I tell every body I meet that has a Medical Alert or Security System that it is important to test your system regularly. I recommend to any person that has a Medial Alert device that you test it at least weekly. For Security Alarm Systems I recommend at least monthly. There are several factors for this, the most important is that you need to know how it works and also that it will work when you need it. Many devices work over a cellular radio network and as we all know these networks sometimes fail or have glitches. Even if your system is using the traditional phone line it should be tested on the same schedule. For the simple reason that this may be life safety and if you are relying on your system to work you don’t want to find out it doesn’t work when you most need it.
How to test your system is as important as when. Many Medical Alert & Security Alarm systems communicate to what we call a Central Monitoring Station. These Central Stations work around the clock every day of the year and receive calls from all over the country. They typically have busy times during the day related to routine events. These times are often associated with bad weather, but mostly associated with business hours. Businesses most often have false alarms when opening and closing for the day. Just as homes have most false alarms when people are leaving for work or school and returning. These are not great times to test your systems. The best times are mid-morning, mid-afternoon or evening. You want to notify the Central Station that you are wanting to perform a live test on your system. The reason you want a live test is that you want the Central Station to treat it as if it was a real situation and not a test. So if you have a two-way voice feature the operator will speak to you and verify that communications are ok. Otherwise you would need to call the Central Station back and verify the system communicated. Once you have informed the Central Station you are going to perform a test it is ok to precede. If you have a Medical Alert system you need simply activate your pendant/button and wait for the response. If you are testing a Security Alarm system I suggest you arm your system to Stay or Away and activate a couple of your zones/sensors. You can use the panic button feature but I feel it is best to activate the sensors around your home to ensure they are working. I recommend also activating different sensors each time you test. Then wait for the response. If you don’t receive a response from the Central Station within 5 minutes or so give them a call and see what happened. Sometimes they do get busy and since they know you are testing you don’t get a priority. If they did not receive any communications try testing again and make sure you activate the system completely. For Security Alarm systems it is important to let the system continue in the alarm mode until you are contacted by the Central Station. If you cancel the alarm it might not have communicated completely. I feel it is important for the live test if you have the two_way voice feature. Two-way voice is a great feature because it allows the operator to listen in and speak to you if there is an system activation. This saves time which can be valuable especially in a Medial Alert emergency. Another great feature of the two-way voice option is that you do not need to answer a phone to speak to the operator responding to your emergency. Now may people have the misconception that the person they are speaking to is the police or emergency responders. This is not the case. There was a time many years ago when alarm systems directly communicated with police stations but I am not aware of anywhere this is happening now for residential systems.
If your test was successful then you are all set until you are ready to test again. How often you test is entirely up to you but remember this is life safety equipment and you want to know that it is ready to work for you. It is your responsibility to test your system, not the alarm company or Central Station. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact us or your alarm company. If you have a Medical Alert system or Security Alarm system we recommend that you have your system inspected annually by a professional. You may have to pay for this service but the peace of mind is worth the cost.