Alarm System Glossary!

Alarm System Glossary – Various Alarm Terms & Definitions!

This glossary contains some of the many security terms used in describing today’s home alarm systems, types of monitoring communication methods & various alarm components & detection devices.

24-Hour Zone: A security zone that stays permanently active 24 hours a day. These zones remain active without the alarm system being armed, as they are used for non-intrusion detection sensors like smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.

Alarm Device: Is generally some type of detection device or sensor that sends an alarm signal to the systems control panel when it detects a certain type of event, like smoke in a home or a door being opened.

Alarm Event: This refers to an event that was detected by an alarm sensor.

Alarm Monitoring: Refers to a service provided by an alarm companies monitoring station that monitors a security system 24/7.

Alarm Signal: A signal that is wired or wirelessly sent from an alarm sensor to the systems panel which then transmits it to a central monitoring station.

Ambient Temperature: Is the normal temperature in a home environment. This term may be used with PIR (passive infrared) motion sensors as they are designed to detect a higher level of infrared energy (heat) that emanates from a person’s body over the ambient temperature of the room it is in.

ANSI: This is an abbreviation for American National Standards Institute.

Arm: This refers to activating one’s security system so its alarm sensors will detect an alarm event. An alarm system is generally armed in one of two ways, as it can be armed in “Away” mode or “Stay” mode.

Away mode is used when all of the homes occupants will be vacating the residence. In this mode all perimeter detection devices like window & door sensors are armed, as well as any motion detectors inside the home.

Stay mode is chosen when an occupant(s) will remain inside the home. In this mode window & door sensors are armed to detect any security breach in the homes perimeter, but motion detectors are bypassed to prevent any activity inside the home from triggering a false alarm.

Broadband/IP Alarm Monitoring: This is a monitoring service that some alarm companies provide & the alarm signal is transmitted over a home’s broadband internet connection. Some people use this as their primary communication between their system & their central station while others use it as a backup method in the event their phone line is disabled. 

For this type of alarm monitoring a broadband communication module needs to be hardwired to the systems control panel & then connected to an internet modem or to an empty channel on the back of an internet router.

Carbon Monoxide Detector (CO): is an electronic device that detects the presence of carbon monoxide, which is a colorless, odorless & tasteless toxic gas that can cause sudden illness or death. CO originates from the incomplete burning of fuels & can build up to dangerous levels in a home from oil & gas burning appliances that are not properly ventilated.

Having a CO detector(s) installed inside one’s residence is incredibly important & like a smoke detector it can be separate or made part of an alarm system where it can also be monitored by a central monitoring station.

Cellular Alarm Monitoring: Is a communication method that transmits an alarm signal from a control panel to the central station that monitors the alarm system. It is a wireless digital signal that is sent over a GSM cellular network to the monitoring stations cellular receivers.

Many people use cellular monitoring as either their primary communication link between their alarm system & monitoring station or as a backup method in the event their phone-line or internet cable has been compromised.

For this type of monitoring service a GSM cellular communicator is required & it needs to be hardwired to an alarm systems control panel.

Control Panel: This is the brain of every home alarm & with its electronic & computerized alarm circuitry it performs like a central hub or computer for the security system. The panel receives supervisory signals from alarm components & devices, as well as alarm signals from the systems detection sensors.

What features, functions & system capabilities a security alarm supports, is determined by the control panel for each specific system. For a monitored alarm system the panel acts upon the alarm signal it receives from a detection sensor by transmitting the signal to a central monitoring station.

Detector: Any intrusion or non-intrusion security sensor or device that can be installed on a security system & will notify the systems control panel when an alarm event occurs. Some of the more common detectors connected to a home alarm system are: window & door sensors, motion & glass break detectors & smoke & carbon monoxide detectors.

Digital Cellular Communicator: Is an electronic digital device that establishes a cellular communication path between an alarm system & a monitoring companies cellular receivers. A cellular communicator needs to be hardwired directly to an alarm systems control panel, as it is the panel that triggers an alarm condition.

Disarm: This refers to turning one’s security alarm off where all of the systems intrusion detection devices or sensors will not detect an alarm event.

Although entering one’s user code to disarm the system does not deactivate any non-intrusion detection devices in the home like smoke or carbon monoxide detectors. These type of sensors should occupy 24-hour zones where they are permanently active 24 hours a day.

Door/Window Sensors: These detection devices are generally magnetic switches that consists of two parts, a magnetically activated reed switch & a magnet. The designs & configuration of these devices will differ, as there are both wired & wireless surface mounted & recessed model sensors.

Dual Technology Sensor: This is a detection device that uses two different technologies & they both need to be activated at the exact same time or in a precise sequence for the sensor to trigger an alarm event.

Dual tech motion sensors & dual tech glass break detectors were developed to reduce or eliminate false alarms being repeatedly triggered in certain troubling environments.

With dual tech motion sensors (PIR) passive infrared & microwave technologies are used & they need to be triggered at the exact same time. The two technologies used in dual tech glass break detectors need to be activated in a precise sequence.

A low frequency sound pressure wave needs to be detected followed by the acoustical sound of breaking glass. A compression wave is caused by the inward flex of a window prior to it breaking & if this is not detected the sound of breaking glass alone will not trigger an alarm event.

Duress Code: This is a code that one uses if they are forced by an intruder to disarm their alarm system. Using the duress code instead of one’s user code for arming/disarming the alarm system will notify the central monitoring station that an emergency situation exists & they will immediately inform the local authorities of the situation.

A criminal(s) is unaware when a regular user code is not used to disarm an alarm system & when a central station receives a duress code they do not call the home to try & see if it was a false alarm.

Entry Delay: This refers to the time one has to disarm their alarm system after arriving home & when the system alarms. In most homes there is generally an entry delay time of 30 or 45 seconds between the time the entrance door is opened & when the alarm/siren will sound.

EOL (End of Line) Resistor: In a hardwired alarm setup this is a resistor that is placed at the end of a loop, zone or circuit. This termination resistor is used so the systems control panel can monitor & supervise the integrity of the hardwired line that alarm components & detection sensors are connected to.

Such security devices on a hardwired line represent or makes up one of the systems security zones.

Event Log: This is a file of various events that are recorded by the systems control panel like the dates & times the alarm was armed & disarmed. These events can be viewed on any alpha keypad that is connected to the system.

Exit Delay: This refers to the time one has after arming their alarm system & exiting their residence without triggering an alarm condition.

Glass Break Acoustical Sensors: These are alarm system detection devices that are designed to detect the acoustical sound wave frequency of breaking glass. A single glass break detector can protect multiple windows within the sensors range. For info on “dual tech glass break sensors”, see Dual Technology Sensors.

Glass Break Shock Sensors: These are detection devices that are triggered by vibrations that would come from a pane of glass being struck or tampered with. Shock sensors are designed to secure a single window & they are generally attached to the glass they are protecting with a special type of adhesive tape or a small suction device.

Almost all detection sensors of this type have several settings that allow the user to adjust or regulate how sensitive they need the shock sensor to be.

Heat Sensors: These are non-intrusion detection sensors that will trigger a fire alarm event when it detects a rapid increase in temperature. A heat sensor that is part of a home alarm is like a smoke detector where it can also be monitored by a central station. This can be very beneficial when the occupants of the residence are not at home.

Hybrid Alarm System: Is a security alarm that allows one to installed wired and/or wireless components & detection devices. Like a hardwired & wireless system, the control panel in a hybrid alarm supports both wired & wireless security zones.

Keypad: This is an integral component of every security alarm, as is used for entering one’s numeric user code to arm & disarm the system. Keypads are also used in setting up & programming an alarm system.

There are many different types of keypads available, but they can only be installed if they are supported by the systems control panel one is using. Some keypads can greatly increase a security alarms capabilities with the various types of features & functions they can add to a system.

The type of functionality some of today’s keypads offer will range from two way communication with one’s monitoring station to internet access to complete home automation.

Latchkey: This is a communications feature where the security alarm will report to a pager at certain times of the day when their alarm system has been disarmed.

This feature is meant to provide a parent with peace of mind, as it can be setup to notify them when their child arrives home from school or some afternoon activity.

Line Seizure: Is a security feature of an alarm systems communication device, as it seizes a home’s phone line by quickly disconnecting any telephone, modem or answering machine that may be using it.

This is in the event it needs to send an alarm signal to a central monitoring station & it will release the seizure of the line once the transmission of the signal has been completed.

Panic Button: This is a security device that can be setup to trigger a silent or audible alarm when activated. If a panic alarm is triggered a specific alarm signal is transmitted to a monitoring station that informs them an emergency situation exists & they will contact the local authorities immediately.

A panic button can be a remote control device like a button on a keyfob or it can be activated from an alarm keypad. To prevent false alarms a panic button on a keyfob generally needs to be held down for a couple of seconds & with most alarm keypads a specific two button combination is required.

To help ensure a home’s occupants can obtain an emergency police response to their residence if needed, this security feature can be activated without the alarm system being armed.

Pet Immune Motion Sensor: Is a motion detection device that is specifically designed to overlook pets under a certain weight. It is actually the size of a pet that is being overlooked, but they use weight as their criteria in marketing their motion sensors.

There are also dual tech pet immune motion sensors. For info on “dual tech motion sensors”, see Dual Technology Sensors.

PIR (Passive Infrared) Motion Sensor: This is a security device that will trigger an alarm event by detecting infrared energy (heat) that emanates from a person’s body.

There are also dual tech PIR motion sensors. For info on “dual tech motion sensors”, see Dual Technology Sensors.

Panic Alarm: Is a type of alarm that is used to notify a monitoring station operator that an emergency situation at one’s home exists. Central stations that receive this type of alarm immediately contact the authorities in one’s area.

Panic alarms are connected to a 24-hour zone or protective circuit, as this type of alarm event can be activated even without the alarm system being armed.

Partition: This is a part or section of a protected area that can be electronically secured separately from other parts of the same area. Partitioning off a certain section(s) of a protected area so each section can be independently controlled & operated, is a security feature that only some system control panels provide.

Many people choose alarm systems that allows them to setup two or more partitions, as they want to have one section of their home or business armed while the other section(s) remains unarmed.

RJ31X Telephone Jack: This is a special model phone jack that connects to an alarm systems control panel. With the panels alarm communicator it seizes a home’s phone line to connect with a monitoring station when an alarm condition has been triggered.

It releases control over the home’s telephone line once its communication with the central station is completed.

Shock Sensor: See Glass Break Shock Sensor.

Telco: This is an abbreviation for “Telephone Company”.

UL: This is an abbreviation for “Underwriters Laboratories”.

VOIP: This is an abbreviation for “Voice Over Internet Protocol”. VOIP is a technology that transmits voice communications or telephone calls over the internet.

Walk Test: This is an exercise that is performed when setting up the position & operation of motion sensors. When someone walks through an area protected by a motion detector an LED light on the front of the sensor turns on, as this indicates motion is being detected.

Any part of the room where the light does not turn on will inform anyone performing a walk test that this specific area is outside the sensors FOV (field of view). If this is a critical area that needs to be covered by the sensor, the position of the motion detector may need to be adjusted or moved.

Wireless Receiver: This is an alarm component that is generally located inside the control panel of wireless & hybrid alarm systems & it receives radio signals from the systems wireless components & detection devices.

Zone: Each component & detection sensors added to an alarm system has to be placed in or occupy a security zone. Only one wireless security device can occupy or represent a single wireless zone. A hardwired security zone can be occupied by several wired security devices.

For example, all of the window sensors in a certain room or area of a home can occupy or represent a single hardwired zone.

I sincerely hope this alarm system glossary has in some way been helpful & beneficial for you. You may want to consider bookmarking this site as new & updated information is uploaded weekly.


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