Vancouver Power Failures

Many clients called us today to inquire about how their alarm systems would fare without power, but also to confirm that our Operations Centre was still operational.

As detailed in a post last February (the last time we had a big storm), our Operations Centre is well equipped to operate through even the longest of power outages.

a little technical background on how we handle the extra volume in a storm…

To help us handle the additional volume of alarm signals that we receive, our monitoring software is able to distinguish between every type of signal that we receive. For example, arming, disarming and bypassing zones on your alarm all send unique signals to us. Further, other events such as actual burglary signals, fire signals, low battery indicators and more than 500 other independent "events" are all assigned a priority in the software set-up. Fire alarms are assigned the highest priority, followed by burglary signals followed by the balance of the 500 or so ‘events’.

Whenever power is lost and your alarm system switches to the back-up battery that we installed, the system sends us a signal to let us know. When an entire block loses power, each system that we are monitoring sends us the same signal at about the same time… creating a wave of signals coming into our Operations Centre. Earlier today, dozens and dozens of these signals were being received and processed by our software every few minutes. To help ensure that our staff are able to be free to deal with a "real" alarm, all of these power loss signals are handled automatically by our software without any need for human intervention. So, should we receive a burglary signal from a clients’ alarm in the midst of receiving 100 or more power failure signals, the burglary signal is immediately routed to our dispatchers as well as responding guards while the power signals get handled automatically behind the scenes.

However, if your power has been out for a while and the back-up battery on your alarm is getting close to the end of its charge (which varies by system, but is typically about 6-7 hours after losing power) a different type of signal is sent to us. These ‘Low Battery’ alarms are handled by our staff who will make a call to your home to ensure that someone is home and that you are aware that the system is likely to shutdown soon. Hundreds of clients received these calls today in areas where power was out for an extended period.

For clients who we know are out of town (it is always a good idea to let us know), we made regular patrols and in a few cases replaced the back-up battery after we received signals indicating that the system was about to shut down.

It gets a fair bit more complicated than that, but this gives you a bit of an idea about the type of volume that we deal with during a storm. So, a quick overview…. during a power failure:

1. Your alarm will automatically switch over to a back-up battery that we install with every single alarm that we monitor;

2. Our Operations Centre has several levels of power redundancy to ensure that we can operate thoughout the longest of power outages;

3. We receive regular updates from your alarm including the moment power is lost, when the back-up battery is getting close to dying as well as when power resumes;

4. Our monitoring software has been configured to help us handle the immediate alarm signal volume that any storm creates… allowing us to maintain consistent quality of service and ensure that we are focusing on the most urgent alarms first;

If you are concerned about the length of time that your alarm can operate on battery back-up, consider adding additional batteries so that your alarm can remain operational for an extended period of time.

However, as great as the software and our other technological systems are, it is the dedication and willingness of our Operations Centre team to really step up that makes the difference. Two of our team members in particular, Lyndsay and Laura put in an amazing extra effort today to ensure that every signal was followed up on and that nothing was left to chance.

Of course, it was the hundreds of hours spent by our Operations Centre Team Leader, Dianne months ago that ensured that the monitoring software worked just the way that it was supposed to today.


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