to see a SWAT team breaking down the front door with guns aimed at mommy and daddy.

In the explanation of Panic Alarm procedures, special attention was placed on the fact the alarms are silent and when touched off there is no verification or confirmation needed for the police to show up armed to the teeth.

If you decide to accept a remote keychain, be prepared to spend at least 15-minutes every week instructing children from 2 – 6 about the dangers of playing with this device.

Yes, it does require repeating the lessons weekly for at least a year. If you are not the kind of parent that has the patience or inclination to do this, avoid this option until your children are over 8 and able to be told only a few times that the panic button can be touched too easily.

Panic Pendants

Panic pendants are typically used by elderly and handicapped persons and are worn around the neck or on the belt inside the home.

These do not work down the street at the neighbor’s house or at the shopping mall but will work for trips to the mailbox.

Both Protect America and FrontPoint Security offer these pendants. The buttons must be held down in order to send the signal and are waterproof so that they can be worn in the shower, bath or pool.

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They can also be hung on a hook next to the bed or on the headboard for easy access at night.

Protect America offers a second style designed as a wristwatch that may be better for some people. These wristwatch medical and panic alarms can also be turned into pendants.

Sensors

The sensor is the detective agent that signals the control panel when something has occurred that was not supposed to happen. No sensor works unless your system is armed, however.

All three companies provide the same type of sensor with a peel-and-stick backing for press-on installation.

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    Low-profile window and door sensors
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    Standard door and window sensors
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    Micro Low-profile door and window sensors
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    ADT interior motion sensor
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    FrontPoint and Protect America Interior motion sensor
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    FrontPoint exterior motion detector

Window and door sensors come in two parts that must meet exactly and detect when a door or window opens and breaks the connection between them.

Motion sensors alarm when something passes in front of the area that is being watched. All three companies also offer motion sensors that detect motion and can be set to avoid alerts by pets, birds flying by the windows and cars passing the house.

Garage door sensors are activated by the tilting movement of the garage door and are heavier duty sensors designed to ignore gusts of wind, balls hitting the door and children bumping into the garage door with their bikes.

Glass break sensors alert to the sound made by breaking glass. They can also go off when you break a glass in the kitchen, however.

FrontPoint offers a recessed door sensor as well as a standard door sensor.

Flood, Freeze, Smoke/heat and Carbon Monoxide Sensors

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Because all three of our major wireless security companies provide monitoring for fire and smoke alarms as a mandatory part of their service, they provide smoke/heat sensors as part of every package and use identical equipment manufactured by United Technologies.

Each company also offers upgraded packages with the carbon monoxide, freeze and flood sensors as add-ons.

Smoke/heat detectors should be placed away from bathroom and laundry room doors, away from heater and air conditioning vents and away from areas in the kitchen that are normally hot when cooking.

They will go off when steam and heaters kick on and the fire department will be arriving at your front door within minutes.

Wireless Video Cameras – the Ultimate Intruder Capture Tool

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Protect America and LifeShield both offer one style wireless interactive, video camera for their upgraded/more expensive packages.

They are both approximately the same size.

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Protect America’s version has sensor lenses for wide range views whereas the LifeShield style has a single lens pointing in the direction pointed with a narrower view but wide enough to see an entire room.

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Unlike the other major companies, FrontPoint offers both indoor and outdoor wireless cameras as well as a Pan and Tilt camera that can be set up on a side table or on a wall or ceiling. All of these cameras can be remotely operated and provide live streaming to your laptop or smartphone.

All of them require upgraded packages that include visual ability after you login to your account. FrontPoint’s interactive cameras sent alerts directly to your phone instead of through the call center.

Unlike the Dropcam Pro by Nest put out by Google, with ADT, Protect America, Vivint and LifeShield you are not alerted by the camera but by the monitoring center when an alarm is sent to them.

LifeShield’s most expensive package is the only one of their packages that offers video storage but they do not say if the storage is in the Cloud or on a virtual feed and do not say what happens to data once the storage allotment is filled – does it automatically delete or is it overwritten.

Protect America stores the data on their servers but you can download it to your computer, tablet or cell phone and save it on your own.

FrontPoint offers Cloud storage and downloadable storage similar to Protect America and LifeShield.

All three professionally monitored wireless services provide you with a maximum of one or two cameras in the upgraded package.

Protect America does not guarantee a camera system but you suggests it can be included either as a trade for some other part of the package or as an add-in at a higher price that is not specified.

The reason that you should have several cameras as part of your system is two-fold.

  • First, the data is recorded and a picture gives an accurate image of the perpetrator for conviction.
  • Second, nearly every police department in the country now requires that the resident or someone on their behalf, go to the home and verify that someone is in or has been inside the home.

With interactive cameras, you can verify that your home is in the process of being burglarized or that the intruders are inside the premises.With more than one camera, you can tell the officers which room the criminals are in, how many there are and what property they are taking.

Z-Wave Technology Modules

Z-wave is a fancy term for the ability to remotely operate lights, small appliances and thermostats from your smartphone, computer or tablet.

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Essentially, the Z-wave module plugs into any outlet and then you plug a light, thermostat or small appliance (such as the television, radio or coffee maker) into the module.

When you are ready to turn that item on, you can activate the module remotely.

These are especially good if you travel a lot or take vacations or weekends away from home.

Instead of setting lights on a timer that result in looking staged to an observer, you can turn them on at any time and turn them off at any time while you are away providing a much more natural appearance of the home being occupied.

Intercom System

Of the three major wireless companies, only Protect America offers an intercom system as an additional add-on for their highest priced wireless package but it is not available for their other packages.

The intercom system is used in conjunction with the video camera.

Neither FrontPoint nor LifeShield offer an intercom component for their systems or with their cameras.

Their reasoning is that since the camera is being monitored by a professional employee, the employee should not have the ability to speak through your security system to anyone in the home.

Too many mistakes in judgment are likely to be made in the name of “good intentions” and cause major problems for the customer.

Relocation Options

Home owners, renters and military personnel are very concerned with the cost of relocating your service if you move. And, you should be.

Because your services are being monitored, it is necessary for you to contact the company and notify them that you will be moving on a specific date and that you will be relocating the equipment to your new address.

Imagine that your alarm system goes off after you have moved into a new place and the monitoring company sends the police to your old address and end up arresting the new residents as burglars!

You could be sued by the new residents, the alarm monitoring company and pay a huge fine to the police department.

FrontPoint provides free relocation as long as you are up-to-date on your monthly payments and still under contract. There is no requirement to sign a new contract for the new location.

LifeShield and Protect America allow relocation of the service once you notify them at which time they will send you a relocation kit that will explain what you need to do to enact the relocation.

In the case of Protect America and LifeShield, they may charge a fee for the new location but they do not charge for the removal of the equipment if you have been a customer in good standing for a minimum period of time.

Make sure to ask if they require that you sign a new contract for the new location!

In each case, what may not be able to be removed is the smoke/heat detector.

This is something you need to have clarified by the company’s legal department in writing prior to purchase.

Remember, the only parties able to clarify or modify any part of your monitoring contract are the legal department of the company and C-suite who designate the policies.

Minimum Contract

Up until last year, each security service offered any length of time for their minimum contracts. Until 2013, ADT’s minimum contract was 60-months competing with only local companies. Vivint entered the market as a national security services provider and immediately undercut ADT’s minimum making Vivint a 42-month minimum.

The war was on and now FrontPoint Security, Protect America, ADT, LifeShield offer 36-month contracts but Vivint continues to have a minimum 42-month minimum contract. Additionally, each of these companies will automatically renew your contract without giving you notice of imminent renewal or requiring your signature on the renewal!

Renewing Contracts

You have 30-days from the date of the end of the first contract to call and cancel your service. You probably will be required to cancel in writing, as well. If you do not want the contract renewed, send a letter of ‘no renewal’ to the corporate address of the company with a second copy to their legal department and keep a copy for your records along with the notice of delivery.

You need to send these letters by certified mail – return receipt requested – and keep them with your contract.

If the company offers only a “post office box” address for correspondence, call the customer service department or check with the Better Business Bureau for a brick-and-mortar address where there will be someone to sign for the letters.

Office personnel are often instructed not to sign for certified mail so if possible put the name of the CEO on the letter to the corporate office and “Legal Department” as the party to receive the second copy.

Permits and Licenses

Each community – town, city, county and/or state – as well as some gated communities have alarm company service permits or license requirements. In some cases, you may be required to have permits for a gated community, the town or city and the county for the same service.

The fees are set by the particular community and the permits or licenses must be renewed yearly.

The reason so many communities have chosen this option is due to the high volume of false alarms called into emergency services by alarm companies. This is also the reason that the police departments are requiring on-sight visual verification of intrusion before they will dispatch an officer.

That said, there are also areas where no permit is required at all.

If you monitor your own system, such as the Dropcam Pro by Nest, you may not need a permit because you are not an “alarm company” and you would not call in for dispatch if you did not see someone unauthorized in your home.

Check with your local police and fire to find out what their policies are before signing a contract that requires professional monitoring.

Signage

  • There are two thoughts about signage:
  • Signs that indicate that you have a monitored alarm system deter intruders

Signs that indicate that your home has a monitored system tell the intruders how long they have to get in and out before the police arrive. Intruders are not complete numbskulls – they do know what alarm services to be wary of and which are lackadaisical in responding to alarms.

In some areas of the country, specifically Las Vegas, the police department no longer responds to alarm service notifications regardless of who the company may be. This includes panic alarms.

FrontPoint will not sell services or equipment in Las Vegas for this reason.

In other locations, they have already timed the response to alarms from a given company and know that the police require on-sight verification of activity before they dispatch officers.

For example, ADT has been in business for a long time and a sticker in the window indicating that the house is serviced by ADT could be from a previous resident or the system may be no longer in operation.

Furthermore, burglars have figured out just how long it takes for ADT monitors to reach the homeowner and call the police to respond.

The average response time for an intruder alert by the police department with an ADT system is 18 – 25 minutes after the monitoring center receives the alarm.

This allows intruders time to shower and walk the dog before escaping.

Professionally Installed and Monitored Services

The top two home security services companies in the world that provide hardwired alarm services that are professionally installed and monitored are ADT and Vivint.

These two companies do require that you are a homeowner in order to qualify for their alarm and monitoring service.

LifeShield offers professional installation as an option in their wireless system.

There are smaller home security service companies that have state or regional operations and may be able to provide you with more personalized service than the two biggees are able to do.

However, they may not be able to offer you all the equipment options and coverages that the major companies do.

ADT is a division of Tyco, LLC with a home office in Boca Raton, Florida. Vivint is a division of Blackwell Group out of the U.K. which is a financial company dealing in hedge funds.

Both companies offer hardwired (landline and broadband) alarm systems as well as wireless cellular alarms or components.

Both companies use Simon XT control panels made by United Technologies and have mini keypads or touchscreen pads for other areas of the home. The panel is hardwired into either a landline telephone system for signal transmission or through your television/internet broadband cable. Both have back-up batteries in case of power failures that last up to a maximum of 24-hours.

Both have mandatory – non-optional fire/smoke detector systems and monitoring services as part of every package. These fire alarms are hardwired into your control panel.

Each company offers the same or very similar equipment such as door sensors, key fobs with panic alarms, motion sensors, carbon monoxide sensors and glass break detectors.

ADT requires a 3-year minimum contract with fees for installation, set-up and monthly monitoring fees ranging from $34.99 to $80.00 or more per month depending on the number of add-ins you request.

Only the highest cost package offers wireless, cellular service and monitoring.

Vivint requires a 42-month minimum contract with fees for installation, set-up and monthly monitoring. Packages range in price from $42.99 per month to $70.00 or more depending on the add-ins you request. All packages include wireless and cellular monitoring services.

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Both company’s base package includes only 3 sensors (1 door and 2 window), remote keyfob, 1 smoke/heat detector, 1 motion sensor and signage.

ADT’s top priced package offers 9 sensors and 2 motion sensors plus one wireless camera.

Keep in mind that you have more than 2 windows and 1 door that need to be monitored if you live in an average home. Ask for the price of each type of sensor that you need to add-on to the package of your choice and keep a running total.

The total package fees with the extra sensors can quickly add up quickly.

Comparison shop

– comparing apples to apples as well as apples to strawberries, if you prefer strawberries. In other words, if you want 3 cameras distributed throughout different rooms and 4 keypads in addition to the control panel instead of sensors for 5 entry doors and 18 windows, compare the cost of purchasing your own cameras such as a Dropcam Pro with the cost of the additional keypads and sensors to see which is the most cost effective.

You may find that purchasing the lowest package deal and your own Dropcam Pro cameras that you will monitor on your own is cheaper than upgrading a package.

If you do not feel that you need or want an audible alarm, then you might decide that a package deal with professional monitoring is not ideal for your situation.

For those who are away from home and cannot respond to their own camera’s alerts at any time, then a professional monitoring service may be the better decision.

The alarm service companies will all tell you that you cannot add on equipment that is not under their protection policy. Actually, you don’t need to “add on” to their control panel at all.

You do have the right to own separate equipment to supplement their services as long as it does not send signals on the same frequency as their control panel – which is nearly impossible if you are not trying to hack into their system.

Monitoring System Requirements

ADT and Vivint requires a traditional landline telephone service for their fire and burglar alarm service even if you include their wireless options or broadband options.

This is because the smoke alarm system requires a telephone line to transmit the signal to the fire department and their central call monitoring station. If you do not provide a traditional telephone line, they will have it installed at your expense as per their contract if an alternative telephone line system does not work with their equipment.

In other words, if you have Vonage or any other VOIP phone service, it may be incompatible with the alarm system and you will have to have a landline anyway.

Even equipment that is broadband compatible must have a landline back-up. So, you may have to pay for broadband, cellular or radio signals and a landline telephone for the equipment to function properly.

Cancellation and Removal of Alarm System

When it comes to ADT and Vivint, you can cancel your policy only according to the contract agreement. Every state in the U.S. has an automatic 3-day cancellation policy called a “buyer’s remorse” policy by sales reps that allows you to cancel the contract within 72-hours of signing it- as long as the equipment has not been installed or any preparation for installation has begun.

Sales reps will usually ask you if you will be available the next day for the installer to begin installation.

Sometimes, the rep will call the installation department or technical service department and ask for the “next available opening for installation” in your zip code. Inevitably, the “next available” will be the “tomorrow” – guaranteed.

Even though the installer that comes out the next day may only put a single bolt or cut a hole or change an outlet “in preparation” for installing your alarm panel, that is enough to prevent you for using the 72-hour buyer’s remorse law and cancelling the contract without paying fees of some kind.

Some sales reps will hide your signed contract in order to prevent you from knowing who to contact and the procedure for cancellation of the contract. Some place it on the top of the refrigerator while others place it inside a drawer in the bathroom. You might not find it for more than a month after the rep has left your home and that is no excuse for failing to cancel on time according to the courts.

Some companies have a fee for cancellation within the first 30-days – such as Protect America and LifeShield. FrontPoint seems to honor your request promptly without charging extra fees.

The Left Behind Mandate

ADT and Vivint’s hardwired systems – especially the fire or smoke alarms – cannot be removed from the property once installed!

The reason for this is that any equipment that is “physically attached to the structure in a permanent manner” becomes “part of the structure” and must remain as part of the home even if you move or sell your house.

The term “in a permanent manner” means that something had to be redirected to install the item of question. When a control panel is installed for a hardwired system, wires to the panel have to be run through the walls and sometimes, the electrical system has to be rewired or wires rerouted. This makes the panel permanently part of your home.

Because of this law, both companies require that you must be the homeowner and offer you a “relocation” option rather than a “remove and re-install” option. The relocation option allows you to sign a new contract (while you continue to pay off the one left behind) and install a new system in your new residence

If you cancel the contract, the panel and fire system remains in the home and the fire system will remain active even if not being monitored by the company any longer.

If the fire alarm goes off, your local fire department will respond whether you are home or not even though no monitor service is calling or you.

Minimum Contract

ADT and Vivint have 36 and 42 month minimum contracts. Additionally, each of these companies will automatically renew your contract without giving you notice of imminent renewal or requiring your signature on the renewal!

You have 30-days from the date of the end of the first contract to call and cancel your service. You probably will be required to cancel in writing, as well. If you do not want the contract renewed, send a letter of ‘no renewal’ to the corporate address of the company with a second copy to their legal department and keep a copy for your records along with the notice of delivery.

You need to send these letters by certified mail – return receipt requested – and keep them with your contract.

Both companies require that they are notified at the address provided in your contract at least 30-days prior to the anniversary date of the expiration of the original contract.

If the company offers only a “post office box” address for correspondence, call the customer service department or check with the Better Business Bureau for a brick-and-mortar address where there will be someone to sign for the letters.

Office personnel are often instructed not to sign for certified mail so if possible put the name of the CEO on the letter to the corporate office and “Legal Department” as the party to receive the second copy.

In signing such a contract, the companies are essentially providing you a loan for services over the next 36 to 42 months and may have interest rates included in the price you are paying.

Each of these contracts is an “annual” contract that is then divided into monthly payments but in this case, annual really means the total number of years that the contract specifies.

So your annual contract may be 36 or even 42-months long.

Relocation Options

Just as with wireless systems that are professionally monitored, hardwired systems that are professionally monitored also cause concern for homeowners when they sell the house and purchase a new one at a different location. And, it should because the process can be very costly.

ADT and Vivint do offer a relocation of the alarm services with a few costs associated with doing so.

First, you will be required to terminate the original contract and pay 90% of the annual service charges that remain on the contract.

If you request your service be moved to a new location if you move, you are really terminating the original contract. Because of the way in which the contract is priced out, you may find that you will pay extra interest or higher interest charges for the remainder of the contract.

In addition to paying the 90% remainder and any interest charges due to early termination - until the contract is paid off - you will be responsible for any false alarms or reprogramming the control panel or devices or damages to the equipment even if caused by an intruder after you leave.

If you want your service transferred to your new home, you will be required to sign a new contract and pay for installation fees and permits for that home just as if you never had a system before.