Different Alarm Types on Security Systems
In this video, Michael from Alarm Grid talks about the different types of alarm that can occur on a security system. When an alarm occurs on a system, an alert is sent to the central station and/or the end user directly, depending on the user's alarm monitoring plan. The reason why there are different types of alarms is because the appropriate response for one emergency may be very different than the response for another emergency. When the central station sees an alarm, they will contact the end user and/or request emergency dispatch from the local authorities, depending on the type of alarm and what is listed on the user's central station document.
The main types of alarms include burglary/intrusion, police panic, life-safety, and auxiliary. A burglary/intrusion alarm can only occur when the system is in an armed state. This type of alarm only occurs when a sensor is activated and alerts the armed system. Some response types that can trigger burglary/intrusion alarms include Perimeter, Interior Follower, and Entry/Exit. This alarm type should not be confused with a police panic. A police panic alarm is associated with a 24-hour zone type, which means that this type of alarm can occur while the system is armed or disarmed. Examples of triggers for police panic alarms include panic buttons on key fobs, panel on-board panic keys, and commercial panic or "holdup" switches. Burglary/intrusion alarms and police panic alarms can be silent or audible.
Life-safety alarms include fire alarms and CO alarms. For a fire alarm, the central station will typically try to contact the end user first. If the user tells the central station operator that everything is okay and that the fire alarm was a mistake, and the user provides their false alarm passcode, then no dispatch will occur. But for a CO alarm, dispatch is mandatory by law. Even if the end user provides their false alarm passcode when being contacted, the operator must still request emergency dispatch. Life-safety alarms are associated with 24-hour zones, and they can occur when the system is armed or disarmed.
The last type of alarm is an auxiliary alarm, which is a cover-all for the remaining alarm types. These include emergency medical alert alarms, temperature and freeze alarms, and flood alarms. Auxiliary alarms are associated with 24-hour auxiliary zones, and they can occur while the system is armed or disarmed. It is very important that the end user informs the central station about the purpose of each 24-hour auxiliary zone on their system. That way, the central station operator will be able to take appropriate action depending upon whether the alarm was cause by a medical alert zone, a temperature zone, or a flood zone.
Hi, DIYers. This is Michael from Alarm Grid, and today I'm going to be talking about the different alarm types that can occur on a security system. So whenever you're talking about alarms, when an alarm occurs on a security system, it's sent to the central station and/or the end user via text and/or email, depending on the user's monitoring plan. So that's just something basic to keep in mind, regardless of which alarm type we're talking about. But there are different types of alarms. And the reason there are different types of alarms is because, depending on the emergency situation, there might be a different response. For example, the response for a burglary or an intrusion would be different than if there was an alarm caused by your temperature sensor being activated due to your HVAC system being broken. They would obviously be different responses there. So that's why they have different alarms. And as there are different alarm types, you get the notification of what alarm type occurred, and the central station will also be able to see what alarm type happened. And if you are ever testing any alarms on your system, remember to put your system on test mode with the central station, assuming you have a central station monitoring service. If you're just self-monitored, meaning you don't have a central station service, you just get alerts via text and/or email, then you don't necessarily have to worry about that as much. But false alarm prevention is very important. Don't have unnecessary dispatch. Always put your system on test mode if you are testing. So with that out of the way, let's start talking about alarm types. So the first type I want to go over is burglary and intrusion-- burglary or intrusion. This is basically someone is breaking in. For these alarm types in particular, this one, it only occurs when the system's in an armed state. So you'd either have to be armed stay, armed away, armed night-- something. These standard burglary intrusion alarms won't occur when the system is disarmed. They can be categorized into audible and silent-- audible being when the siren will begin activation, and you'll see a prominent display on the system. The good thing about an audible alarm is that it can scare away an intruder. They hear the siren going off, and they know they've set off the system. And they will run away, hopefully, and not cause any further damage to your property. So that can be an advantage there. But you can also configure a burglar intrusion alarm to be silent. So that way it doesn't necessarily scare them off, but that way, the authorities will show up and catch them red-handed in the act. So you can decide how you want to go about setting that up. There are various options in your system settings that you can configure to how you like. But the important thing to remember here is that the system has to be armed for these alarms to occur. So some examples-- if you have a zone with a response type of perimeter, that's commonly used with glass break sensors, for instance. So perimeter will trigger an alarm when the system is armed stay or armed away. It's also used with windows, for instance. You're not usually coming and going through a window. So if a window is opened up while the system is armed stay or armed away, and it's set with a perimeter response type, then an immediate alarm will occur. Another example is an entry/exit zone. If you let the entry delay expire, then your system will go into alarm. So you need to disarm before the entry delay expires. If you don't do that, then that causes an alarm. That will happen in armed stay or armed away. Entry/exits are usually doors that you use for coming and going, so your front door or your garage door, your back door-- they're usually entry/exit zones. Of course, you can configure them however you like, but that's just standard practice. Another type that can cause a burglary intrusion alarm would be interior follower zone. So interior follower means that if an interior zone is activated-- this is often for a motion sensor, for instance, an interior motion sensor. If it's activated without following an entry/exit zone, then that will cause an immediate alarm. So if someone were to break in and they set off your-- they got in somehow without activating another zone, for instance, and they were-- they activated your interior motion sensor without first activating an entry/exit zone, then an immediate alarm will occur. Now, that's-- like I said, it's follower, because if it does follow an entry/exit zone, then the system can assume that when you enter your entry/exit zone, when you fault that, that will go into the entry delay countdown. Maybe your kids run inside, and they run past the motion sensor. Well, it's still going to give you that chance to disarm it, so the interior follower zone's not going to go into effect. It's going to be the entry/exit zone that went into effect. And you will have to disarm within that entry delay period, or an alarm will occur. So that's interior follower, and that's another type that can cause a burglary intrusion alarm. So the next type I want to talk about-- next alarm type-- would be a police panic. This isn't to be confused with a burglary intrusion zone-- burglary intrusion alarm. The difference between a police panic and burglary intrusion is that a police panic, it's a 24-hour zone. And it can occur-- it can trigger an alarm when the system is in a disarmed state. This is something that has to be manually triggered by the user. So it could be a panic button on your key fob. It could be a panic button on your system, which I'm actually going to show you a little bit in a second here, just as a little bit of show and tell. But it's something that you actually have to trigger. Another example-- if you have a panic hold-up switch under your desk, and you press that button, then that would be considered a panic alarm. Now, when you're setting these up with the central station, a lot of users will just request immediate dispatch without being-- without them trying to contact you first. The idea being that you triggered this alarm. You need help right away. They're not necessarily going to contact you first. You can set them up to where there will be contact first if you want that, but you don't have to. That's how you set it up with the central station as you like. Often, the preferred method is to skip out on having them contact you. And that also differs from burglary intrusion. Usually for a burglary intrusion alarm, a user will want to be contacted first, just so that way they can-- if everything is all right, they can provide their false alarm password and prevent false alarms. Just say, oh, I'm sorry. I didn't disarm within my entry delay period. That was a mistake, so we're fine. Here's my false alarm passcode. It's Alarm Grid-- whatever it may be. But that's the option for police panic. People will often not want to be contacted first. It's like, oh, I'm in a distress situation. I need help right away. Don't contact me. So you can set that up how you like, though. But I do want to show you on the Lyric system-- we're using the Lyric today. Other systems might have similar functions, but I want to show you the police panic option. Right now we have ours configured to where it's going to be a silent police panic. So I want to show you how it doesn't make a sound on the system. And then once I do that alarm and I disarm and get the system back and ready to arm state, I'll then go into programming and show you how to change it to an audible alarm, and I'll show you the difference. Remember, if you are setting off a police panic, if you're testing like I'm about to do, always put your system on test mode with the central station, so that way you don't have a false alarm. You don't what that. So on the Lyric the way it uses panic functions, you actually press and hold the red exclamation mark button, and then you get to this panic menu option, where you have some options here. And we're going to choose Police. And we have ours set to silent right now, so there shouldn't be any alarm-- well, there is an alarm, but it's not going to be anything audible. You see, if I press Home, it doesn't really appear on the system. I'm going to press the Security button actually, not Home-- Security. And you see, it's very discreet. This was a discreet option to trigger an alarm if I was in danger. So it sent out this secret little message to the central station, and I would also get a notification through Total Connect, assuming I'm set up with that service. But I'm going to choose disarm here, and I'm going to enter in our master code, which ours is at the default of 1, 2, 3, 4. Usually-- Disarmed. Ready to arm. Chime. Usually, that code is changed for security purposes. But we have ours at the default just for testing. So I'm now going to go into programming, and I'm going to show you how you would change that to an audible alarm, and I'm going to show you what the audible alarm is like. So I'm going to choose Tools, and then I'm going to enter in our installer code, which ours is at the default of 4, 1, 1, 2. And I'm going to choose Program, and I'm going to choose Zones. And then I'm going to scroll all the way down to the very end, which is where the panic zones are, at the very end. And I'm going to choose Police, and that highlights it blue. And then I'm going to choose Edit. And then I'm going to choose Response Type. And now I'm going to set it to 24-hour audible. And then I'm going to make sure to save my changes by pressing the Save button in the bottom right. And then I can just back out. And now I'm going to test the audible police alarm, the police panic. Now, I do want to give a headphone warning. This will be loud. So if you are wearing headphones, be careful. But it's the same process as before. We press and hold the red exclamation mark. And now I'm going to choose Police, and we get an audible alarm. [LOUD BEEP] And I'm going to silence it with the master code. Disarmed. Not ready to arm. Check zone. And now for this type, I do have to do a double disarm, so I'm going to choose Disarm again, and I'm going to enter in the master code again. And then that will-- Disarmed. Ready to arm. Chime. And that will clear the alarm and get us back into the ready to arm state. So that's the difference between an audible police panic and a silent police panic. So configure that how you like. And again, you do have the option of having the central station contact you, but it's often preferred to just have immediate dispatch for a police panic. Again, these are 24-hour zones. They can occur even when the system's in a disarmed state. So that's the difference. The earlier ones I was talking about-- burglary, intrusion-- those can only occur when the system's armed. But moving on, let's talk about life safety alarms. So that would include fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. So these are 24-hour zones. They can cause an alarm when the system is in a disarm state. A fire alarm is caused by a smoke detector or a heat detector that has been activated, and a carbon monoxide alarm is caused by a CO detector. There is a little bit of a difference between the way that these alarms are handled. With a fire alarm, when one occurs on your system, the central station will contact you. And if you say that, oh, there's no fire. That was a mistake. The smoke detector activated because I was cooking and I burnt some food, and you provide your false alarm passcode, then they won't have to dispatch. And there are actually some jurisdictions where they won't dispatch at all for a fire alarm. So check with your local jurisdiction to see if that's the case. But that's the thing to remember with a fire alarm is that they don't necessarily have to dispatch. If they contact you, manage to get a hold of you, and you do provide your false alarm passcode, then they won't dispatch if you say that everything is all right. Now, for a carbon monoxide alarm, that's a little bit different. Because when the central station receives an incoming carbon monoxide alarm, they are required by law to dispatch. They will still try to contact you to let you know that you have a carbon monoxide alarm on your system. And even if you provide your false alarm passcode, they're still going to dispatch. So they will still contact you, but by law, they have to dispatch for a carbon monoxide alarm. So keep that in mind if you're using that. It's actually interesting-- some jurisdictions, where they don't allow fire department dispatch, you actually have to-- by law, you have to disable carbon monoxide monitoring just because they won't dispatch, and by law, the central station has to request dispatch. So that becomes an issue there. But check with your jurisdiction to see if that's the case. Just know that they will try to contact you for a CO alarm, but they do have to dispatch, even if you provide your code. So just keep that in mind. Now, the last type of alarm I want to discuss is an auxiliary alarm, which that's a bit of a cover-all alarm. It can cover a medical emergency. It can cover a temperature sensor. That includes a freeze sensor due to a broken HVAC system, if you have a temperature sensor. It also covers a flood sensor, a flood zone-- if there's a water leak, or your house is experiencing flood, then that can cause a 24-hour auxiliary alarm. These are 24-hour zones, so whether the system's armed, disarmed, a 24-hour auxiliary will trigger an alarm. So if you have a medical alert button, and you press it due to a slip and fall-- for instance, you have a loved one that's using a device that way, that will trigger an alarm even if the system is in a disarmed state. Now, you can have the central station contact you first if you want to see maybe that was an accident, or they're just letting you know that, hey, your temperature sensor went off. Take action. And now one very important thing I do want I mention, by the way, it's crucial that you let the central station know what exactly the 24-hour auxiliary zone is being used for. Because obviously, the response for a medical emergency will be different than the response for an activated flood sensor. So let them know, hey, this zone right here is for my temperature sensor. This zone right here is for my flood sensor. This zone is for my medical alert button. So that way they'll know how to respond, based on the alarm that occurred on the system. So just make sure you have your central station documented-- central station documents updated. Contact your monitoring company. Contact us, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you're monitored with us to have that set up properly. Now, I'm going to trigger an auxiliary medical alarm using the panic functions on the system, just to show you a bit what it sounds like. Because you do get an audible response with a medical alarm, but it's not a full blaring siren. And that makes sense, because, say, someone experienced a slip and fall. They've pressed their medical alert button, and they want help to come as soon as possible. But now they have to sit there and wait while a siren is blaring. That would be pretty uncomfortable. So they do have a sound on the system that's not going to bother anybody, but it's there to let you know that there is a distress situation, but it's not going to be annoying or bothersome. So just to show you what it sounds like, again, put your system on test mode if you're testing this function. We're going press and hold the red exclamation mark button. And now we're going to choose Medical. [SOFT BEEP] And you see we get this very soft tone. So we know that our system-- that there's trouble, that there is a medical alarm, but it's not a full blaring siren. And we can go into-- we're going to have to do a double disarm to clear that out. Disarmed. Not ready to arm. Check zone. So we entered in our default master code there, and we're going to enter a disarm again. And we're going to do 1, 2, 3, 4. Disarmed. Ready to arm. Chime. And that clears the alarm on the system. So that was all the alarm types I wanted to cover today. Just as a quick recap, we went over burglary intrusion alarms, which those are for-- those only occur when the system is in an armed state. Those aren't 24-hour zones. Example of response types-- perimeter, entry/exits, interior follower-- those are examples of response types that could lead to a burglary intrusion alarm. We went over a police panic, which is a 24-hour zone that has to be triggered by the end user. You do have the option of having the central station contact you. But often, you will prefer just to have immediate dispatch. We went over life safety, which includes fire alarms and CO alarms, Carbon Monoxide alarms. For fire, you do have the option of having the central station contact you, and if you say that everything's all right, and you provide your false alarm passcode, then you don't necessarily have to have dispatch. But for a CO alarm, they will still contact you, but they have to dispatch no matter what, whether they contact you or not, whether you provide your false alarm passcode or not. They're still dispatching for a CO alarm. And then lastly, we had auxiliary alarms, which includes medical, flood, and temperature. So remember, for auxiliary, you get that soft sound at the panel. And you do want to absolutely make sure that you tell the central station what the zone is for. So that way they know whether it's a medical alert or a flood or whatever. So make sure for an auxiliary alarm to have that updated on the central station document. So those are the different alarm types that you can have on a security system. If you have any questions about alarms, or you want to get started with alarm monitoring services, or if you're already monitoring, you ever needed to update your central station document, send an email to email@example.com. 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