Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is the Canadian Security Association (CANASA)?

The Canadian Security Association (CANASA) is a not-for-profit association that represents the security industry in Canada. Founded in 1977, CANASA works to advance the professional aims, objectives, ethics, and business standards of the industry.

What steps should I take to find an alarm system?

There are some important things to remember when looking for an alarm system:

  • Shop around. Discuss your needs with a minimum of two or three alarm companies. When comparing companies, be sure to make a true comparison by thoroughly reviewing the number and types of products to be installed. If there is a discrepancy, be sure you understand the impact it will have on the overall level of security you are purchasing.
  • Identify your needs. Every home and alarm system is different. As a result, your security system should be tailored to meet both your security needs and your budget. Do not make a commitment to any company that has not visited your home to perform a site inspection/security audit. The company should provide you with an evaluation of your premise, highlighting the measures you can take to improve the security of your home over and above the addition of an electronic alarm system.
  • Ask for references. Find out how long they've been in business. Finally, ask them to provide you with evidence of their expertise or training—for example, have they taken any of the CANASA alarm technician training programs or courses from a local community college?

What should I look for in a security system?

An alarm system is installed to deter and detect intruders. A basic security system consists of both perimeter and space protection to secure your premise. The first stage secures vulnerable perimeter access points such as doors and windows. The second stage consists of space detection such as interior motion detectors, which monitor movement inside the premise. The level of security you purchase is determined by the number of protective devices and the sophistication of the system you will install. Make sure that your alarm company explains what each device can do and how it will enhance the security of your home.

Perimeter detection devices include:

  • magnetic contacts (doors and windows)
  • glass break sensors
  • vibration/impact sensors

Interior detection devices include:

  • motion detectors
  • vibration/impact sensors
  • distress buttons
  • control panel

Control panel includes:

  • key-pad or digital touch pad
  • battery back-up
  • transformer
  • siren

What are some of the different types of alarm systems?
The right alarm system for you depends on your needs. Here are some of the different types of systems:

  • Monitored alarm systems are electronically connected to a monitoring station. When the alarm is on, every entry and exit is electronically monitored, transmitted to the monitoring station, and logged. When an intruder enters a monitored home, the station operator is able to take appropriate action to notify police or private responders. Monitored systems carry a nominal monthly "monitoring fee" to allow for 24-hour service. The added cost is well worth it because it ensures prompt response and allows you to get the best return from your alarm system. In many municipalities, alarm systems are not permitted to be directly connected to police dispatch systems. Therefore it is advantageous to have a monitoring station provide that service.

  • Local-only systems will emit a horn or siren when entry is compromised, but there is no transmission of a signal from your home to a monitoring station. These "local-only" systems do not result in an automatic dispatch of police. People with local-only systems must rely on the possibility that someone will notify authorities.

  • Both types of systems can be either hard-wired (have a wire connecting each device to the central control panel) or wireless (battery operated and transmits signals by radio frequency).

What are some of the alarm system options for people who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Alarm system options for deaf and hard of hearing people include a visual smoke detector with a visual alert (such as a strobe light) and alarms that hook up to a bed shaker. More information on alarm systems and communication devices can be found at the Canadian Hearing Society.

What should I ask my alarm company when shopping for an alarm system?

The following questions may be helpful to you as a guideline in your search for a security system. Be an intelligent consumer and continue to ask questions until you understand what you are purchasing and the level of security it will provide. Reputable companies will answer positively to most, if not all, of these questions.

  • Is your company a member of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA)?
  • What professional certification does your installer have?
  • May I see proof that your company has all applicable provincial and municipal licenses?
  • Will you provide me with a written quotation?
  • Will you provide me with a contract once the system is purchased?
  • Is there a written warranty on the equipment and labor?
  • Will the system be monitored and, if so, what is the cost and who will be doing it?
  • May I see proof that your company carries errors and omissions insurance?
  • How long have you been in the security alarm business?
  • Do you adhere to a false dispatch reduction program?
  • Do you offer any protection for pre-paid monitoring?
  • Will I own my system or be leasing it?
  • Can anyone service my system?

What is alarm monitoring?
Alarm systems can be connected to a monitoring station via a common carrier network, which dispatches the appropriate response authority (police, private guard, fire, medical) when the system transmits a signal. In addition to the response authorities being dispatched, a monitored system may also emit a local siren. It is important to remember that a “local-only” system does not dispatch police.

How do I get my alarm monitored?

In order to receive response to an alarm, you must have your system monitored (24 hours a day) by a monitoring station. A nominal monthly fee is paid to a monitoring station for this service, and can be arranged through your alarm installation company. In most, if not all municipalities, alarm systems may not be connected directly to the police as a result of municipal by-laws.

Do all alarm installation companies offer monitoring services?

While there are a number of companies that install and monitor their own accounts, there are many more that install systems and contract with a third-party monitoring facility. When you are deciding on which company to use, be sure to understand the service provided. The fact that the installing company subcontracts monitoring services is not a negative feature. It is a standard practice in this industry. Because of advances in telecommunications, it is also common practice to have your account monitored by an out-of-town station. They will know how to reach you, your neighbours, or authorities, in the event they need to. Finally, your installation company receives regular reports from the monitoring station to ensure that this close relationship is maintained.

How do I find a monitoring station?

Visit our Directory of Members to find a list of monitoring stations across Canada. Look under the “Installer-Monitoring” or “Monitoring Only” categories. It is common practice to have your account monitored by an out-of-town station.

How can I prevent false alarms?

Consumer error is the number one cause of false dispatches and false alarms. A false dispatch occurs when an alarm system is set off, police are called, and there is no intruder or emergency situation. A false alarm wastes valuable time and money, both yours and that of the police, and may jeopardize the ability for first responders to attend emergencies. Here are some tips to help prevent false alarms:

At home/work:

  • Ensure that all doors and windows are locked when leaving your premise.
  • Correct all drafts that may cause plants and curtains to move, which can trigger an alarm.
  • Insist that the keypad is easily accessible from the exit point and that the arming delay is set for a reasonable period.

With your system:

  • Insist that the installing company thoroughly trains you on your system.
  • Be sure you understand how to operate it before the technician leaves.
  • If you have questions refer to your owner's manual or contact your alarm company.
  • Replace the back-up battery every three to five years.
  • Insist that the system has a simple method for testing that will not result in a false dispatch. Test it monthly.
  • Insist that your system has a cancel signal that an authorized person can use to tell the monitoring company not to send the police.
  • Insist on a service call as soon as possible after any unexplained alarms.
  • Request annual maintenance checks by the alarm company.
  • After any household changes (such as remodeling work or addition of new pets) contact your alarm company to ensure these changes do not affect the system.
  • Ask that your monitoring station uses Enhanced Call Verification.

With users:

  • Ensure that all key holders, caretakers, and other users, such as staff, are trained in the proper use of the system.
  • Never provide a key to someone who is not familiar with the system.

What are false dispatches?

A false dispatch occurs when an alarm system is set off, the police are called, and there is no intruder or emergency situation. Consumer error is the number one cause of false dispatches and false alarms.

What is Enhanced Call Verification and why should I request it from my monitoring station?

“Enhanced Call Verification” means that your monitoring company will try to get in touch with two or more of your contacts to confirm your alarm’s validity before issuing a dispatch. According to the False Alarm Reduction Association, communities that use Enhanced Call Verification have seen reductions of unnecessary law enforcement response between 30 and 50 per cent.

Read the following article for more information on Enhanced Call Verification

What other security measures should I take besides installing an alarm system?
Installing a security system is an important first step in your home protection plan. However, here are some other important measures you can take to protect your home:

  • Keep entrances well lit and trim shrubbery around your home to eliminate hiding places.
  • Lock away ladders so that they cannot be used by intruders.
  • Review your property periodically to check for potential access points for burglars.
  • Ensure your house always looks occupied, even when you are away. Install timers on external and internal lights and ask a neighbour to collect your mail while you are away.
  • Install deadbolts on entry and doors and always lock your doors and windows before you leave.

What are some security options for my business?

Options include access control biometrics, Internet protocol, and more.

A biometric is the automated means of recognizing a living person by either a physiological or behavioural trait, which is unique to an individual and therefore cannot be passed on or duplicated easily. Some of the more familiar biometrics are fingerprint, facial recognition, hand geometry, and iris recognition. Others include voice recognition, retina, signature, finger geometry, typing characteristics (behavioural), and DNA matching. Some of these methods have been superseded but many are still available. Due to the massive growth in the biometrics sector, a number of new technologies and methods are likely to become available in the future.

Internet Protocol

Security systems are changing at an ever-increasing pace and are making more use of standard Information Technology (IT) products running over a Local Area Network  (LAN) or Wide Area Network (WAN), for example across the Internet, where they can  be remotely monitored and controlled. As a result of using Internet Protocol (IP), the opportunity has arisen for manufacturers to develop new generations of equipment from control panels, cameras, and door controllers, to fully integrated systems combining fire, access control, CCTV, intruder and building control systems. These "integrated" systems are often called security management systems as they bring together the management of all aspects of an organization's security.