Sunday, November 14, 2010

Home Security System

Many people have home security systems.  I am one of them.  I recently changed my system and I thought I'd share my reason why.  Home security systems can monitor burglary, fire, and carbon monoxide.  Your system can be set up to make noise until the system is reset.  They don't send a signal anywhere, they just make noise.  You can purchase systems like this at your local hardware store.  You can also use a professional monitoring system in this way if you do not keep your contract in force.  The second type of system is the type that most people have.  These systems are monitored by a 24-hour monitoring center.  After the alarm goes off they contact either you or the local authorities, or both, depending on how you have the information set up.  It's this type of system that I'm going to discuss today.


I have a system run by ADT.  I do not know anybody at all who works for the company other than the few people that have come out to set up the system.  I had the initial system put in about ten years ago.  Since then I expanded the house and updated the system.  I let the contract elapse for many years since I couldn't see spending the $20-30 a month. 


I was getting a discount on my homeowners insurance for having the system.  About a year ago I realized that if a fire or burglary did occur and my insurance company found out that I didn't even have the system working that they would probably be reluctant to pay any claim since I had in my insurance agreement that I had the system in working order.  Therefore I reinstated my security system and figured that after getting the discount, the system was costing less than $10 a month.  OK, I could go for that. 


The Pac Bell phone service in my area is lousy.  At least once a month the landline goes down for anywhere from several hours to several days.  The power to the lines is so bad that I can't even get low speed Net Zero internet here at the house.  Forget any high speed anything.  I rarely use the house phone and had a separate cell phone that I also rarely used.  (work pays for a wireless internet card)  I decided to cancel the house phone.


My dilemma was over the security system.  How would that work if I didn't have a house phone?  I contacted ADT and they had someone come out to explain it to me.  It was really interesting.  I'll explain the system as connected to the landline.  When you have phone service the security system can work.  If your phone line is down you don't have security service.  Sure the system will make noise if something goes wrong but it will not send the signal to the monitoring service.  If you have a landline, take a look at the wires coming into your house, or onto your property. 


There is a main phone box at the end of my road, about a mile and a half from the house.  There is another small phone box within 500 feet of the property.  From that, the line goes underground to my house.  Once it gets to the house the cord goes up the outside of the house to the connector box.  For those of you that don't pay for inside wiring, this is the spot where the phone company ends their responsibility - I digress, sorry.  Your vulnerable area is between where the line comes up out of the ground and goes up the outside house wall until it actually goes through your wall to the inside of the house.  If the "bad guy" cuts your phone line with a wire cutter, scissors, a knife, clippers, or whatever, your phone system is dead, which means your security system is dead.  Bottom line, for all those people who put monitoring stickers around the property and on their windows, why don't you just put up a sign that says cut my phone line and you are in?


There is more to the story.  Let's say that the burglar forgets this simple technique of getting around your slick monitoring system (yes I know it will still make noise, but if you aren't home do your neighbors really care, or can they hear it) or better yet, you don't have any outside phone wires because they are all underground and comes up in some secret location that the burglar can't get to.  What if the burglar gets into your house, opens up your closets quickly to find where the panel box is in the house?  They can unhook the phone wire at that location and stop the phone call to the monitoring company.  Less likely scenario than cutting the wires from the outside of the house but it can happen.


Even if nobody trips the alarm a notice is sent to the monitoring company every time the system is was activated or deactivated.  For example, you set the alarm and leave.  The alarm company gets a notification through your phone line.  You come home and turn off the alarm.  Another notification gets sent that you turned off the alarm.  They know your every move.  Very intrusive, but you hope that they aren't working against you (or the government isn't using their records to figure out when you are home and when you aren't).  When you get back home and you go to turn off the alarm system you usually get around 30 seconds to turn it off.  After the thirty seconds if you successfully shut off the system, the alarm won't sound but you the system will still send a notification to the company that the system was turned off.  If you don't turn off the system then the alarm will go off and the notification sent is that the system wasn't shut off properly and there is possibly a break in.  Depending on how slow the phone system is, the alarm company may not get the phone call for almost one minute from the time the burglar actually breaks into your house.  I've heard of places where the burglars are in and out within a minute after knowing where to look for valuables by either looking through windows or by having a floor plan of your house (either it's a tract home or courtesy of the county planning department's public files).  


ADT offers another option which costs about $100 to install, although I was able to talk them into a $25 install, and it adds $7 a month to the bill.  (Added $7 but I no longer have a $35 lousy Pac Bell landline) I put the alarm system on a cellular connection rather than using a landline.  I don't have it attached to a cell phone; they actually install a transmitter into the inside panel box.  This system is far superior to a landline system.  First, there are no outside wires to cut.  Second, and most important, the length of time that it takes to notify the alarm company is significantly shorter. 


Let's go back to the almost impossible scenario of the burglar breaking into the house and finding the alarm box and pulling the phone wires from there.  They have 30 seconds from the time they get into the house and then up to 30 more seconds to find the box and disable it – a full minute to disable the system before the company is notified.  When it's on the transmitter system, the transmission takes place between two and three seconds after the door or window is opened.  Yes, I said seconds.  So, even if someone opened up your front door and the panel was in the closet right next to the door, the transmission would be sent before it could be disabled.  They've gotten the transmission that the alarm has been tripped.  Once you enter your code into the key pad another transmission will be sent letting them know that you've turned it off.    


To quickly summarize, if you have an alarm system and it's attached to a landline to contact the monitoring service the bad guys can shut down your system before they ever step foot into your house.  It's fast and it's easy, so you may as well not pay for the burglary monitoring.  If you have the transmitter system they can't shut you down unless they take out the cell towers. 

No comments:

Post a Comment