How Do You Pick A Central Station?

Dealers, how do you pick which central station monitors your intrusion/fire alarm systems?

Is this decision based mostly on cost? (ie: It costs you $5 per account per month.) Is there some rating you look for, ie: '5-stars' or 'UL rated'? What about transmission formats?

I am curious because this is one important aspect of a system that end users cannot control. They pick an installing alarm company who already has a 3rd party agreement in place.

I often see spam promos like this:

They always emphasize price/cost, but performance is a big assumption. This has to be more than just a commodity, right?

In my life as an integrator, we had a central who just plain did not follow the scripts they were given. So one would call the police or fire. Or they wouldn't call the customer contacts. They were the only one we bought on price, and they didn't last long if I remember correctly.

Others offered web portals to make changes and view calls, etc. For both us and the customer. That was revolutionary at the time. It may still be. I don't quite know the state of the monitoring industry.

And one other CS was incredibly flexible, and could do pretty much whatever monitoring, including video, we wanted, with varying response to any of it. They weren't the cheapest but sometimes they simply did what others wouldn't.

Technology redundancy and failover capability, we want a central station that can handle our customers signals during the worst circumstances. The one we use held up during those storms in New England over the past few years with no issues while other central stations were down. We look at their phone system, generators and geographical locations. Typically this doesn’t come with the lowest price tag but it helps us in the long run as customers are often concerned with who will be receiving the signals. The last thing you want is for a customer to lose monitoring during those times as those are often when looting occurs. While Police dispatch is of course slower during this time at least they will be made aware of problems and can respond themselves or we can dispatch private guard service.

Cost is always looked at but first is if they do what we tell them to do. Similar to Ethan's experiances we've had stations that did not follow script or protocol. That is more important than price.

Does anyone rate, review or judge central monitoring station performance?

A minimum would be UL Rated and 5 Diamond. Once you have that, then you can talk costs as RMR is important to Alarm Dealers. Once you take all of this in, then you have to look at overall service from the Station. You also have to look at Station Software. Are they using Bold? If so, you are probably good to go as you can use your same Sedona Office from Station to Station if you change due to service or etc..

Jeremiah, is there a list of 5 Diamond certified stations? I found their overview page, but not a directory of those certified.

One site says that "Of the roughly 2,700 central stations in the United States that are actively in communication with emergency services, less than one hundred have the Five Diamond certification." Is this roughly accurate?

Not that I'm aware of. Once you find your station, you usually stick with that station and not shop around unless it is not becoming a great fit. The reason a majority of Central Stations are not 5 Diamond is because it is probably too much work for them to pass it and too much education. 99.8% of alarm dealers (Being somewhat facetious) have this slogan "Peace of Mind". A 5 Diamond station will give the dealer " Peace of Mind!"

The more accounts you have, more than likely the better cost you get even though it does not lower too much after a certain point. This is why successful dealers stay with their station...unless they create their own station or stations. If your cost is $5 for a station, you probably have a lot of accounts or it is a non 5 Diamond station.

A station with Bold Software is a big deal also.

Here is a list I see SDM made in 2012 Update - list is not just 5 Diamond

I suspect another big problem with CSAA 5 Diamond ratings is there are loads of otherwise reputable central stations unwilling to pay for it because they don't need it or think it means much.

For example, ADT nor Vector Security claim '5 Diamond' status, but those companies don't suffer because of it, do they?

Why would they need it? It is their own customers. They do not need to market to dealers why dealers should chose them.

I believe Vector Security markets to independent dealers (to become Vector shops).

The reason I bring up ADT is because not having 5 diamond status isn't a powerful differentiator to the end user.

I'm not saying your guideline is a bad one (ie: select a 5 diamond CS), but I am asking if it is an incomplete metric (only meaningful to those who earn it) that potentially scrubs out legit monitoring companies.

A good corollary might be ISO9001 for a manufacturer. Not every manufacturer submits to the process, but it doesn't mean that those who lack a certificate are bad because certification is not mandatory.

The end user does not shop for a central station. The alarm dealer is the one that cares about the central station. The alarm dealers service plus the ability to monitor (total package) is what end user cares about. It is in the best interest of the alarm dealer to have a good central station because if any problems arise, it looks bad on you and not the central station.