Monitronics monitors all their home security systems in the country through a Monitronics-owned monitoring center in Dallas, Texas. The company boasts a five-diamond alarm station rating by the Central Station Alarm Association International (CSAA).
Alarm monitoring has become an increasing important and complex industry, achieving rapid growth during the past decade. Monitoring has changed from a few operators sitting in a room taking calls to sophisticated, high-tech, monitoring centers with specially trained personnel.
The alarm industry considers the CSAA five-diamond rating given to the Monitronics monitoring business an important measure of the trustworthiness of the operation. CSAA has become an international standard that requires very specific center requirements and backup systems and detailed operating training certifications. These certifications must be renewed annually. Learn more about how monitoring works with the rest of the system in our Monitronics security system review.
How Monitronics Monitoring Works
Your home security alarm panel connects with the monitoring station by landline or cellphone/GSM. If an alarm is tripped for any reason, a signal is sent to the monitoring station. This includes things like a sensor going bad, low battery indication or even a primary power outage. There may also be other actions that occur based on the activating an alarm. The siren may go off, and/or you may receive a text or email message as to what event occurred. These other actions depend on how you have programmed the system.
The monitoring center will react in a particular manner, depending on what has happened. The computers at the monitoring center will automatically bring up a screen with the user’s information including name, address and types of components installed. This includes a schematic of your home sensor and detector locations.
The reaction of the monitoring operator will also depend on any protocols or instructions that the owner has decided to implement. For example, for a medical alert, a user may have predetermined that a particular ambulance service receive notification along with a family member.
Continuing with the medical alert example, the particular client may have two-way voice service. Specially trained monitors operate and respond to the medical warnings. They have a certain level of emergency or first aid medical training along with other communications education.
Other types of signals may trigger immediate fire or police calls. This can also depend, however, on local laws and requirements. For example, some jurisdictions will require verification of the alert. This may take the form of the monitoring center operating determining through video or other means that an event happened to require local response. Other communities and towns may not have this requirement.
Central Station Alarm Association International (CSAA) History
The CSAA is a non-profit trade association that has been in operation since 1950. The CSAA provides education, training, certification, insurance and sets industry-agree standards. The association has legal approval to represent members before Congress and federal, state and local security alarm regulatory agencies.
CSAA started out in Illinois as the Central Station Electrical Protection Association. Later, they changed their name to the Central Station Alarm Association. The association works to improve and sustain relationships with private alarm companies with various entities including:
- Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Agencies
- Federal, State and Local Fire Departments
- Insurance Companies
- Government and Local Regulatory Agencies
- Equipment Suppliers
CSAA Goals and Objectives
One of the primary goals of the CSAA includes lobbying efforts on behalf of the alarm industry. They work to promote and support telecommunication laws and regulations that promote fair competition among companies on the national and state levels.
The CSAA also works to develop, implement and certify standards for monitoring centers, including standards of training for the monitoring center operators. The CSAA has online courses for monitoring center employees and supervisors to assist in this effort.
CSAA has worked to standardize and regularize the training required for monitoring center workers. The association has developed online training modules that most alarm industry experts recognize as comprehensive and appropriate for the type of work monitoring center operators do.
There are two primary courses approved and offered by the CSAA: Level 1 and Level 2. For certification, alarm monitoring companies must have 100% of their first-line workers complete the Level 1 course.
Topics covered in Level 1 include:
- Overview of Operations
- Role of a Monitoring Station Operator
- Communications Equipment and Operation
- Telephone and Radio Skills
- Emergency Procedures
- Alarm Verification
- Underwriters Lab and other Certifications
- Customer Interface
The Level 2 course is a more advanced course recommended for all supervisors and for operators that have passed Level 1 and have field experience. The Level 2 course six modules on more advanced topics:
- Dealing with Irate, Scared, Confused or Extremely Emotional Clients
- Enhanced Customer Service Skills
- Specialty Alarms
- Reading Reports and Troubleshooting Problems
- Communications Paths and Terminologies
- Managing False Alarms and Dispatches
CSAA and ANSI Certification
CSAA has accreditation as an ANSI standards writing organization. ANSI stands for the American National Standards Institute. The ANSI has been in operation for almost 100 years. It was originally founded by a combination of engineering societies and U.S. Government agencies as a private, non-profit organization. ANSI is devoted to developing and maintaining standards for private and public use.
CSAA is an ANSI-accredited standard writing organization. As such, the CSAA Standards Committee works on standards that benefit consumers, regulators and the security industry. Their diverse membership includes international and national members from the private and public sectors. The work together to developed voluntary national consensus technical standards. This includes things such as the number of threads on piping, sizes of a U.S. residential door, and alarm monitoring standards.
The ANSI accredits only a few hundred bodies or organizations to write standards. CSAA has ANSI approval to write standards for the alarm company industry.
CSAA has written standards for the alarm industry’s monitoring sector. Their Five-Diamond certification means that a corporation has met all the requirements set by CSAA. Once a business met the requirement and received the certification, they must be recertified annually to maintain their rating.
The CSAA Five Diamond Certification Program has five pledge agreements that alarm companies must commit to before they can be considered for five-diamond status.
Five Diamond alarm companies must agree to random inspections. This includes quality standards checks by recognized testing laboratories such as Underwriters Laboratories.
Companies must pledge to maintain strict high standards of customer service.
A five-diamond eligible alarm company must use the CSAA online training modules for all operators. One hundred percent of the workers must have taken and passed the approved course.
Five-diamond companies must not only be CSAA members but must also be active participants in CSAA activities.
A monitoring company must strive to minimize, through education and program management, false dispatches.
Five Diamond Certification and Monitronics
Five diamond certification standards are extremely rigorous. Public and private sector members at CSAA approve the certification standards. Only 3% of alarm monitoring centers in the United States and Canada have five diamond certifications.
All Monitronics monitoring personnel have completed 96 hours of classroom instruction as required by the CSAA. Also, Monitronics monitors have eight weeks of hands-on mentoring before operating a desk alone.
Monitronics maintains a 100% redundant backup monitoring center manned 24/7. This is in addition to 100% backup generators and servers in the event of catastrophic power failures.
Five Diamond members undergo an Installations Quality (IQ) Certification process by CSAA. The IQ Certification Board grants the certification after an evaluation process by the Board. The Board is comprised of security, law enforcement, fire department, state regulatory and insurance industry representatives. Specific policies and guideline checklists are followed and a decision rendered as to whether or not a company meets the standards.
Recertification is required annually.
The CSAA has been in operation a long time. The organization has the right mixture of public and private sector membership. Their qualifications for alarm service companies have achieved federal as well as international recognition.
Monitoring center operators, given the abilities of home security and home medical monitoring systems, must function similar to 911 call centers. The level of training and equipment must remain high. Technology continuously improves and changes. Remaining current with the latest industry improvements is also something a monitoring center company must do.
The Monitronics monitoring center, with its five-diamond CSAA rating, has demonstrated a commitment to meeting these modern call center requirements. Monitronics, given the almost universally positive user reviews and center’s BBB rating, indicates that Monitronics has succeeded in providing the best quality service possible.