Home Security Vocabulary

To understand home security, it helps to speak the language. Here’s a list of definitions for frequently used home security terms:


Alarm siren – The built-in device that notifies a homeowner of a security threat that has triggered the alarm system. The volume of most alarms is in the 90-100 decibel range, about as loud as a motorcycle or a police siren.


Carbon monoxide – A colorless, odorless toxic gas harmful to humans and animals in high concentrations. Also known by its chemical symbol, CO. Many home security providers offer systems with carbon monoxide detectors.

Cellular alarm system – An alarm system that sends signals to monitoring centers through cellphone towers instead of a landline telephone connection.

Control panel – The keypad that controls the functions and features of a security system.


Dispatch operator – A trained specialist who works with a security company’s monitoring network to keep a lookout for alarm signals and provide assistance to customers in an emergency. A dispatch operator attempts to contact the homeowner in the event of an alarm signal and, if the emergency is verified, contacts the local authorities.

DIY (do it yourself) security – Security devices that can be bought at a retail store or online, installed and monitored by the homeowner.


GSM – A digital cellular network originally developed for mobile phones. Some security systems use GSM in two-way voice features that allow direct communication between customers and dispatch operators.


Hardwired security – A home security system that involves wired connections between the components and the control panel.

Home automation – Technology that lets homeowners control and create electronic schedules for lighting, thermostats, door locks and security systems

Home monitoring – A home security strategy that involves a professional security company electronically monitoring a customer’s property for alarm signals.


Infrared – Refers to invisible beams of light used in motion sensors to detect movement.


Monitoring centers – Call centers with dispatchers and home security professionals that receive alerts when a security system alarm is triggered.

Monitoring fees – Charges paid for home monitoring service. Security companies typically charge the fees on a monthly basis.

Motion detector – An integral component of a security system that detects movement, used to monitor for intruders.


Remote access – A feature that allows homeowners to access security and automation systems through wireless signals. Some features involve short distances (with small devices that can be attached to keychains) while mobile applications for smartphones and similar devices allow remote access from many miles away.


Surveillance camera – A wired or wireless video security device. Different varieties include bullet, dome, infrared/night vision, decoy and hidden cameras. Certain models are designed for indoor or outdoor use.


Two-way voice – A feature that allows a security system control panel to function as a hands-free intercom so that customers can communicate with dispatch operators without having to operate the control panel manually.


UCR – The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, which compiles statistics on burglary and other crimes throughout the nation.


Wireless security – A home security system that uses wireless signals for communication instead of wired connections.

See the resource directory section of HomeSecuritySystem.com for more home security resources.