Security & Alarm System Glossary of Terms
24-Hour Audible Alarm:Sends a report to a UL listed central monitoring station and provides alarm sounds at the keypad, control panel, and external sirens.
24-Hour Silent Alarm:Sends a report to a UL listed central monitoring station, but provides no keypad display or audible alarm sounding at the location.
Access Control:A type of security system that restricts access to authorized users at certain times. Different access levels can be granted to different personnel.
Alarm:An audible or visual warning to a UL listed central monitoring station that there was a problem caused by an alarm event.
Alarm Battery:A battery that is used in a wireless alarm device or security system control panel. Lithium alarm batteries typically last longer than alkaline alarm batteries.
Alarm Communication Path:The method in which a security system communicates with a central monitoring station. Plain old telephone service (POTS) is the oldest most commonly used communication path. With advances in wireless technologies, other more secure communication paths such as cellular alarm monitoring are gaining popularity. Internet protocol (IP) monitoring and dual path (Cellular/IP) monitoring are some other communication paths that do not require a hardwired telephone line to be present at the property.
Alarm Device:Security system peripheral that can detect some type of alarm event and send an alarm signal back to the security system control panel.
Alarm Notification Device:Security system peripheral that alerts those in and around an alarmed premise that an alarm has occurred. These devices can be audible, visual, or both. (e.g. sirens, speakers, strobes, etc.)
Alarm Event:An event triggered by an alarm device that alerts the control panel that some type of emergency has occurred.
Alarm Monitoring:A service provided by a central monitoring station, in which a security system is connected 24/7 to a central station operator.
Alarm Signal:Signal first initiated by an alarm device and then transmitted by a control panel to a central monitoring station.
Alarm Transmitter:An electronic device that wirelessly transmits an alarm signal from an alarm device to a burglar alarm control panel.
Alarm Verification:The means of verifying that an actual intrusion has taken place. There are many ways to verify an alarm event has occurred. Video verification utilizes cameras that are installed in the same area as the alarm device so that the central station operators can view what caused the alarm. Audio verification utilizes microphones so that operators can listen in to determine if an alarm is real or not. Call verification utilizes phone calls to attempt to verify the alarm.
Ambient Temperature:Normal air temperature of an environment surrounding an alarm device.
Apprehension:An actual arrest of a suspected criminal resulting from the police department responding to a dispatched alarm.
Arm:The act of turning your security sytstem on, so that it is ready to detect an alarm event.
Arming Sequence:The amount of time between when a security system is armed and then subsequently disarmed.
Audio Verification:A type of alarm verification that uses audio detection to allow a central station operator to listen in at the alarmed premise to verify that the alarm event is an actual alarm and not a false alarm.
Audible Alarm:An alarm that sets off one or more of the sirens of a security system.
Back-Up Alarm Battery:A type of alarm battery that ensures your security system will continue to work after losing AC power. Back-up alarm batteries typically power a system for a 24-hour period.
Bandwidth:The capacity of the transmission medium stated in bits per second and as a frequency. It can also be the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. For digital devices, the bandwidth is usually expressed in bits per second (bps) or bytes per second. For analog devices, the bandwidth is expressed in cycles per second, or Hertz (Hz).
Babysitter Code:A user code that can arm the security system anytime, but can only disarm the system if the babysitter code was used to arm it for that arming sequence. Once the system has been armed with a normal user code the babysitter code will not disarm it.
Biometrics:The science of identifying an individual based on physiological or behavioral inputs.
Biometric Code:Used on some locks; provides greater security than a numbered code on a standard lock. Only the individual with the exact fingerprint, DNA, or different type of identifying input can open the lock.
Burglar Alarm System:An electronic system consisting of alarm devices that are connected to a control panel via either a low-voltage hardwire or narrowband RF wireless signal. A burglar alarm system becomes a monitored security system when connected to a central monitoring station.
Burglary:A forced entry of a secure location resulting in the damage or theft of property.
Business Security:Securing the property and assets of a business or organization using burglar alarm systems, access control systems, and/or video surveillance. Businesses, due to the large number of people using the security systems, often need multiple user codes and sometimes utilize scheduled armings and disarming.
Call Verification:A type of alarm verification in which a central station operator places one or more phone calls in an attempt to verify that a real alarm has occurred and not a false alarm. Typically the first call placed is to the alarmed premise, where the operator asks for a false alarm password if there is an answer. If there is no answer, depending on the local alarm dispatch procedures, the operator may try one or more additional phone numbers in an attempt to reach someone. Eventually without an answer, the operator will dispatch the authorities to the non-verified alarm. Local jurisdictions that utilize enhanced call verification (operator must place 2 phone calls before dispatching an alarm event) have found that it greatly reduces the number of false alarms.
Carbon Monoxide Detector (CO):A device that detects the presence of the toxic gas carbon monoxide, a colorless and odorless compound produced by incomplete combustion and lethal at high levels. If a high level of carbon monoxide is detected, the device sounds an alarm, giving people in the area a chance to ventilate the area or safely leave the building. Carbon monoxide is produced from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. In the home, carbon monoxide can be formed by open flames, space heaters, blocked chimneys or running a car inside a garage. When an alarm sounds, action must be taken immediately. This may include evacuating the premise if experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms (confusion, headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, etc), ventilation of the premises, and contacting professionals to inspect carbon monoxide emitting sources. If you suspect you have suffered carbon monoxide poisoning, go outside immediately and call an emergency number. At high levels, breathing carbon monoxide gas is fatal within minutes.
If you have a monitored carbon monoxide detector on your security system, a central station operator will dispatch the paramedics when the carbon monoxide alarm signal is received. With a simple local carbon monoxide detector, a siren sounds at the location after an alarm is triggered, but the responsibility of calling emergency personnel is left to you. With a monitored detector, emergency response is dispatched as soon as the alarm is received by the central monitoring station.
Category 5 (Cat-5) Wire:Twisted cable type designed for high signal integrity commonly referred to as Cat-5. Many such cables are unshielded but some are shielded. Category 5 has been superseded by the “Category 5e” specification. This type of cable is often used in structured cabling for computer networks and is also used to carry many other signals such as basic voice services, token ring, and ATM data.
Cellular Alarm Monitoring:A type of alarm communication path that uses the digital cellular network to send an alarm signal from the control panel to a central monitoring station’s cellular receivers. This type of alarm monitoring requires a digital cellular communicator hardwired into the security system and a cellular monitoring contract. The benefits of cellular monitoring are that no phone line is needed and there is no chance of a criminal cutting your alarm communication line as it is a wireless cellular signal. Cellular monitoring is one of the most reliable ways to monitor a security system.
Central Monitoring Station:A secure location where alarm signals are monitored by live central station operators 24/7. The term can also be used to refer to a company that provides services to monitor burglar, fire and medical alarm systems. The central monitoring station may also provide watchmen and supervisory services as well as runner service for fire alarms. Central monitoring stations use special telephone lines, computers, receivers and trained staff to monitor their customer’s security systems and call the appropriate authorities in the event an alarm signal is received. Because quality and experience can vary greatly among central stations, a prospective customer is advised to do research on different companies before making a final choice.
Some central monitoring stations are certified by independent agencies. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a leader in inspection and certification of central stations. UL Standards 827 and 1981 must be adhered to in order to maintain a UL listed central station license. UL conducts annual audits of these licensed facilities to ensure compliance.
Central Station Operator:Person who works in a central monitoring station whose job is to respond to incoming alarm signals and then follow appropriate dispatch procedures.
Control Panel:The central computer or “brains” of a security system. Every sensor on the security system reports back to the control panel with supervisory signals and alarm signals. A control panel can be connected with a central monitoring station by many different alarm communication paths making it a monitored security system.
A control panel is normally installed in a laundry room, closet, or garage. For hardwired security systems, the control panel typically is located in a beige metal box. Inside the box are the system’s circuit board, power supply, and back-up battery. For wireless security systems, the control panel looks more like a standard keypad so that you can arm and disarm your security system right from the control panel.
Detector:Any alarm device that can be connected to a security system to provide notification of an alarm event to the control panel. Door/window contacts, motion detectors, glass break detectors, and smoke detectors are some of the most common detectors found on a security system.
Digital Cellorular Communicat:A digital electronic device that provides a cellular connection between a security system and a central monitoring station. These communicators have built-in SIM cards and utilize existing wireless networks. A cellular communicator send alarm signals from the security system to the central monitoring station without the need for a POTS line. At the same time, cellular communication is much more reliable than phone line communication because there is no wire exposed and available for phone line tampering.
Digital Communication (Digi-Com):Often called “digital transmission”. Refers to the field of study concerned with the transmission of digital data. This is in contrast with analog communications. While analog communications use a continuously varying signal, a digital transmission can be broken down into discrete messages. Transmitting data in discrete messages allows for greater signal processing capability. The ability to process a communication signal means that errors caused by random processes can be detected and corrected. Digital signals can also be sampled instead of continuously monitored and multiple signals can be multiplexed together to form one signal. Because of all these advantages, and because recent advances in wideband communication channels and solid-state electronics have allowed scientists to fully realize these advantages, digi-com has grown quickly. Digi-com is quickly making analog communication extinct because of the vast demand to transmit computer data and the ability of digital communications to do just that.
Digital Subscriber Line (DSL):A family of technologies that provides digital data transmission over the wires of a local telephone network. DSL can be used at the same time and on the same telephone line with regular telephone transmissions, as it uses high frequency, while telephones uses low frequency. Alarm communications can be transmitted over DSL but it requires a special filter to prevent interference between the two simultaneous frequencies.
Disarm:The act of turning your security system off, so that it will no longer detect an alarm event.
Dispatch:The act of calling in an alarm event to the proper authorities. Central station operators are the ones typically doing the dispatch.
Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Security:With the recent advances in wireless security system technology, a professional hardwired installation is no longer needed. Because of this, the DIY security market has emerged, and it is expected to grow immensely in the following years as people attempt to save on price of a security system. With DIY security, you no longer have to pay for expensive alarm installations.
DIY Security System:A self-contained wireless security system that is so easy to install that you do not need a professional alarm technician to complete the installation.
Door/Window Contact:Consists of an alarm transmitter and a magnet. The transmitter should be installed on the door or window frame while the magnet should be installed on the door or window. Installing them in the opposite position would increase the chances of a broken alarm transmitter as the door may slam and rattle the sensitive circuit board. When the door or window is closed the magnet is aligned with the transmitter and the zone is closed. If the window or door is opened the magnet becomes unaligned and you have an open zone. When the security system is armed and a door/window contact has an open zone, an alarm signal is generated.
Door/window contacts are considered perimeter protection and GeoArm recommends installing a door/window contact on every accessible door or window.
Dual Interface Poll (DIP):Switches that allow you to change the configuration of the circuit board of an alarm device or alarm control panel to activate/change different functionality.
Dual Path (Cellular/IP) Digital Communicator:A digital electronic device that provides both an internet protocol (IP) and cellular connection for alarm monitoring. These alarm communicators typically use the IP path as primary because an IP signal can be constantly polled for connectivity. As soon as the IP signal is lost, the alarm communicator automatically switches over to the cellular path, which uses a built-in SIM card to communicate over an existing wireless network. A cellular/IP communicator sends alarm signals from the security system to the central monitoring station without the need for a POTS line. Dual path monitoring is much more reliable than phone line monitoring because it has two redundant alarm communication paths.
Dual Path (Cellular/IP) Monitoring:A type of alarm monitoring that uses two redundant paths to send alarm signals to a central monitoring station. Typically the internet protocol (IP) monitoring path is used as a primary path because it allows for constant polling of the signal. As soon as the connection is lost, the cellular/IP communicator will automatically switch over to cellular communication. This type of alarm monitoring is the most reliable path available.
Dual Technology (DTEC):A single alarm device that detects alarms using two different types of technology. Most commonly refers to a motion detector that utilizes passive infra-red (PIR) and microwave detection.
Duress Code:A four digit code chosen by the user and used to alert central station operators that an authorized person is under duress without alerting the intruder that emergency help has been requested. Duress alarms are treated as panic alarms and are dispatched upon immediately without the need for any type of alarm verification.
If a criminal were to break in while you were home and demand that you disarm your security system, enter your duress code and the security system would act as if you did a normal disarm. However, the central monitoring station actually receives a duress code alarm.
Enhanced Call Verification (ECV):A type of alarm verification that requires a central station operator to place two phone calls before dispatching the proper authorities. ECV is quickly being adopted by more jurisdictions around the country as it continues to prove to be an effective way to reduce false alarms and the costs that cities and states waste responding to these false alarms.
Entry/Exit Delay:A built-in delay on any entry/exit zone of a security system. This delay gives you time to enter/exit your home or business after disarming/arming your security system to avoid setting off the alarm. Entry/exit delays can be anywhere from 15 seconds to 120 seconds in duration.
Entry/Exit Zone:An alarm zone that protects the area(s) most frequently used to enter your property. For home security these zones usually protect garage doors, front doors, and/or back doors. For business security these zones usually protect the front door and back doors. A keypad is usually found in an entry/exit zone along with the alarm device protecting that zone. These zones are also typically programmed with an entry/exit delay.
Environmental Monitoring:Refers to a range of alarm devices that monitor environmental changes. Smoke detectors, heat detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, water detectors, and temperature detectors are all devices that can monitor environmental change. A burglar alarm system that has one or more of these devices can protect against a range of threats beyond common burglaries. In the event an environmental alarm device sends an alarm, central station operators would dispatch the proper responders instead of police. (e.g. Fire department for a smoke alarm, paramedics for a carbon monoxide alarm, or the customer for a temperature or flood alarm.)
Ethernet:The most widely installed Local Area Network (LAN) technology. Specified in a standard IEEE802.3.10/100 BASE-T, the most commonly installed Ethernet system, provides transmission speed up to 100 megabits per second.
Security systems that have internet alarm monitoring capability require an Ethernet connection.
A device which expands the capabilities of a security system. Typically refers to zone expanders which provide additional zones for a security system beyond the manufactured settings.
External Sirens:A weatherproof siren that can alert neighbors and emergency responders to a location where an intrusion has occurred. External sirens typically have a much higher decibel (dB) level than an indoor siren.
False Alarm:A phony report of an emergency causing unnecessary panic and response. False alarms waste public resources as emergency responders spend time and money responding to an incident that is not a real emergency.
False Alarm Password:A word, name, or number used by a security system owner to verify with the central monitoring station that an alarm was actually a false alarm.When central station operators are using enhanced call verification they will always call the premises after an alarm and ask the person who answers the phone for the false alarm password.
Fingerprint Verification:Refers to the automated method of verifying a match between an individual’s fingerprints and stored data on file. Fingerprints are one of many forms of biometrics used to identify an individual and verify their identity.
Fire Alarm:Caused by an active fire alarm system that detects fire or the effects of fire, and as a result does one or more of the following notifies the occupants, notifies persons in the surrounding area, summons the fire service, and controls all the fire alarm components in a building. Fire alarm systems include alarm devices, alarm notification devices, fire alarm control panels, fire annunciators, power supplies, and wiring.
Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP):The central computer or “brains” of a fire alarm system. Every device on the security system reports back to the control panel with supervisory signals and alarm signals. An FACP panel can be connected with a central monitoring station by many different alarm communication paths making it a monitored fire alarm system, or it can be a local fire alarm system used for life safety only.
FACPs can also be conventional or addressable. Conventional FACPs have fewer zones as multiple devices can be programmed to a single zone, while addressable FACPs have many more zones as each alarm device is programmed to its own zone. Addressable FACPs therefore, are much easier to troubleshoot. Every device is connected with a fully supervised loop so when a problem is detected it alerts the central monitoring station to the exact zone that needs service.
Fire Alarm System:A security system consisting of a fire alarm control panel, alarm devices, alarm notification devices, fire alarm control panels, fire annunciators, power supplies, and wiring. Most fire alarm systems, because they are life safety devices, must be designed and installed to the codes of the local jurisdiction.
Fire Annunciator:A fire alarm system device that provides remote control capability of critical system functions such as system reset, signal silence, acknowledge, and drill.
Many fire annunciators have LCD screens or LEDs to provide system status indicators for AC power, alarm, trouble, supervisory, and alarm silenced conditions. Annunciators are typically installed outside of a building to give information to the fire department when they are responding to a fire alarm before they enter the premises.
Flood Detector:A security system device consisting of an alarm transmitter and a probe that detects the presence of water. The transmitter can be hardwired or wireless and is typically mounted well above where water is expected so the transmitter’s circuitry is safe. The probe is then mounted a few inches of the ground so that the flood is detected as early as possible. Flood detectors are typically installed in basements, cellars, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and anywhere else where there’s potential for water damage.
When the central monitoring station receives a flood detector alarm, the central station operator calls the client to inform them there has been a flood.
Freeze Sensor:A security system device that sends an alarm when a preset low temperature is reached. Different from temperature sensors, freeze sensors are only able to detect abnormally low temperatures.
Freeze sensors are most commonly used to monitor the ambient temperature of a room with water pipes to prevent the pipes from bursting. When the central monitoring station receives a freeze sensor alarm, the central station operator calls the client to inform them of the dangerous temperature range.
Fully Supervised Loop (FSL):A hardwired connection in which the current is constantly flowing through the wire; any disruption in this signal will signify an alarm event. If you have a device connected to an alarm control panel using a FSL, the panel is constantly polling that device and as soon as the signal is lost it will send a trouble signal.
FSLs are typically used for alarm devices on addressable fire alarm control panels.
General Packet Radio Service (GPRS):GPRS is a packet based wireless communication service. It is based on Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and complements existing services like Short Message Service (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). GPRS packet based services are faster and cost less than circuit-switched services since communication channels are used on a shared-use, as-packets-are-needed basis instead of dedicated to one user at a time. In theory, the connection only has to be there to complete the packet handoff instead of continuously connected while all the data is transferred. GPRS data transfer is typically charged per kilobyte of transferred data, while data communication via traditional circuit switching is billed per minute of connection time, independent of whether the user has actually transferred data or has been in an idle state.
Glassbreak Detector (GBD):A security system device that detects the frequency of broken glass. A glassbreak detector has a highly sensitive microphone that can distinguish between different sound frequencies and recognize the exact frequency of broken glass, which if detected causes an alarm. GDBs along with motion detectors are devices used for interior protection to provide another layer of protection beyond perimeter protection. If you only had door/window contacts, then a criminal that breaks the glass without actually opening the door or window would go undetected. One GBD can usually protect every window in a room and should be mounted on the wall across from the windows it is meant to protect. GBDs are preferable over motion detectors when large animals live in the alarms premise, since they work while the security system is in stay mode without causing false alarms.
Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM):GSM is a digital mobile telephony system and is the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world. Its promoter, the GSM Association, estimates that 82% of the global mobile market uses the standard. GSM differs from its predecessors in that it digitizes and compresses data. Because the data is digital, GSM is considered a second generation (2G) mobile phone system. Many GSM operators have roaming agreements with foreign operators thus making it possible to travel to different countries and have your GSM enabled phone continue to work. All devices that work on the GSM network utilize Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards that contain the home network access configurations for that device.
Hardwired Security System:A security system that has alarm devices connected to a control panel by low-voltage wires.
While equipment for hardwired security systems is less expensive than wireless equipment, installation and service of hardwired systems far outweighs the difference in upfront equipment costs. Because multiple devices are programmed into a hardwired zone, when one goes bad it is very hard to troubleshoot the problem. You would have to check the wire connection and the alarm transmitter for every device on that zone. With wireless security systems, each device is its own zone, so if a zone has a trouble you know exactly which device needs service.
Heat Detector:A burglar alarm or fire alarm device that detects a preset high temperature or a rapid rate-of-rise (ROR) in temperature. Heat detectors can be either electrical or mechanical in operation. The most common types are thermocouple and electro-pneumatic, which both respond to changes in ambient temperature. If the ambient temperature rises above a predetermined threshold, then an alarm signal is triggered.
Heat detectors are better than smoke detectors for areas where smoke would normally be found such as a kitchen or smoking lounge, as they would not cause false alarms.
Hidden Camera:A discrete security camera used to film people without letting them know they are under surveillance. The camera is “hidden” because it is either not visible to the subject being filmed, or is disguised as another object. Hidden cameras have become popular for household video surveillance, and can be built into common household objects such as smoke detectors, clock radios, motion detectors, ball caps, plants, and cell phones. Hidden cameras may also be used commercially as security cameras.
Holdup Switch:A type of panic button that usually does not set off an audible alarm. When the holdup switch is activated it sends a panic alarm to the central monitoring station which is handled as an automatic/priority dispatch. These devices are usually mounted underneath a checkout counter or underneath a bank teller’s workstation so that a person in distress can discreetly activate it. When activated, the security system does not set off an audible siren so that the criminal committing the holdup is not made aware that an alarm has been activated.
Home Security:Securing a home from burglaries, fires, or environmental hazards using security systems, alarm monitoring, video monitoring, and/or video surveillance.
Hub:When referring to networks a hub is a device that connects multiple twisted pair or fiber optic Ethernet devices together, making them act as a single network segment. A hub is really a form of multi-port repeater.
Infrared:A type of alarm device detection most often found in motion detectors. Infrared detectors distinguish changes in electromagnetic radiation as opposed to normal light changes. LEDs used on security cameras often use infrared technology to emit more light.
Installer Code:A four digit code used to enter a security system’s programming menu. User codes and master codes are usually restricted to normal system functions, while an installer code has no restrictions. Some alarm installation companies will keep their installer code a secret so that no other company is able to takeover that security system.
GeoArm Security provides the installer code to any customer that requests it.
Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN):ISDN is an international communications standard for sending voice, video, and data over digital telephone lines or traditional telephone copper wire.
Interior Follower:A type of zone for a security system that is usually assigned to an entry area that one must pass upon entry (after faulting the entry/exit zone) to reach the keypad. It provides an instant alarm if the entry/exit zone is not violated first, and protects an area in the event an intruder has hidden on the premises before the system is armed, or gains access to the premises through an unprotected area. It causes a delayed alarm if the entry zone is faulted first and the user code is not entered in time; and causes an instant alarm in all other situations.
Interior Protection:A type of business or home security that secures the premises by causing an alarm after an intruder has entered the location. Motion detectors and glassbreak detectors are the most common alarm devices used for interior protection.
Interior protection is often used as an added layer of security beyond perimeter protection.
Internet Alarm Monitoring:A type of alarm communication path that uses an Ethernet connection to send an alarm signal over the internet from the control panel to a central monitoring station’s IP receivers. This type of alarm monitoring requires an IP communicator hardwired into the security system and an internet monitoring contract. The benefits of internet monitoring are that no phone line is required and internet communication is inexpensive. Additionally, internet communication is fully supervised so the connection is constantly polled by the central station receiver and as soon as the connection is lost a trouble alarm occurs.
Internet Protocol (IP):Is a data-oriented protocol used for communicating data across a packet switched inter-network.
Internet Protocol Address (IP Address):A unique 12 digit code that identifies a computer or device on an IP network. XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX is the format for IP address with each X a number between 0 and 255. IP networks use the IP address to forward messages between different devices on the network.
Ionization Detection:A type of smoke detection used in most smoke detectors as it is inexpensive and better at detecting smaller amounts of smoke produced by flaming fires. Smoke detectors using ionization detection use an ionization chamber and a source of ionizing radiation to detect smoke.
Keyfob:A keychain remote used to arm and disarm a security system with the touch of a button. Keyfob buttons can usually be programmed for many different functions such as system armings and disarmings, panic alarms, and X10 lighting. In apartments and condominiums where there are common areas that many different people need access to, a keyfob can also double as a proximity card that allows authorized access to restricted areas.
Key Holder:A nominated person who is able to operate the security system and has keys to the property. In the event of an alarm, the dispatched authorities will often request a key holder to meet them at the alarmed location so that they have access to investigate the alarm.
Keypad:Used for operating a fire or burglar alarm system. Typically found at every entry area to an alarmed location, keypads often allow one touch arming and disarming as well as other system functionality. Some keypads are more advanced such as a talking keypad that speaks system status in plain English or a touch screen keypad that can be used to control home appliances.
It is important that a keypad be able to provide system status on all zones so that when the system is armed the user is made aware of any zones that are in fault. For instance, if the back door was left open, the keypad should let the user know that the backdoor zone is in trouble when the user attempts to arm the system. If a keypad can not provide system status, you run the risk of arming your system with an open zone which would leave the security system vulnerable to unauthorized entry.
Life Safety:Any type of security system or security system monitoring that is meant to protect one’s life instead of property. Fire alarms, panic buttons, or medical alert systems are all examples of life safety systems.
Light Emitting Diode (LED):A semiconductor diode that emits light when an electric current is applied in the forward direction of the device. This effect is a form of electroluminescence. An LED is usually a small area source, often with extra optics added to the chip that shapes its radiation pattern. The color of the emitted light depends on the composition and condition of the semi-conducting material used, and can be infrared, visible, or near-ultraviolet. LEDs are used in the security industry to amplify lighting in a dark room so that security cameras are able to capture better quality pictures.
Local Area Network (LAN):A group of computers and associated devices that share a common communications line.
Local Smoke Detector:A battery operated, non-monitored smoke detector used for life safety reasons only. Building codes require a certain amount of local smoke detectors to ensure that occupants would be woken up and alerted to the threat of fire.
Monitored smoke detectors go a step further by attempting to protect the property as well as the occupants. While a local smoke detector will only sound a local siren, a monitored smoke detector sounds a local siren and also sends an alarm signal to a central monitoring station so that the fire department is made aware of the fire. Monitored smoke detectors protect your property and your life, and can even get you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance.
Local Security System:A burglar alarm system that is not connected to a central monitoring station. When an alarm signal is received by the control panel, the system sounds a local siren. While local security systems can be programmed to dial a number, it leaves the responsibility of contacting emergency response in the property owner’s hands. Oftentimes the owner will not be available to respond or to request response, which is
Monitored security systems are eligible for the discount because insurance companies know that homes protected by a monitored security system are backed up by a live central monitoring station 24/7.
Loop:Hardwired alarm control panels usually have a number of loops or zones, with 4 or 6 loops being the most common. Each loop can have a number of devices connected to it and has its own address, but each device on a loop is not distinguishable from the rest of the devices on that loop.
Master Code:A four digit user code for a security system that has additional privileges such as being able to delete other user codes.
Magnetic Reed Switch:It is found in door/window contacts and when a magnet is applied to the reed switch it changes from its normal state of closed to an open state which causes an alarm.
Medical Alarm System:A life safety system consisting of an electronic device worn on a bracelet or necklace and a control panel that can auto dial telephone numbers or dial a central monitoring station when the device is activated by the user. Depending on the severity of the situation, alarm monitoring staff will summon friends, family, or emergency personnel.
Microwave Detector:A type of motion detector that emits microwaves and looks for a return. When the microwaves come into contact with a moving object, some of the microwave energy is reflected back and that triggers an alarm. Heat, light, sound, or vibration will not set off a microwave detector and therefore they are ideal for extreme environments where typical passive infrared (PIR) motion detectors would be ineffective.
Monitored Security System:The basic idea of alarm monitoring is to inform a key holder and local police, fire, or medical response that the security system has been activated. While a local security system is meant to be a deterrent, a monitored security system is meant to catch the criminal in the act and protect anyone that may be home during a robbery.
Monitored Smoke Detector:Monitored smoke detectors go a step further by attempting to protect the property as well as the occupants. While a local smoke detector will only sound a local siren, a monitored smoke detector sounds a local siren and also sends an alarm signal to a central monitoring station so that the fire department is made aware of the fire. Monitored smoke detectors protect your property and your life, and can even get you a discount on your homeowner’s insurance.
Motion Activated Cameras:A security camera that is set to record based on the detection of motion. These cameras can either distinguish pixilation changes to begin the recording, or they can use built-in motion detectors to activate the recording.
Motion Detector:An alarm device that uses passive infrared or microwave detection to detect motion in an alarmed premise. Some motion detectors are even more advanced utilizing dual technology detection or pet immunity.
When your security motion is activated in stay mode, motion detectors are bypassed allowing you to walk freely through your alarm premises.
Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS):A telecommunications standard for transmitting messages that contain multimedia objects such as images, video, audio, or rich text. It is an extension of the SMS standard that allows for longer message lengths and is used most often in sending picture text messages.
National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA):The largest professional non-profit 501(c) 6 trade association in the United States with the purpose of representing, promoting and enhancing the growth and professional development of the electronic life safety, security, and integrated systems industry.
Opening/Closing Reports:A security system that is programmed for openings and closings will send a signal to a central monitoring station every time the system is armed or disarmed. The central monitoring station can then print out a report of these openings and closings so that the user can monitor the use of his or her security system.
Optical Detection (Photoelectric):A type of smoke detection that is better at detecting smoky or smoldering fires as it detects changes in light. When a room fills with smoke there is less light available to the optical sensor in the smoke detector and an alarm is triggered. This type of smoke detector is not as good at detecting flaming fires because there won’t be enough of a light change to set off the device.
Panic Alarm:A type of alarm that is handled by a central monitoring station with an immediate priority dispatch. No call verification is needed when a panic alarm is received by a central station operator.
Panic Button:A device that when pressed, causes an alarm event regardless of whether or not the security system is armed or unarmed. Panic alarms can be programmed to cause a silent alarm or a normal audible alarm.
Partition:Segmented section of a security system. A user can setup partitions, so that one area of the alarmed location can be armed, while the other areas stay unarmed. For instance, an inventory room can be partitioned from the rest of the store so that while people are working, the main areas are unarmed and the inventory room stays armed.
Perimeter Protection:A type of security in which most or all doors and windows are protected with a door/window contact. The idea behind perimeter protection is that you detect a burglary as soon as possible. With interior protection you don’t receive an alarm until the intruder walks in front of an interior protection sensor. With perimeter protection you receive an alarm as soon as the entry point is violated and therefore secure a faster dispatch.
Passive Infra-Red Motion Detector (PIR):An alarm device that measures infrared (IR) light radiating from objects in its field of view to sense motion and activate an alarm. Once the PIR motion detector is installed, it settles into a normal state with a normal temperature. Apparent motion is detected when an infrared source with another temperature, such as a human, passes in front of the PIR detector and changes the normal temperature causing an alarm.
Pet Immunity:The ability of a motion detector to ignore animals of a certain size to reduce false alarms. Pet immunity is usually obtained by lowering the sensitivity of a motion detector so that a fairly large object would need to be present to trigger an alarm.
Phone Line Monitoring:A type of alarm communication path that utilizes a POTS line to transmit alarm signals from the control panel to the central monitoring station. A standard phone line is required for this type of alarm communication.
Phone line monitoring is susceptible to “line cut” tampering because all phone lines are exposed on the outside of your house.
Power Supply:A device that supplies electrical energy to an output load or to a group of output loads.
Preventative Maintenance:The act of regularly inspecting a security system and its alarm devices to verify that all devices are working properly. Preventative maintenance ensures your security system will work when you need it most.
Priority Dispatch:A faster dispatch enjoyed by those clients that have security systems that utilize some type of alarm verification. No call verification is needed and therefore the police respond to the alarm immediately.
Programming:The act of setting up or changing the different settings of a security system.
Proximity Card:A badge, tag, or card that grants a user access to a restricted area when placed close to a proximity reader.
Proximity Reader:An access control device that controls an electronic lock. When a proximity card is placed near a proximity reader access is granted.
Rate-of-Rise (ROR) Heat Detectors:
Heat detector that triggers an alarm when a certain change in temperature is registered in a predetermined small amount of time. (e.g. 15°change in a ten minute period)
Recessed Door/Window Contact:A door/window contact that is drilled and mounted flush into the frame of a door or window. Typically consists of a magnet that is drilled into the side edge of the door or window and an alarm transmitter that is aligned with the magnet and drilled into the door/window frame. Recessed door/window contacts make for clean and aesthetic installations since you can not see the contact when the door or window is closed.
Remote Keypad:A non-fixed keypad that can arm and disarm a security system from a defined distance to the control panel, similar to a keyfob. If a remote keypad is to be used as the main system keypad, it needs to be a system status keypad for true protection.
Repeater:An electronic device that receives an alarm signal and retransmits it at a higher level, or onto the other side of an obstruction, so that the signal can cover longer distances without degradation. Repeaters are used to extend the range of a security system’s control panel so that you can have alarm devices further than the normal control panel range would allow.
Radio Frequency (RF) Wireless Signal:Wireless alarm devices and control panels use RF to transmit alarm signals.
Router:A device that provides IP address routing, network address translation, DHCP functions, firewall functions, and LAN connectivity similar to a network switch. If the router is wireless, it can also provide connectivity for all wireless alarm devices on the LAN.
Runner Service:A service provided by a fire alarm monitoring company in which a trained fire alarm system agent is sent out to every fire alarm. Typically the runner service has to be performed within one hour of the initial fire alarm. A technician is sent out to a fire alarm to reset the panel in the even of an alarm or diagnose the electrical problem in the event of a false alarm.
Security Camera:A high quality video camera that is used for video verification monitoring or video surveillance.
Security Company:A professional organization specializing in some aspect of security, whether it’s sales, installation, service, monitoring, or all of the above.
Security System:An electronic system that is designed to prevent theft or intrusion and protect property and life. Burglar alarm systems, access control systems, fire alarm systems, and video surveillance systems are all types of security systems.
Short Message Service (SMS):A telecommunications standard that sends and receives text messages utilizing the GSM data channel.
Silent Alarm:An alarm that makes no audible noise. The control panel notifies central station operators of an alarm without setting off the security system sirens. Silent alarms are used when apprehension of an intruder is the main goal of the security system. Because there is no audible alarm at the alarmed location, the trespasser will have no idea that he or she tripped an alarm. The central station operators immediately dispatch the police who have a chance to arrive unexpectedly and catch the criminal in the act. Panic buttons are often programmed as silent alarms.
Siren:A security system device that emits a loud noise to scare away trespassers and alert nearby witnesses that an alarm event has occurred.
Smoke Detector:A device that detects smoke and issues an alarm to alert nearby people that there is a potential fire. A household smoke detector will typically be mounted on the ceiling or on a wall near the ceiling as smoke tends to rise. To avoid the nuisance of false alarms, most smoke detectors are mounted away from kitchens or anywhere else where smoke is commonly present without a real fire. To increase the chances of waking sleeping occupants, most homes have at least one smoke detector in every bedroom, as well as in the hallway outside a bedroom. Smoke detectors are usually powered by one or more alarm batteries but some can be connected directly to household wiring. Local smoke detectors are battery operated and meant only as life safety devices.
Monitored smoke detectors are directly connected to a security system so that not only will they wake up any sleeping in the location, they will also alert a UL listed central station of a potential fire. If you would like to protect your property as well as your life it is important to have monitored smoke detectors and not just local battery operated smoke detectors.
Whether you have wireless monitored smoke detectors or local battery operated smoke detectors it is usually necessary to replace the batteries once a year to ensure appropriate protection. Most smoke detectors work either by optical detection or by ionization detection, but some of them use both detection methods to increase sensitivity to smoke. Smoke detectors may operate alone, be interconnected to cause all detectors in an area to sound an alarm if one is triggered, or be integrated into a fire alarm or security system. Smoke detectors with flashing lights are available for the deaf or hearing impaired, although recent research suggests that their waking effectiveness is poor.
Stay Mode:An arming sequence of a security system that bypasses all interior motion detectors. It is meant to be used when a client arms their system at night, so that the occupants can still roam freely throughout the alarmed premises. Only the perimeter detection (e.g. door/window contacts) and certain types of interior protection (e.g. glassbreak detectors) would be armed this mode is selected.
Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards:It stores the service-subscriber key that is used to identify a subscriber for mobile communication devices. The SIM card grants the user access to the wireless network of whichever service provider is used based on the chosen service plan.
Supervisory Signal:An alarm signal that monitors an alarm device or alarm control panel. Wireless security system control panels constantly send out requests to all the programmed devices on the system. When an alarm device does not respond, the control panel sends a supervisory signal to the central monitoring station detailing the device that needs service.
System Status Keypad:Remote keypad for a security system that visually or audibly alerts a user to the system status of the alarm system. For instance, if a back door is open and the zone is in fault the keypad would tell or show the user so that they do not arm their system with the zone in violation.
Takeover:An industry term that describes the process of reprogramming a monitored security system so that it dials a new central alarm monitoring station.
Most alarm monitoring contracts typically carry term lengths (1, 3, 5 year terms) and once the contract is up, they are free to choose a new alarm monitoring company. The new company would then “takeover” their alarm system.
If you are considering having another company takeover your alarm, make sure to give written notice of your intent to cancel to your current company so that the contract does not automatically renew.
Talking Keypad:A security system keypad that performs normal keypad functions, but also can speak system status and other event notices in plain English.
Temperature Sensor:A security system device that sends an alarm when a preset temperature is reached or a rapid change in temperature occurs. Different from freeze sensors, temperature sensors are able to detect abnormally high temperatures as well as abnormally low temperatures.
When the central monitoring station receives a temperature sensor alarm, the central station operator calls the client to inform them of the dangerous temperature range.
Transformer:A device that plugs a security system into a standard AC wall outlet.
Transmission Control Protocol (TCP):A set of rules to exchange messages with other Internet points at the information packet level.
Transmission Control Protocol / Internet Protocol (TCP/IP):The basic communication language or protocol of the Internet.
Trouble Day/Alarm Night:A type of zone usually assigned to a zone that contains foil-protected doors or windows or covers a sensitive area (e.g. stock room, drug supply room, etc.). It can also be used on a sensor or contact in an area where immediate notification of an entry is desired (e.g. liquor or gun cabinet.). The zone is treated as a trouble signal when the security system is disarmed (daytime). When the central station operators receive a trouble on this zone they notify the customer of the entry but do not dispatch authorities unless requested by customer. The zone is treated as a normal alarm when the system is armed.
Trouble Signal:A signal sent from a security system control panel alerting the central monitoring station of faulty zones, devices, or low batteries. Trouble signals do not usually result in a dispatch, but instead a phone call to the client to make them aware of the trouble and arrange for a solution.
UL Listed Central Station:A common way to refer to a central monitoring station that has demonstrated the ability to provide monitoring service that complies with UL’s strict standards. UL requirements cover building structure, receiving and monitoring equipment, staffing issues, as well as installation and ongoing service. In order to be able to provide UL complying service, the building, equipment and staffing requirements have to be met at all times. However, the handling of specific signals from specific alarm systems is only audited by UL if a certificate is in effect for that alarm system.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL):A U.S. not-for-profit privately owned and operated product safety testing and certification organization. Based in Northbrook, Illinois, UL develops standards and test procedures for products, materials, components, assemblies, tools and equipment, chiefly dealing with product safety.
UL is the leading third-party certification agency for security and signaling products and systems. A UL certification provides the quickest and surest route to product acceptance by regulatory authorities, insurers, law enforcement organizations, government, retailers, and consumers.
UL also provides certification for alarm companies and central monitoring stations.
User Code:A four digit code used to arm and disarm a security system. Certain security systems allow for multiple user codes so that you can keep track of who armed or disarmed the system.
Video Surveillance:A type of security that uses a digital video recorder (DVR) as well as security cameras to monitor a location. Video data is stored on the DVR and can be retrieved in the event of an intrusion or other emergency. Most video surveillance systems give the user the ability to look in live to their property over an active internet connection allowing them to monitor the site from anywhere. A video surveillance system can be used as a management tool as well as a security system.
Video Verification:The process of verifying an alarm has occurred by using security cameras that are in the same location as alarm devices. RSI Video Technologies manufacturers a product called Videofied which is a one of a kind video verification security system that uses integrated motion activated cameras to accomplish video verification. Video verification can eliminate false alarms and secure priority dispatch as the authorities are certain that the alarm they are responding to is an actual incident.
Water Detector:See Flood Detector
Wide Area Network (WAN):Is a computer network that covers a broad area (any network whose communication links cross metropolitan, regional, or national boundaries). Or, less formally, a network that uses routers and public communications links. Contrast with personal area networks (PAN’s), local area networks (LAN’s), campus area networks (CAN’s), or metropolitan area networks (MAN’s) which are usually limited to a room, building, campus or specific metropolitan area (e.g., a city) respectively. The largest and most well-known example of a WAN is the Internet.
Wireless:A connection between alarm devices that does not use wires. Most wireless connections between system devices use RF wireless signals while wireless connections between security systems and central monitoring stations use cellular signals.
Wireless Communication:See Cellular Alarm Monitoring.
Wireless Security System:A security system that uses no wires. Each alarm device reports back to the control panel using a RF wireless signal.
Zone:Each device on a wireless security system is its own zone. On hardwired security systems you may have many similar devices on one zone. For instance, every window contact in the living room may be programmed on the same zone. Zones are used to identify which alarm device triggered the alarm event to occur, so that the central station operators can provide location information to the responding authorities.
Zone Descriptor:A phrase that identifies the type of alarm device connected to a security system as well as the location assigned to that device. A motion detector in the living room might have a zone description of “Living Room Motion.”
Zone Expanders:Provide additional zones for a security system beyond what the control panel has as default.
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