It’s hard to shop online for alarm services these days without seeing a claim that some alarm company has “The fastest response time!” or a similar boast. Response time is an important measure, although it’s not everything: as discussed in my prior posts on what makes a good monitoring center, and UL and other levels of monitoring center approval, several monitoring center issues are just as important. But, response time is worth an explanation, and also a warning – don’t believe everything you read, even here!
What is Response Time, and Why is it Important to You?
Response time is an alarm industry term used by monitoring centers to indicate how quickly they process alarm “events.” Note: it has nothing to do with how long it takes the authorities to respond! The faster the monitoring center response time, the sooner the police or firefighters are dispatched in a real alarm situation. This measurement has long been used by wholesale monitoring centers as a way to market their services to their clients – that is, the thousands of alarm companies that use a wholesale monitoring center. Here’s a breakdown of the alarm event and dispatch process:
- When triggered, your alarm system communicates an alarm event to the monitoring center. If your system is based on safer, cellular monitoring, (no vulnerable phone line required), good for you!
- Once the monitoring center receives the alarm event, the event must be matched up with your account information in the monitoring center’s software program.
- As soon as an operator is available, your account information and the instructions for your alarm event appear on the operator’s screen.
- The operator then follows the instructions– in most cases trying to reach you by calling the numbers you provided, to verify if the alarm event is real.
- If a real alarm event, the operator dispatches the appropriate authorities. Actual response by authorities will vary by jurisdiction.
Response time is defined by most alarm companies as the elapsed time only in steps 2 and 3 above. That means the clock starts when the alarm event reaches the monitoring center, and runs until the event is “assigned” by the automated software to a human operator, who handles the alarm.
What’s a Good Response Time?
Shorter is better. I have seen individual event response times as low as 1 second, and the better monitoring stations can average 15 seconds or less across all the alarm events that are processed.
What can Affect Response Time, i.e. make it Slower?
- Insufficient staffing to meet alarm event traffic.
- Inefficient or outdated alarm processing software.
- Poor hiring and training, resulting in slower processing of events.
- Infrastructure problems resulting from lack of redundancy (power, telephony, connectivity, etc.).
Since FrontPoint is committed to providing only the best products and services, we use a monitoring center that has the best response times we know of – in addition to being superior in all the other attributes that we consider important to our customers. As the nationwide leader in interactive wireless home alarms that are safer, smarter, simpler, and more affordable, it’s our job to provide peace of mind, and that starts with a monitoring center we can be proud of. And we are!