Does anyone know that your alarm is not working?

The CBC posted a story last week talking about a man from Winnipeg, who learned that his alarm system had not been working for 18 months because he had switched his home telephone service from Manitoba Telecom Service (MTS) to Primus’s VoIP phone service.

Luckily for the man, he was able to learn that his alarm system could not communicate since he changed phone service providers without having to suffer a burglary. But what took 18 months?

I have made our position on the VoIP & alarm systems issue fairly clear in a number of posts… including:

  1. Shaw Digital Telephone Services Affect on Alarms
  2. Shaw Digital Phone and Alarms
  3. Rogers Home Phone vs. Shaw Digital Phone
  4. Clear as a bell one day, fuzzy and garbled the next

Here is a link to a comment left on this blog by another Manitoba homeowner talking about her experience with her alarm and Shaw Digital Phone. The Vancouver Sun also quoted me in a recent article about VoIP and the potential issues that exist with alarm systems.

However, the actual point of this post is to address the issue of how it could take 18 months for the man to figure out that his alarm was not communicating. The answer is because his alarm was not configured to send regular test signals to his alarm company.

Virtually every alarm system on the market is capable of being configured to send a regular test signal. Most alarm companies do not set this feature because of the additional signal traffic that they would have to deal with (and pay for) at the central monitoring station. I wrote a fairly lengthy post about this topic a few weeks ago called "Why does my phone line get disconnected every time I use my alarm?"

At Provident, our alarm receivers and computers are set to expect a signal from every single account at least once per day. In cases where some of our clients have made the switch to a VoIP provider, but didn’t think to talk to us first, we ended up calling them the day after because our monitoring system created a "Test Failure" alarm because we had not heard from their system in 24 hours.

This is just one example that illustrates that not all monitoring is created equal… and cheaper monitoring fees typically mean than corners are being cut. Often, the first corner cut is to not program a clients alarm to send either "Test" or "Open/Close" signals.

Would anyone know if, for whatever reason, your alarm couldn’t communicate? Or would you have to wait until a burglary occurred to know for sure?

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