November 13, 2023
When evaluating home security systems, one of the most important factors to consider is how quickly local authorities or a monitoring company will respond in the event of an actual emergency. However, response times can vary quite a bit depending on a number of variables. Let’s take a look at some of the main things that influence alarm response times.
Type of System: Monitored alarm systems that use professional monitoring services will generally have faster response times than DIY or self-monitored systems since there are actual personnel responding 24/7. Professional monitoring services aim to dispatch authorities within 60 seconds of an alarm being triggered on average.
Location: Where you live can impact response times from local law enforcement and emergency services. Response times in urban areas tend to be faster than rural locations due to shorter travel distances and higher call volumes allowing first responders to respond more quickly.
Time of Day: Response times may be slower at night when fewer emergency personnel are on duty compared to daytime staffing levels. Late night or very early morning alerts are less likely to be responded to as rapidly.
Type of Alert: Medical or fire alarms tend to receive faster responses than break-in alarms since they involve potential danger to health and safety over property threats. Authorities also prioritize active alarms (still triggering) over alarms that have stopped.
System Reliability: If a particular home has a history of false or accidental alarms, authorities may take longer to respond to alerts from that address until they can verify an actual emergency exists. High false alarm rates can lead to fines or penalties imposed by monitoring authorities as well.
Emergency Resources: How quickly local police, firefighters or EMS can arrive depends a lot on available staffing levels and their distance from your neighborhood. Response times will usually be impacted more by local infrastructure than the monitoring company itself.
Taking all of these variables into account, most professionally monitored home security systems aim to achieve emergency response dispatch within 60 seconds on average and have authority arrival times under 10 minutes. But individual circumstances can cause times to vary above or below those targets.
Let’s examine average response times claimed by some of the largest national home security companies:
Vivint tout’s average emergency response times of under 60 seconds for dispatch after an alarm is triggered with their professional monitoring. They back this up with a $250 guarantee if authorities don’t arrive on scene within 10 minutes of dispatch for a valid alarm.
COVE Security reports their average emergency response time as 45 seconds from alarm trigger to dispatch. They do not provide specific estimates or warranties for arrival by local authorities however.
ADT’s default monitoring package promises authorities dispatch within 60 seconds. Some optional plans can provide dispatch in under 30 seconds for additional monthly fees. ADT does not guarantee arrival times which depend more on local emergency services.
Frontpoint claims average alarm-to-dispatch times are under 60 seconds with professional monitoring. They do not offer any specific response time SLAs or guarantees for authority arrival however.
SimpliSafe uses professional monitoring services but does not provide specific estimates for average dispatch or response times on their website. As with DIY systems, times may vary more widely without stated guarantees.
While response times cannot be fully guaranteed due to many external factors, most reputable security companies aim to dispatch local authorities or emergency services within 60 seconds or less of an alarm activation during professional monitoring. What happens after dispatch depends more on how quickly local police, fire and EMS teams can travel to respond. Overall timely responses typically average under 10 minutes for emergency situations.
To get a better sense of actual response times that can occur, here are some examples reported from ADT, Vivint, and other alarm system users online:
As seen in these examples, professionally monitored systems do typically provide faster dispatch times than self-monitoring. However, arrival response may still vary from 5-15 minutes on average depending on location, resources, traffic conditions and other unpredictable factors outside a company’s control. Overall most users report feeling safe with quick initial dispatch and response times under 10 minutes.
While major alarm companies strive for fast average response metrics, certain factors improve or hinder times depending on your specific setup, location, and emergency circumstances. Here’s a quick breakdown of some key differences:
Professional monitoring provides 24/7 live oversight and dispatch, usually achieving faster average response times compared to self-reliant DIY systems. They offer faster initial dispatch but arrival times depend more on local infrastructure and traffic conditions outside company control.
Response times are generally quicker in densely populated urban/suburban areas where emergency services have shorter distances to travel and higher call volumes allowing for optimized deployment of available personnel and equipment.
Daytime staffing levels are higher so response times tend to improve during typical working hours compared to later night or very early morning when on-call/overnight crews have wider territories to patrol.
Life-threatening events like fires or medical alerts have a higher priority response compared to property crime incidents like burglaries which still represent a threat but not an immediate safety issue.
Landline systems using phone lines may be more reliable than wireless IP or GSM/CDMA versions in some areas prone to intermittent cellular coverage gaps which could potentially delay a response.
Addresses with accurate, low false alarm histories tend to get faster responses since dispatchers can verify danger more quickly without wasting resources on accidental triggers. Frequent flyers get lower prioritization.
Active, ongoing alarms receive swifter attention than alerts from trips which have already ended by the time authorities arrive since the threat level is higher.
Weighing all these details can help you realistically assess the level of protection different security setups provide based on your specific circumstances and priorities. Overall, professionally monitored systems offer the quickest initial dispatch times complemented by generally timely on-scene responses. But no technology can replace prudent safety habits that discourage would-be intruders in the first place.
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