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Monitoring Your Alarm 24/7 Central station monitoring
is the most valuable part of your alarm system for both you and the Alarm Company that has the pleasure of providing you with
this service. For the alarm user the peace of mind that comes with knowing that help is on the way when needed is always welcome
and often insisted upon. For the alarm dealer, the recurring revenue that comes from this side of the business is what sustains
Monitoring firms come in all sizes. The largest are UL (Underwriters Laboratory) listed facilities with Fort Knox like security.
These facilities have large backup generators as well as the ability to instantly switch your signals to the closest available
station in the case of a natural or man made disaster. There is great stability in doing business with these firms due to
the fact that your account will rarely be sold to another company, who would constantly raise your monitoring rates. Small
alarm dealers use monitoring agreements as a way of infusing cash into their business as often as needed, To them your account
is like stock.
The largest National and International companies are at an advantage because they have a great number of facilities, and are
able to provide local monitoring for their clients. Local monitoring is preferred because you are less likely to loose a signal
if it is coming over a local phone line. An example of this is as follows. Lets say you live in the central US and your alarm
is being monitored on the east coast over an 800 number telephone line. If a storm knocks out the phone lines between you
and the monitoring station, how would they receive your signal for help?
The smallest firms could be a couple of people taking turns watching
a digital receiver in a home office. These are undesirable because you may not be able to depend on them when needed. Your
personal information is also at risk, due to a potential lack of security in this type of facility. All of the advantages
of the large well- funded central stations are reversed when your alarm dealer saves money by doing business with these smallest
Monitoring stations large and small all have the same function. When your alarm is violated it sends a digital signal to the
monitoring stations receiver. The receiver takes only a few seconds to decipher where the signal is coming from and what type
of response is required. This information is than translated by computers and a dispatch screen is shown to the first available
dispatcher. The dispatcher connects to the proper authority and relays your systems request for a response. On most non- panic situations
the monitoring station should call the house before they dispatch to the proper authority. If you answer the phone and give
the correct password they should disregard your signal as a user error. If you give the wrong password, the better monitoring
stations will say “Thank You” hang up and dispatch for a holdup/ hostage situation. This is yet another great
people protector that is built into your monitoring service. If you are not home to answer the call a dispatch will be made and the monitoring
station will begin at the top of your call list in hopes of contacting you or your agent with a warning of dispatch. This
is not so you will go check; it is so you will not walk into a dangerous situation. Looks like another one of those people
protection features when used properly doesn’t it? This process of dispatching and then calling you or the people on
your call list has come under the microscope of late, and many municipalities are adjusting this process. More about ECV (Enhanced
Call Verification ) is posted on the "Experts Know" web-site at the provided link. Your local authority, based on how the
signal is reported to them, prioritizes dispatch responses. Your monitoring company should also have dispatch protocol based
on the signal type.
A request for a response to a hold up or distress will usually take precedence over a burglary signal. A request for an ambulance
should be dispatched immediately and a phone call to the house made afterwards.
A request for a fire dept. response should be dispatched immediately
and a phone call to the house made afterwards. A distress call made by the use of an ambush code or panic buttons should trigger an
immediate dispatch with no phone call to the premise. An alarm signal dispatch that is trailing a burglar through a protected area
Violation- Zone 1 entry, front door. Zone 5 main floor motion detector.
Zone 3 Upstairs hallway motion detector. should excite your local authorities into a quicker response, as they are sure it is most likely
not a false alarm. This type of reporting format is called “Extended Reporting” and while some cities require
it to help prioritize dispatch, most do not. It is always available to you if your control is capable of reporting that way
and you request it. Now that you know about it you should ask for it by name.
The alternative dispatch that would just say “Burglary signal
coming from the Jones residence 123 any street” and would most likely become a lower priority response. A monitoring facility that
monitors alarms for other local dealers as well as their own installed systems needs a way to control the quality of the systems
it monitors, if it is going to have its dispatch requests trusted by the authorities. Some large facilities will monitor only
the systems that are capable of sending the most sophisticated signals. When a company such as this limits the amount of false
alarms it reports, it will earn a better response record. If there are many signals coming into a monitoring station at the same time,
the signals can only be handled as fast as an operator can get to them. The number of trained employees it has on duty will
limit the small to medium size companies. The largest firms have the ability of employing many dispatchers at the same time.
One such company that I have worked with has over 700 on duty every day, every shift. (TID-BIT!) The National average for an alarm dispatch is 13 minutes. The largest firms
can boast a 60- second or less average. Monitoring your alarm is not only its greatest feature, but is also one of the few
services of which I can say with confidence “ You will most likely get what you pay for.” The smallest dealers
will monitor your alarm for sometimes half the monthly fee of the largest dealers. Now that you know a few of the differences
of this end of the business, I would hope you make the proper decision based on your understanding how important this service
is to the protection of you, your loved ones, and your other irreplaceable belongings as well. I implore you not to cut corners on your
choice of monitoring services! (HOT TIP!) Many
municipalities require an alarm permit to be purchased by the alarm user. If a dispatch is made without a permit on file you
could receive a hefty fine or worse yet a failure to respond. Some permit holders are charged a one- time fee and others have
to renew annually. Check with your alarm company if there is a permit requirement in your town. This way you can avoid being
surprised by an unexpected expense. Phone Hookup- Most alarm’s report over your existing phone line. You don’t
need another phone line for the alarm. People that have DSL (Digital Subscriber Lines) can still use their line for alarm
reporting but a filter will need to be installed on your DSL line. If you do not have a phone line you will have to have one
installed for alarm monitoring service, or consider one of the alternative methods of transmitting your signals made available
to you by your alarm dealer. Line Fault Monitor- Many of the high- end alarm systems have a line fault monitor built
in to them. The mid-range systems have the ability to have one added and the low-end systems are often too simple to even
consider this device. The line fault monitor is always on the lookout for an available phone line. If your line goes down
while your alarm is armed it will cause an alarm. This way if a burglar cuts your phone line outside of the house or business
they will hopefully run, due to all the noise drawing attention to their intentions. If your alarm is not armed, there will
be no sirens but the keypad will beep rapidly and let you know that your communication link is down. Many people think that if the phone line
is cut and the line fault monitor goes into alarm there will be a dispatch. This is false because if there is no phone line
to carry the signal it has no way of getting to the monitoring station, unless you have an alternative communication system
as a backup. Instead this type of alarm will protect you if you are at home by:
Letting the burglar know that they violated a system hopefully causing
them to flee.
Giving you an opportunity to call 911 from your cell if one is available.
Allowing you to prepare to defend yourself and your loved ones. Giving you time to
see if all that dog food you have purchased over the years is going to pay off.
Line Seizure- Any quality alarm installer will
take the time to make sure that your phone line is set up for line seizure. There is no additional equipment needed to accomplish
this feature of phone line protection. The phone line is run from your interface jack outside of your house to one of the
closest phone jacks inside. It is then run from that jack to the next and this process is continued until your electrician
during construction or the Phone Company has wired all of your phone jacks.
The alarm installer that is in a hurry or doesn’t know any
better will tap your alarm into the closest phone jack. The problem with this is that if a burglar picks up any of the phones
that are between the outside interface jack and the jack your control is tapped into it will stop the transmission of your
The knowledgeable and concerned installer will run your control phone line directly to the outside phone interface assuring
that it is first on line. They will then run from the control to your first phone jack making it second on line. When an alarm
is violated it will seize the phone line completely for its own use and return service to the house after the signals have
been sent to the receiver in the monitoring station. Long Range Radio-
This is a radio transmitter that is used by many large monitoring firms to monitor your alarm instead of over a phone line.
The Transmitter sends a radio signal to a repeater much like your cell phone does, and the repeater sends your signal to the
monitoring stations receivers in a local station. Many customers that need an increased level of security use the radio transmitted
signal and the phone line transmission simultaneously. This level of protection obviously costs more than the average homeowner would
care to pay. Even as a stand alone system the radio signal is less likely to be interrupted than a phone line that is exposed
outside your home or business. Cellular Communicators- This is a communicator that is wired to your alarm control and processes
the signals over the cellular communication towers. Most applications I have seen for this device have utilized it as a backup
to a phone connection. However I have seen it used as a sole means of communication for the alarm system in a few cases where
long range radio and a phone lines were not available. You would have to purchase the usually expensive cellular communicator
separately, because it is not built into your alarm control. Alarm owners that use Long- range radio and cellular communicators as a backup
reporting device usually have to pay an additional monitoring fee. As an added measure of security, the alarm companies will
often send these backup signals to a separate monitoring central station. This assures two complete dispatch processes from
different operators at different locations, thus increasing the level of security. Opening and Closing Reports- Most
of the average to high-end systems have the ability to report enough data to create opening and closing reports if desired.
Opening and closing reports are named as such, because they are mostly used in commercial applications to log the times and
users that are opening and closing the business. There are different levels of opening and closing reports. Some of the most common
are listed below as examples: (Supervised) This type of report lets assigned code users open and close at will, if within
the specified window of normal activity. It will log the event into a report that can be forwarded to a report manager at
a pre- determined frequency or upon request. If a code user opens or closes outside of a pre-assigned schedule of normalcy
it will trigger a supervisory phone call to a manager. (unsupervised) This type of report lets assigned code users
enter and exit at will. It will log these events and can be checked by a supervisor upon request. I have seen supervised opening and closing
reports used in a residential situation on a few occasions. You can for example contact an elderly relative’s refrigerator
door and have a phone call made to you if it does not open within a predetermined amount of time. Or you can set it to have
you notified if the kids come home early from school. You can imagine how many creative ideas you can come up with if you
(INSIDE SCOOP!) The Alpha Keypads and controls
of many high-end systems allow you to scroll through and read the last 100+ events. By having one of these systems you can
create your own opening and closing controls and reports without having to bear the monthly expense of this service. The small
amount of dollars spent on this upgrade will pay for itself in a hurry.
Paging- Many of the alarm systems have an onboard
paging device so you can receive the time and code user of each event such as arming and disarming when opening and closing
reports are programmed to the on position in your alarm control. You will also receive a code for alarm violations and the
zone or zone numbers that are violated during an alarm breach. You would have to have a digital pager for this to work and
once again your teenagers are going to hate how much you now know about alarms!
Top Changes Alarm System Industry Changes
Will Effect All Alarm Users in 2006
I have made it my business to watch out
for subtle security alarm industry changes over the years. Each and every year I can see these changes slowly take shape and
take hold on the Alarm Companies that provide systems for consumers like you and me.
The majority of these changes in the past went unnoticed by the average Alarm System protected household and business. They
were slight adjustments made by the Alarm Dealers, Manufactures and Service Providers and unless you were looking, you missed
most of them The changes that I have seen take place in late 2005 and
early 2006 will definitely effect you, and if you don’t know about them could cause you great hardship. The first big change is the fact that more and more consumers are switching from regular phone lines to VoIP
(voice over Internet protocol) phone lines. These phone lines are tied to your PC and cost a fraction of what the Bells are
getting for local and long distance phone services. As the majority of security
alarm systems report over the phone lines, any changes in your phone service after install could effect the reliability of
your monitoring service. You could and should send a test signal often, but the problem is that your signal may transfer perfectly
over VoIP this time, and not work when you need it most. The larger Alarm Companies
are refusing to monitor these VoIP signals at all, until the phone companies can prove reliability in signals transferred
over these types of lines. Many of the smaller companies are taking a chance that it will work, in a way gambling with your
life safety. There are alternatives available for you if you have VoIP as I do,
and you can read more about VoIP and alarm systems at the following link:Article posted below this one
The next change that you need to know about is ECV (Enhanced Call Verification).
ECV has been a topic of discussion for years between the alarm dealers, their
governing agencies and the local authorities such as Police, Fire and Ambulance. Did you know that the majority of alarms
are false alarms? Burglars have plenty of victims without security alarm systems to choose from, so dispatches during actual
burglaries are a small portion of them.
The largest numbers of alarm dispatches
from the monitoring companies are due to user error. Home and business owners might set their security system off on accident
and if the phone lines were tied up because they are trying to call in, the monitoring companies would dispatch the authorities.
Or maybe they took too much time leaving and the system went off as they drove away.
In defense of the people who had actual emergencies, many police departments around the world STOPPED RESPONDING to alarm
systems. After many legal battles between the alarm industry and local governments, they agreed to test ECV for a few years
in certain markets and make a decision in the last quarter of 2005 The reduction in false alarms
across the board was astounding! Here’s how ECV works When your alarm goes off your alarm company will have to: Call the premise first and
get a pass-code. If there is no contact with a pass-code holder they must call each
person on your call list, until a live person says “Please send the police" or "this is not a false alarm”.
Very often they will reach the alarm owner on a cell and they will say "I just left there and must have set it off"
preventing a false dispatch. If there is no contact, there is a good possibility that
no dispatch will be made. If a dispatch is made without this ECV, the authorities
will probably not respond! if they do, it will most likely be a response with low priority.
Heres what you can do to help
insure a dispatch is made when you need it Many alarm companies will
be switching to 2-way voice systems as the only type alarm system they will install. This means that as an alarm is triggered,
a microphone opens up allowing the monitoring station to talk to you without a phone call. If they hear any activity in the
house or business, this will be considered a verified response and a dispatch will be authorized. 2-way voice can be added to many existing systems. I would be wary of the Alarm Dealer that does not notify
you of these changes, or at the very least be willing to have a knowledgeable discussion with you when you call to talk to
them about it. Another way to ensure verified response is to have perimeter and
interior devices on seperate zones. If your alarm system reports in "Extended Reporting" it will
show the motions of a burglar with multiple signals, and justify a high priority dispatch.
It is important for you to know that ECV will not effect your panic buttons and distress code. These signals will be handled
as they always were. I would also advise that you take a few moments to call
your local authorities and discuss their alarm response policies with them. This way you are hearing it from the person’s
that will make the decision that may safe a life.
There is no doubt that your Alarm System
is a very important part of your security plan. However it is only as good as the consumer that depends on it, being educated
on its use and limitations. Top Alarms & VoIP Alarm Systems & VoIP (Voice over
Internet Protocol) Phone Lines By Matthew Francis An astounding and
unexpected number of people are dropping their (POTS) plain old telephone system, for the latest trends in phone service,
VoIP. According to Frost & Sullivan there were 100,000 VoIP users at the end of 2003. Just halfway through 2004 the number
jumped to more than 500,000. The draw to such a change is most often cost related. Traditional phone companies charge use fees and by
the minute charges, coupled with long distance fees. VoIP companies are charging a flat fee somewhere between $15.00 to $30.00
US per month, for unlimited calls to anywhere in the US and Canada.
VoIP works by digitizing voice signals from your phone and sending
them over the Internet via your home or business computer. While people are scrambling to make the switch and begin to count
the money they are saving, they may not realize that there is a good possibility that they are cutting the link between their
alarm system and the monitoring station. Another link that is lost in most cases is traditional 911 services, as VoIP does
not capture data for emergency response. When your alarm goes off due to an attempted break in, is no time to find out that the monitoring
response that you have been faithfully paying for is not available for you. The Alarm Company has no way of knowing that you
switched services. You should be sending a test signal monthly, to assure yourself that the system is working properly, no
matter who you are connected through. Be advised that if you are using VoIP and the signal goes through, it does not mean
that it will always be as clear. The volume of traffic on the Internet can and will vary the quality of the digitized signal
If you find yourself intrigued by this revolution in phone services and are dependent on alarm system dispatch as part of
your security plan, you should consider the pitfalls and options.
* If power fails to the premise it is likely that your VoIP will
fail also, unless your PC has a backup power source. * You may not be able to use 911 services. * Your signal may go through giving you a false
sense of security, as it may not work next time. * You may have already switched to VoIP and not realize that your alarm is not being
I myself have elected to utilize VoIP to save money on long distance. I also maintain a standard limited use phone line to
take care of my security communications, 911 and phone backup should power fail. The (limited use) phone line, cost me less
than $15.00 per month and is offset by the savings on my long distance bill.
Cellular communicators are available that will make your alarm call
over any available cellular network. The device will have to be purchased for about $200.00 to $500.00, and an additional
fee of approximately $10.00 per month is added to your monitoring bill.
Some alarm companies offer radio signal transmitted monitoring services,
which do not depend on phone lines of any sort to transmit your alarm signal. The availability of such services is limited
and depends where you live. Alarm companies of all sizes are working with manufactures and providers of VoIP services to find ways to
properly integrate Alarm Systems with these phone communications industry changes. I would expect many changes in the near
future as this does not seem to be a passing fad. Be on the lookout for information on these changes, so that you can always
make an informed decision. Top Not Just for the Wealthy Alarm Systems:
Not Just For The Wealthy Anymore!
By Matthew Francis Over the last 22 years that I have been involved in the
security alarm industry, I have seen quite an evolution. Changes have not only taken place in what type of equipment is available,
but also in how the consumer buys and use’s the equipment. When I first started in
the business, alarms where used mostly for commercial applications. Businesses had to have them to watch over their product
while they were closed. Insurance companies made sure their clients had one installed.
Residential alarm systems were owned mostly by well to do professionals who could afford such a luxury. As the years progressed
people in or near big cities were getting burglarized and wanted to send future burglars to the neighbor’s house by
installing a system in their home. In the nineties large alarm companies speculated that the
potential of the residential market was not being realized. Homeowners were not willing to layout thousands of dollars to
protect their color televisions and stereos because that would be like buying them again anyway. Homeowners would rather gamble
on the hope that they would not be victimized anytime soon. As crime increased almost
daily and alarm companies made purchasing a system affordable, the residential market grew considerably. Many more homeowners
were realizing the peace of mind they could have by protecting their things while they were out. Many that didn’t purchase
a system were getting burglarized and would then of course pay for a high cost system without hesitation, so that they could
prevent the inevitable return. What happened next in my opinion is the biggest change the
industry has undergone. As more homes were being burglarized and changes in lifestyles allowed people to come home at different
hours of the day, the terrifying prospect of walking in on a burglary in progress became all too possible. Burglars also became
so desperate and brazen that they started to invade homes while they were occupied. These types of burglars started to commit
crimes of a much worse nature against the homeowners that confronted them. In reaction, alarm consultants began to change
their focus: alarm systems should be designed and utilized to protect people first and property second. These days most anyone can afford an alarm system. Arm yourself with the knowledge of how to get the best deal
and most protection for your money. There should be no reason that you allow yourself to become a statistic if you don’t
want to be one. The hardest thing you may have to overcome is the feeling that you live in a safe neighborhood. What does
a safe neighborhood look like? Is it possible you may be confusing a nice neighborhood with a safe one? Do you need a system? – Very few people that I have met in my many years of security
consulting knew before they were burglarized that they needed a system. For those that did have the unfortunate experience
of being victimized, I would actually have to talk them out of buying more than they needed. I took great pride in my ability
to calm down the customers enough to learn how to properly protect their family and home from future invasion. This approach
always made my clients very appreciative of my services and would generally result in a long term- user of our monitoring
service and in many referrals. For those that had not yet been burglarized, I found that
the consultations started with their feeling that security was just a luxury they were considering as a tool to protect their
things. I then would show them exactly what was going on in their neighborhoods in the way of burglaries and the always-unexpected
number of sexual predators. This would always surprise the homeowners, unless they already knew that they had moved into an
area that was not so safe. Most people believe that the lovely neighborhood they chose
to live in is safe. Think about it. If a burglar is going to break into a house, don’t they want to steal the most valuables
they can on each invasion? Doesn’t the perpetrator of more violent crimes want to prey on an unsuspecting victim? Please
don’t be so naive as to confuse your nice neighborhood with a safe one. Many people in your neighborhood fall into a
false sense of security and don’t even lock the front door while they are home during the day. How easy is that for
someone to enter through? After showing a potential client how a home security system
would protect their family and themselves from several different types of crimes as well as assisting them in emergency situations,
the necessity of having a system would become obvious to them. If you can afford to install
a security system before something happens to you or your loved ones, or before you have to find out what it’s like
for some creep to rifle through your personal belongings, do it now! You will get much more out of your system if it prevents
these crimes because you are likely to spend whatever you have to after the fact. Does
a free security system really exist? – “YES” there are such things as a free security system on
the market these days and they can even be of the highest quality if you know what to ask for. The largest security firms
own their own monitoring stations and are looking for the monitoring revenues as their major source of income. The Corporation
will usually run the commercial side of the security business and use “Authorized Dealers” to take care of the
residential side of the business. The authorized dealers are independently owned companies
that must meet the standards of the main dealership. Many of these authorized dealers are big enough residential security
companies to do systems solely for the main corporation. The authorized dealer will purchase the equipment they like to work
with and install it for you to their quality standards. After the install is complete the authorized dealer will submit your
paperwork and a request for funding to the main corporation. The main corporation applies a sliding pay scale to your installation
based on your credit score and your happiness over the install when they call you for a quality assurance call. The best install
coupled with the good credit rated customers is funded at the highest dollar amount because the monitoring corporation knows
you’re likely to stay with them for many years. The dealer makes plenty of money for the install and the corporation
goes to work on keeping you happy so that they can earn your monitoring business well past the agreement period. They are
also happy to have their warning sign in your yard, as this is the best kind of advertising.
Because everybody wins when this type of system is offered, the authorized dealer is willing to give you most or all of the
equipment you need at no cost to you. And I do mean give it to you because you own the system, it is usually not a lease.
You will have to sign up for a period of monitoring to get these free systems, but the monitoring is something that you need
and would be paying for even if you already had a system. So the system really is free.
It is with this type of program that the opportunity to work with the best performing dealer in a given authorized dealer
program plays to your advantage. The dealers already get a deep discount on the systems they buy because of the volume of
business the manufacturers get from the main corporation. The ones that place the most systems will get additional savings
on the higher quality systems and components. This means that if you search out the best performing authorized dealer in your
area you will have saved hundreds or even thousands of dollars, if you obtain knowledge of how the security industry works. I have been going off on the benefits and exciting offerings of the large promotional dealer programs. In all
fairness to the independent mom and pop companies, I would like you to know there are some benefits to dealing with them if
you have a quality company in your town.
For some consumers it is much more important
to support their community businesses than saving a buck by dealing with the large corporations. Although I doubt a small
Alarm Company will be able to give you a free security system and stay in business very long. I do believe a smart company
can make you a great offer by adjusting in different areas. Some of these benefits are as follows: They can offer you a lower monitoring rate and still use the services of the large UL listed monitoring companies. They will be more likely to respond rapidly to your future needs as they are relying on local reputation for
future business. They will monitor your alarm on a month to month basis without a
long term monitoring agreement. They will be able to support you and your business, as they
will be more likely to spend the money they made in their own community. All of the things you need
to learn about quality of equipment, how the device’s work and agreement negotiations apply to the small mom and pop
alarm companies as well as the large security firms. Take time to learn these things, by accessing consumer advocate information
sources. Your newly acquired knowledge will go a long way with the local company and the largest dealerships, who if they
want to earn your business, will offer you the best quality they have on their shelves. Top
Contacts Alarm Contacts
Contact switches are magnetic switches used to protect doors
and windows for the most part. There are three main styles that are used by most alarm companies. They are recessed contacts,
surface mount contacts and roller-ball contacts. Recessed contacts
are hidden in the window
tracks and door jams so that they can’t be seen when the window or door is closed. The switch is on the fixed or non-movable
side of the opening and a magnet is placed on the movable side. When the magnet meets the switch the circuit is complete and
the control knows it is closed. Recessed contacts are more complicated to install unless they are placed during the construction
phase of your home or business. A good installation technician can install recessed contacts in your home after construction
as long as they have an unfinished basement, accessible attic or closet to run the wires in. Surface
function the same as recessed ones however they are visible when the doors or windows are closed.
They come in three main sizes being large, small and micro. They come in the colors white, gray and brown so they can blend
in to the door trim or window- sill they are mounted on. Roller-ball contacts
are in the hinge
side of your door jam and the spring- loaded ball is pushed in when the door is closed completing the circuit. These are more
likely to need replacement in a few years as they are considered a moving part.
All types of recessed and surface
mount contacts can be hardwired directly to your control panel or you can get them in a wireless version. Wireless contacts
have a transmitter tied to them or built into them that sends a radio signal to a receiver in the control. The transmitter
is surface mounted and comes in two colors, white and brown. If white and brown are not your desired colors, you can paint
the switches and transmitters to match your decor. Doors
are the most common point of entry
and should be protected by your system. I always recommend contacting every perimeter door in your home or business
can add up in a hurry as most homes have many windows. I have always felt that window
contacts give the homeowner a false sense of security because of the fact that a window has to be opened in order for them
to work. If your window is locked (and it should be) when you are away or sleeping, a burglar has to break the glass or remove
the glass to unlock it. If they break the glass and the alarm does not sound, why would they open the window? Instead they
would most likely clear the broken glass and climb in. That is why your money is better spent on motion detectors and/or glass-
break sound detectors.
If you have children, window contacts can be a valuable tool. They will keep your youngsters
from opening the window for a stranger. And they will also make your teenager sorry you ever read this. (If they tell you
all they want for the holidays is a magnet, the jigs up!) Window contacts are often better at keeping people in than they
are at keeping burglars out. If you do choose to use window contacts you may like the fact that the surface mounted versions
can be set up so that you can keep your window open a few inches for ventilation and still be armed. Top
DIY How to Wire and Install a Security Alarm System (DIY Tips: Door Contacts)
When you are ready to layout your alarm system design, for installation you must first decide where to mount the alarm control.
If you have an unfinished basement, you will be drilling down and running your wires in the rafters to the area that you select
for the panel. Most often this will be the mechanical or furnace room. If you are working on a single story building, you will be running your wires up into an unfinished attic and dropping your wires down to the control.
If you are in a commercial application you will run your wires on top of drop ceilings or along beams or possibly through
exposed conduit. If you are in a place where there is no
place to run all these wires and hide them then you are a prime candidate for a wireless system.
You want to make sure that wherever you decide to mount your alarm control panel, that you
have a device such as a motion detector or door contact to protect it. Leaving the control panel in an unprotected area could
make it easy to circumvent in the event of a break in. Consider running the wires through the basement, and than jumping them
up into a closet, in the protected area of the house. If you are wondering "what about the exposed wires in the basement?
Don't." Cutting the wires would duplicate opening of the device they are running to, and would cause an alarm condition
if the system were armed. If you elect to go wireless on
your system of choice, choose a central location in the home or business that will receive a strong radio signal from all
points of protection. Remember that even on wireless system there are some wires that will need to be run. Most often they
are the keypad, the siren, the power supply and the phone line. Take these runs into consideration when choosing your central
location. Provide lighting for the chosen area, as this will
be where you are doing most of your installation work. Lay out a tarp and place all products and tools and a trash bag in
this area. I have learned over the years to come to my central location to get what I need, and return everything I’m
not using back to this location when I am done with them, especially tools. If you do not run an organized installation, you
will spend ½ of your time searching for a tool, part, spool of wire etc. A tool belt is handy for the tools you will
need everywhere, such as fresh drill bits, tape, wire cutters, screwdrivers, B- connects, a small bubble level, stud finder,
a clean rag, etc. You also want to clean as you go. As you
finish running each wire and installing the device that will go there, take the time to clean up and bring all trash to the
bag at your control zone. Being anal is a good thing, when you are doing a quality installation.
As you run each wire to the control room, measure where the wire is going to come into the
control panel hole, and then add about a foot of wire before cutting it with your diagonal cutters. Place a piece of light
colored electrical tape around the wire about 5 inches from the end and write on the tape with an indelible sharpie or marker
where it is going. If your home or business is under construction
you may elect to pre-wire it for security. Pre-wiring is beneficial in the ability to get every device in the exact location
you would want it. Placing wires and gang boxes before construction is complete, is dependent on your ability to read the
architects plans and understand where cabinets, appliances and electrical devices will be placed with accuracy. If you do
elect to pre-wire be sure to drill your own holes in the wall studs and rafters. Many a lazy alarm technician will run through
the electrical and plumbers holes and think they are getting away easy. The problem is that if an electrician or plumber fails
inspection they will have to pull wire and pipe out to relocate them to the inspector's specifications. They are not likely
to be concerned about your wire, when doing so. The best
time to run your wires on a pre-wire is immediately after the electricians leave and before the insulators arrive. If you are ready to start running wires, lets start with the front
door. If you are going down to the basement you will be working low on the opening side of the door. If you are running your
wires up you will be working on the top of the door. Lets use down for our example. What kind of contact will you be using?
Surface mount or recessed? If you are running wires anyway, why don't you take the time to install recessed contacts so
that they are out of site when the door is closed? Set up your drill with a 3/8-inch standard length drill bit. In the jam
of the door, approximately 4 inches from the bottom begin drilling at an angle towards the basement. Switch to your 3/8- inch
by 12 to 18 inch long drill bit and continue drilling towards the basement, finally switch to your 5-foot long bell hangers
bit and continue drilling till you pop out in the basement. Pull the long bit out of the hole and remove it from the hole.
Poke the skinny end of the long bit down the hole. Go down to the basement with a flashlight, diagonal wire cutters, tape,
marker, staple gun with staples in it, and a spool or box of 22 gauge 2 conductor wire. Strip the plastic off of the end of
your wire about 2 inches. Twist the 2 wires together and thread them through the hole at the end of the skinny side of the
long bit and twist it around itself. Go back upstairs and pull the wire up to the hole. Tie a large loose and temporary knot
in the wire after you get it there, so that it will not fall back in the hole. Leave at least 12 inches upstairs, so that
you can work with the wire. Go back downstairs and begin
to roll out enough wire to make it to your control panel. Staple the wires with an industrial stapler like a T22 along the
beams in a neat and orderly manner from the drop hole towards the control panel. Be sure you are not penetrating the wire
with each staple, if you do remove it now and re-staple. These mistakes are hard to trace after you walk away. Be sure to
make it down the wall stud to where you will poke into the back of your control panel (about chest high) and leave an additional
foot or more of wire before cutting it off the spool. Mark your wire with the tape and marker several inches from the end. Congratulations! You made your first run. Be sure
to gather and return all tools to the starting point so that you know where they are when you need them. Get your 3/8 inch recessed contact and magnet. You will need a drill, (unless
you are using a wireless drill) extension cord, electrical tape, and a wire cutter. Split the end of you wire and strip a
small amount of plastic cover off of each end. Do the same with your contact unless you have the type that has small screws
for the wires to be clamped under. Twist each end of your wire to an end of the contact wire and tape tightly and individually.
After you do each one you can wrap a piece of tape around the whole thing tightly. (It does not matter which wire goes to
which wire as this is a circuit wire, and has no positive or negative side.) Carefully poke the wire into the hole and press
the contact in. Now mark the door in the spot that the magnet will meet the contact, when the door is closed. Stabilize the
door and drill a 3/8 " hole just deep enough to put the magnet in. Repeat for each door you want contacted. We always
suggest that you contact every perimeter door. We will post
additional device wiring instructions on The Experts Know! Alarms web-site for your access. Check Back Soon! as we will be
adding DIY device installation techniques often. Top
Screens Alarm System Window Screens-
Window screens are the ultimate perimeter device. The windows
in your home look as if they have normal screens on them, however the actual screen mesh is an alarm circuit. The frame also
has a contact point in it, so the screen can’t be cut or removed without violating the system if it is armed. The window
can be opened for ventilation and protected at the same time. Now that’s a great perimeter device! (INSIDE
Have your screens put on a 24- hour zone. (always on even if the system is off) You will not be able
to bypass your always on zones from your keypad. You will need to call in with your password when you remove them for cleaning.
Screens are very expensive, (often $125.00 to $200.00 each) for each opening, but you don’t have to do
every window. You can do one on each side of the house or in the master bedroom only if you like the concept of ventilating
the house with fresh air while your system is armed. More importantly think about putting one in your children’s rooms
if you can afford it. The peace of mind you will get from having your most precious concern protected will be well worth the
Some alarm companies will measure your windows and create a brand new screen. More often they will mark
your existing screens as to which window they came from and bring them with them to be re-built. This assures a correct fit
and saves a step so that you will save time and hopefully money. Screens come in different frame and mesh shades and colors
so be sure to review this with your security consultant when you order them.
Screens take some time to have built.
Alarm companies will often wait for them to be returned to them before scheduling your install. Be advised that the screens
may slow your install start time down by a couple of weeks. If your alarm company is willing to install the rest of your system,
and return at a later date with your screens I would do just that. Could you imagine how hard you would be on yourself if
you were burglarized while you were waiting for your screens to be built and an alarm to be installed? (INSIDE
Hold back a substantial portion of your screen money until the screens are installed. No matter how
noble your alarm company’s practices are, nothing seems to put a spring in a for profit company’s step, like money.
When I think of protecting your window with a screen in the same room that is protected by a glass break detector,
while a motion detector looks on at the whole thing, I think of an elderly gentleman who wears a belt along with his suspenders.
It is not a bad idea to overlap your security layers, but you still want to be aware of where to draw the line. A cunning
salesperson can run the register up in a New York minute if you’re not on the studious prowl for redundancies.
Top False Alarm or False Dispatch? I was working on a dealer consultation recently,
and John the owner of the dealership mentioned these thought provoking words. Immediately my mind started working on how comfortable
we have become packaging all security alarm mishaps into the ”False Alarm” category. Not too long ago when the alarm industry was just beginning to enter
the residential boom, the technologies available were not sophisticated enough to keep up with the volume of users that were
installing systems. The available technology was “Relay
Logic” which simply put, was a set of low voltage relays that would open and close when devices were violated.
This simple technology had many drawbacks such as opening the relays during power surges and reverting to an open relay position
when power outages were restored causing a false alarm. Due
to the many false alarms that were created during these early days of sirens and bells going off for undiscovered reasons,
the words “False Alarm” became common.
Today even the least expensive systems rely on central processing units with an array of microchips and artificial intelligence
to process the signals from your home or business. It is rare that alarms go off for no particular reason and the majority
of alarm users can boast never having experienced a false alarm.
Instead of false alarms what we are experiencing these days, are a much greater number of users depending on today’s
alarm systems to protect their family’s and themselves and their homes or business from an abundance of crime. Due to
an increase in use, we are also seeing an increase in mistakes made by the system owners. We refer to these mistakes as “User
Error” in the industry, and they are a result of poor training on how to use the system or user complacency. Some examples of these types of errors are:
Not giving a guest code to a domestic helper, realtor or repairman.
Letting your pet out while the system is armed. Taking too much time to leave the protected area when arming and than driving off. Taking too much time when entering the protected area to enter your code. Accidentally pressing a wireless panic button while rummaging through
your purse. Not knowing your password when the monitoring
station calls. These user errors and many more examples that
are not listed here will cause a dispatch for an alarm that has not been violated by a burglar. When dispatch is made for
these reasons we should not blame the system for doing what it was supposed to do, by calling it a false alarm. Instead we
should label it a false dispatch, so that we can begin looking in the proper direction to correct the problem. As soon as we get use to separating “false alarms”
from “false dispatches”, alarm companies will begin to take more time to properly educate the
end users on the use of their systems. End users will also begin taking responsibility for their user errors and understand
that just as they rely on their systems to help protect themselves and their loved ones, they need to help protect the integrity
of the alarm industry so that the authorities will continue to respond rapidly to their calls for help. Top
Home Security Tips
HOME SECURITY TIPS Arm your alarm system even if you are leaving for a couple of minutes.
When traveling put your
office address and cell phone numbers on your luggage tags. A baggage handler will know that you are not home.
Remove all address information from your parked car at the airport. Anyone
who breaks into your vehicle would know you are not home and have your address and garage door opener.
Don’t hide keys outside your home, as they will be found. Leave a spare with a trusted neighbor
instead. If your last name
is posted on your mailbox, a burglar can get your listed phone number from information. By ringing your phone with no answer,
they would be able to assume that you are not home.
Turn down the volume on your answering machine
so that burglars can’t hear that no one’s home if the phone should ring.
Place timers on a few of your inside lights
to give the appearance that someone is home. It is always smart to vary the time every few days so that a pattern is not realized,
if you are being cased. X10 makes a variable timer that will change the timing for you automatically.
out of a hotel keep the key cards, take them home with you and destroy it by cutting it up, especially through
the electronic information strip!", a lot of valuable personal information on it that could be easily lifted off with
any simple scanning device card reader. Hotels save money by reusing them but it is illegal for them to charge you if you
Leaving ladders and tools outside your home can trigger a burglar’s impulse, even if that
was not on the schedule today.
A quality deadbolt
lock on all perimeter doors is always your first line of defense. A door is most often the point of entry for an intruder.
If you don’t have a quality lock the perpetrator knows that a good blow will break the non-fortified wood that is holding
the door lock cylinder in place. A quick entry and closing of the door hides the damage, as it will be on the inside.
If you see signs of entry, DO NOT ENTER the house. Go to the neighbors,
to call for help and be on the lookout for strange cars or people near your home.
If you just moved in to your home or business,
you should change the key cylinders on all locks, as you don’t know who has a copy of the key.
Cut the cord handle
off your electric garage door openers. It’s easy to push the top of your garage door in enough to put a wire hanger
in and hook the release handle. By pulling on the handle, a burglar will override the screw or chain drive and be able to
manually lift the overhead door. Once protected by the privacy of your garage, entry to the home is inevitable. Be sure to
leave just enough cord so that you can use it from inside if needed, but not enough to reach the top of the overhead door!
light. You should replace outside perimeter lighting with motion activated lamps. These are very inexpensive these days and
readily available at most hardware and electronic stores. The protection they will provide coupled with the convenience of
having a well lit area to come home to, make them a must have.
When you are leaving your home for daily routine,
be sure to vary times and direction of travel. Your repetitive actions are a gift to potential burglars who are always on
the prowl for their next victim.
Remove or place a light on shrubs that can easily conceal a waiting burglar from site.
When you buy new
appliances like televisions or stereo’s and computers be sure to hide or destroy the boxes. New valuables are an invitation
to a burglars, already distorted senses.
Don’t ever tell a stranger that you are home alone.
Install a peep
hole viewer, if you do not have a convenient window to check who is at your door before opening it to a stranger.
If someone asks
to use your phone for an emergency take the information through closed doors and inform them that you will make the call for
Always keep your cell phone in your bedroom with you. If the phone lines are cut you will need it to call for help.
a purse, wallet or laptop on the counters that can be seen from a window. This will almost always trigger a forced entry.
without corresponding security company stickers on the windows, may lead a passing burglar to believe that you don’t
really have an alarm system installed.
Don't leave notes on the door telling someone that you are
not home and what time you will be back.
Controls are the Brain of your Security System,
Yours When Choosing One)
The alarm control is the brain of your security system. It is typically placed in an area that is out of the
way like a basement, attic, closet or office. The motherboard and additional components such as radio receivers, backup power
supply and zone expanders are inside this metal box, which is often locked. You will have little or no interface with the
alarm control. Your alarm technician will need to access this unit to program it and wire it to general standards, or your
There are many manufacturers of alarm controls. Each manufacturer will also produce several models within a particular product
line. Alarm companies purchase direct from the manufacturer or more often buy their products through one of a few available
alarm distributors in their area. These distributors and manufacturers do not sell product to the non- professional consumer.
You can buy this equipment on line if you have the ability to install it and service it yourself. As a general rule the controls
that are most dependable and have the most programming options are more costly. I will teach you how to get the best control
you can find as this will greatly affect your ease of use and your ability to have your alarm adjusted to fit your lifestyle. In the interest of
keeping this device as understandable as possible for you, I will forgo the intense and hundreds of differences among these
units and I will break them into a few categories that should make more sense to you.
BASIC There are many basic units available to the alarm dealer. They will often use these units knowing that the
average consumer does not know the difference, and they will stock them at very little expense. A less qualified installer
can also install these basic units, because there are few or no programming and wiring options. (HOT TIP!) What you should be most concerned about when it comes to these basic
units is that we professionals refer to many of them as “ CROWBAR SYSTEMS.” These systems come
as a control, keypad, siren, communicator and backup power supply all built into one unit. If a burglar breaks into your place
and hears a siren coming from this unit, they are going to take the proverbial crowbar and smash it off the wall. At this
time you would no longer have a control, keypad, siren, backup power supply or communicator to call for help. A lot of good
that would do for you! Now that you are educated in the pitfalls of a self contained unit I doubt that anyone will be able to sell
you one, or even give you one for that matter. AVERAGE The majority
of systems that professional alarm companies install fall into this category. They are dependable for the most part based
on how long the model has been on the market. Some of these manufacturers have stuck with their dependable product lines for
well over 20 years. Some of the newer models have nice new features but when it comes to mid-range units I have always avoided
turning my clients into product testers. These units are comprised of any number of separate components that are wired together
to make your complete system. This way if someone knocks a siren or keypad or any other component off the wall the alarm still
does what it needs to do. The control panel in this range typically comes with at least eight zones. Zones give you the ability
to use all or part of your system; you will also be able to pinpoint with some accuracy where a violation has taken place.
An example of using part of your system would be as follows: *You are staying home and want only your perimeter devices on and your interior
devices off. * You are lounging in the back yard and want to go in and out of the back door so you bypass that
door and motion detector while protecting the remainder of the house.
* You are leaving work for the evening and your employees are staying
late so you bypass the work area and arm the office so no one can enter that area. When choosing your alarm company avoid
the dealer that has many brands and models available to you in this range. That could mean that they are buying whatever is
on sale that week from the distributor. The dealer that has used the same model for many years is more proficient when it
comes to installing, programming options and servicing of that model.
HIGH END If you know what you want in an alarm system and
realize that these high-end systems can be programmed to do exactly what you want them to do for many different scenarios,
you would settle for nothing less. All of your presets can be activated usually with the touch of one button. It is my experience
that all of the many different features of these type of controls are designed for ease of use by the end user (That’s
You!) and not the alarm dealer. They come with many zones so you have complete control over every aspect of your protection.
These units can even be serviced remotely when changes are requested saving everyone time and money. It takes a more qualified professional
to properly install, find out what your requirements are, program the alarm to fit your lifestyle, and then teach you how
simple it is to operate. I would assume you are like me and want the best-qualified installer you can find to work inside
(HOT TIP!) Find the dealer that places the
highest number of installs in your area. Because of the volume they buy in, they will get the high-end equipment for the same
price the rest of the dealers pay for the average equipment. They should always be willing to use the high-end equipment without
extra cost to you, because it sets them apart from the others and due to the quality of equipment, they don’t carry
the expenses of maintaining a large service team.
WHO CAN YOU CALL? BBB, Burglar Alarm Associations (both local and national), State licensing authority or my favorite
the promotions or sales manager of your potential alarm dealer, and let them know you know the difference! Lets look at a typical zone
layout for a control panel so that you can understand the way it is wired and programmed works. ZONE 1- (DELAY) This
zone is where the doors from which you most often enter and exit are. When you turn your alarm on, the exit delay will start
a timer (programmed to your specifications, if requested) allowing you time to get out. Once the exit time has expired, (usually
about 30-60 seconds.) the alarm will be in the on or “armed” condition. When you return to your home or business and enter
through the delay doors an entry timer begins. This timer is usually set at about 15-30 seconds. You do not want to have a
long entry time as a burglar entering through a delay zone has the same amount of time in your protected area before the alarm
goes off. During this time you would go to the nearest keypad and enter your code to turn your alarm off. (IN THE KNOW!) The delay doors have a chime feature that can easily be turned on or
off. Most people elect to leave this feature on all the time, so that they can hear a tone when the alarm is off and someone
enters. The high-end systems can be programmed to have a different tone for each door. If you can spare a zone have your delay
doors put on separate zones as opposed to having them share one, and request that your control be programmed for different
ZONE 2- (INSTANT PERIMETER) This zone would be for other than delay doors. The back yard door and the master bedroom to deck doors are good examples of these types of doors.
There is no delay timer on these doors and when the alarm is on and entry is made the alarm will go off instantly. ZONE 3- (INTERIOR)
This zone is for your motion detector on the main floor. When you enter through a delay door the motion will delay also, giving
you the ability to get to the keypad to turn off or “disarm” your system. If you do not enter through a delay
door first and the motion sees you it will go into an alarm condition instantly. When you are staying home or arming your
business system without leaving, you can arm your system in the stay mode. This will bypass your interior zone or zones allowing
you to move around without restrictions while still having your perimeter secured. ZONE 4-(INTERIOR) This zone is for your basement motion detector. It will function the same
as your main floor motion detector. (HOT TIP!) Most
alarm technicians will put multiple motion detectors on a single interior zone. I like to be sure these are separated, so
that you have the flexibility of deciding which stays on and which are bypassed, when armed in the stay mode. This would be
handy if you have an unfinished basement with windows, and you have no need to access that area while armed in the stay mode.
This also gives you pinpoint indications of which area has been or is being violated when the alarm sounds. ZONE 5- (INSTANT)
This zone is for basement or lower level door or window contacts.
ZONE 6- (INSTANT) This zone is for main or upper
level window contacts.
ZONE 7- (INSTANT) This zone is for main floor glass break detectors. ZONE 8- (FIRE) This zone is for
smoke and heat detectors. Any zone that is designated as a fire zone is on 24 hours a day even if the alarm is not armed. As you can see there
is great flexibility in the way your alarm control gets set up for you. In all my years in the business I have rarely seen
an alarm company discuss this with the customer. Typically they will create a general setup standard and tell the client this
is how this works. Understanding that you should be involved in this process helps you design a system that fits into your
lifestyle instead of having to adjust your lifestyle to your new alarm system.
This is yet another reason to be sure you are getting the most bang
for your buck when selecting an alarm control. (INSIDER INFO!)
The alarm installer most likely has the ability to program a lockout code into your alarm control. This code prevents a different
monitoring or service company in the future from re-programming your system, rendering it useless unless you do business with
the installing dealer. Insist on “NO LOCKOUT CODE” in writing from your installing dealer. This way they have
to earn your future business, leaving your freedom of choice intact.
Hardwired Systems vs. Wireless- Hardwired systems
are those that have the devices wired directly to the control. Wireless systems send radio signals to a receiver in the control,
which processes the signals. There is nothing more dependable than a pair of copper wires to send a signal from point A to
point B. I would recommend a hardwired system over a wireless system in all instances where one can be installed. However
there are times when the only thing that can be installed in your place is a wireless or “radio frequency” system.
is no basement or a finished one, and there is no accessible attic to run wire through, you would have to go wireless to have
your system installed. In the wireless world there is a great range of quality available. Wireless equipment is more costly
than hardwired equipment in general because each device has a radio transmitter built into it or attached to it. If you need
to go wireless make sure you are getting the highest quality radios available. Some use common frequencies like 900 megahertz
and others use licensed frequencies to transmit signals. The latter is the better one because there is little that will interfere
with the signal. Some of the things that could interfere with the common frequencies are airplanes, CB radios, cell towers
etc. A good way to look at the differences in the quality of wireless equipment
is to think of a wireless home telephone. The cheap $20.00 unit uses common frequencies. It works, but often has static and
drops out. Sometimes you hear a neighbor with the same phone frequency talking. The range you can wander from the base is
often less than desirable. The $100.00 unit makes all the difference in the world and, although you hated spending the extra
money on the replacement, you appreciate the quality gained. I would rather not have an alarm system at all, before I would have one that
I don’t use because it is always going off for no apparent reason. The high- end wireless equipment is extremely dependable
and you must be prepared to spend a little extra to assure you are at this end of the quality spectrum. (FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION!) If you have an area such as a basement or accessible attic to run wires
in, and your alarm company wants to sell to you or give you a wireless system, consider not doing business with them. They
are most likely going to use low quality, inexpensive wireless equipment and also save on the cost of installation. A wireless
system takes less time for workers to install because they don’t need to take the time or to have the skill to hide
Wireless equipment has several other shortcomings that are unavoidable no matter what the quality of equipment you get: * The transmitters
are large and having one on each of your doors is not as aesthetically pleasing as the small hardwired devices. * The transmitters
have batteries in them that have to be changed periodically. * Many wireless systems will not tell you if a transmitter is not working,
so you have a false sense of security. * Wireless devices are frequency and brand specific so they must match the manufacturer of the control.
Updating your control in the future could thus render all your devices useless or restrict your choices in control features.
devices of any brand with a few exceptions can be wired directly to any brand control. So if you are upgrading an existing
hardwired system you will most likely be able to use the old contacts, motion detectors, smoke detectors, glass break detectors,
One advantage of wireless equipment is that you can place devices exactly where you want them in what would be a complicated
hardwire situation. There are great high quality systems at your disposal if a wireless system is a necessity for your installation.
also add a wireless receiver to any hardwired control at any time, so that you can transmit one or several devices to it.
We call this a hybrid system, since it is now both hardwired and wireless. Reducing the amount of wireless devices on your
system will reduce your cost and increase your dependability. The same rule applies to a wireless system since you can hardwire
in any device that you can get a wire to. Be advised that even if you have a wireless system, there are still a few things that must be hardwired
to it, such as the keypad, power transformer, sirens and phone line. This may restrict placement of the control panel to an
area that is wire accessible to all of these devices. It is worth repeating. There is nothing more dependable than a pair
of copper wires to send a signal from point A to point B. If any wire would happen to get cut, it would open the circuit causing
an alarm if the system is on. Compare Apples to Apples- As you
can see there is, as with most things in life a great range of quality available to you when choosing an alarm system and
its components. Taking the time needed to compare all features of each component of your proposed alarm system will always
be to your advantage. Most any alarm consultant will jump to the high end of available equipment, if their potential customer
is asking for the differences to be explained. Top
2Alarm System Keypads
is the device you and your loved ones will interface with daily. It is typically placed at one or more of the following locations: * House to garage door hall.
* Front door * Master bedroom * Inside garage
You need at least one keypad to communicate with the control panel. If you elect to have only one keypad you should have it
installed as close to the door you use most often as possible. Even if you or others sometimes use a different door, you can
put it on its own delay zone and have a longer entry time to get to the keypad from that door.
There are different levels of keypads available for each model of control panel. The one that the dealer uses as their basic
model varies by company. The choice of keypads is usually made for you as sales persons tend to stay away from technical discussions
even if they do know the difference. If you know that you have a choice and find out what your options are you can make sure
that you get the keypad that will work best for you. Following is a general list of the main differences: * LED- (light emitting diode) This keypad has many lights to tell you what is happening such as a green light
for ready to arm, a red light for armed, a yellow light next to a zone number to show you which zone is open if it is not
ready. * LCD- (liquid crystal display) This keypad uses a display window to tell you
what is happening such as “System armed”, “Zone 4 open” * ALPHA(alpha-numeric readout) This Keypad can be programmed
to give you descriptive readout of what is happening with your system such as “Tommy’s window is open”, “Alarm violation, Basement Motion” * Large display area is important so that you don’t have to squint to read it. * Some windows are not back –lighted so you have to turn a light on to see what’s happening. Make
sure your window and number keys have lights built in. * One touch arming lets
you turn the alarm on the way you want without entering a code such as Away, Stay (bypass motion detectors), Instant (Make
delay doors instant) etc. * Exit buttons on some keypads allow you to open a door
for 30 seconds if the alarm is on. This is handy for letting your pets out and back in without having to disarm the system.
This is also a great feature if someone in the house has to exit in the middle of the night.
* Panic buttons for Police, Fire and Ambulance are on most keypads. Make sure you don’t have to contort your fingers
into strange configurations to use them. The better-designed keypads are the easiest to use.
* Your keypad should have the ability for the alarm owner to program in a code for each user. Some people use one general
code for the whole family and have a different one for the real estate agent, builder, maintenance companies, boy or girlfriends
that they don’t expect to be around that long, baby sitters and so on. You can easily remove a code at will, and the
more sophisticated systems have a timer on how many times a particular code can be used before it erases itself if desired.
Having different codes for employees at your business is important for obvious reasons and many high-end systems can track
what time a code user entered and exited. Some like this feature at home to track what time the cleaning service or their
teenagers entered and exited. (you would need an alpha keypad to read such information) Some systems can hold up to 40 different
code users. * A “distress code” should be able to be programmed
into your system. This is a code that will be easy to remember for the whole family. When the system is turned on or off with
this code it simulates normal function while notifying your monitoring company that you are in a hostage situation. Almost
all systems have the ability to have this programmed in and it amazes me how many people I have consulted that didn’t
know they had a distress code. Make sure this is discussed when you are choosing an alarm, as it is one of your systems greatest
features. (HOT TIP!) Write your distress code on the inside of your keypad cover door with a marker so that it is there as a reminder
for you at possibly the worst time of your life. If a burglar breaks in and sees this code they will think to themselves “look
how stupid these people are to write their code down” and they will turn your system off. A dispatch will promptly be
made to your local authorities as a hostage situation or holdup in progress. This is the highest priority response you can
get. Who’s stupid now? Lets take a look at how easy it would be to use your keypad
by reviewing some common every day scenarios. The flexibility and complexity of how your keypad can be programmed often scares
people into thinking that an alarm would be hard for them to operate. It is important to remember that once your alarm system
is set up to your specifications by your installer, it is quite easy to use. Most of the keypads on the market are designed
for use by anyone who is older than 7 years old. The systems will even have your bypass requirements for motion detectors
and interior traps pre-programmed so you can make several things happen with the push of a well- defined button. When I think about how many pages of paper it would take me to create scenarios for every keypad on the market,
I envision an empty forest somewhere with no wildlife in it. In an effort to show you how easy your alarm is to use I will
give you a general set of situations that would pertain to my system of choice. The slight differences you might see if you
used a different keypad are often subtle things like having to press two buttons instead of one. So in the interest of me
doing my part for earth conservation today, I will limit myself to a general use mode.
Leaving the house- If all the devices on your system are ready to be turned on meaning doors are closed, windows are closed,
nobody is walking around in front of a motion detector etc. Your system will display “Ready”. If any thing is
not ready on your system your keypad will display its location so that you can know where to go to make it ready. The keypad
would say “Zone 2 open” or “Back door open” if you have an Alpha keypad. If multiple areas are not ready it will scroll through all of them. Press “AWAY”- This will tell the control that you are leaving the house and want all devices including
the motion detectors armed. The keypad will begin to emit a beep at 1-second intervals. This is your systems way of saying
to you “Have a great day, goodbye!”
The exit counter is usually set for approximately 60 seconds but can be longer if your lifestyle requires a longer exit time.
Once the exit time has expired your system is “ARMED” and is protecting your house or business. Returning home- When you come home you will enter through a door that has been pre-assigned as a delay door.
As you open the door the keypad emits a steady welcome home tone. This entry delay time is usually set for approximately 30-seconds
but once again can be tailored to your lifestyle. The system needs you to enter your complete code (3 to 8 digits) to turn
off your system so it will not go into an alarm condition. If you entered through a
delay door first the system will let you walk in front of a motion detector if needed to get to the keypad, for the complete
entry delay period. Turning your system on for the evening- When you are staying
at home you will want to turn on your perimeter system but not your interior devices such as motion detectors on the main
floors. Press “STAY”- This will let the system know that there will be activity
inside the home so it will turn off the assigned motion detectors and any other interior traps you may have. It will arm the
perimeter doors, windows, glass break detectors and any other perimeter devices you may have.
In the STAY mode the system knows nobody is leaving so it does not emit a goodbye countdown from the keypad. If nobody leaves
through the doors within 60 seconds or so, the system will remove the entry delay time from your usual delay doors. This means
that if someone opens even a delay door while you are armed in the stay mode the alarm will sound instantly. If someone does
leave within 60 seconds or so, the system will activate the entry delay so they will get a welcome home tone and time to disarm
upon their return. Disarm in the morning- When you are ready to turn your alarm off
simply enter your code. The red armed light turns off. Returning home to a
violated system- If your system was violated while you were away the siren will sound for a pre-programmed period of time.
After this alarm time expires the systems will re-arm preparing for a second attempt. When you return home the keypad will
be emitting a high pitch and rapidly beeping tone. The keypad will also tell you where the security breach occurred in the
order of violation. If you hear such a tone on your return you should LEAVE IMMEDIATELY! as the burglars may still be in the
house. Go to a neighbor’s house and make sure the authorities clear your home as safe to enter before re-entering. When
it is safe to return just enter your code to reset the violation alert. This is yet another way
that your system protects people as well as property. This feature coupled with the distress code is for me the best reasons
to have a system. When you are thinking about what is irreplaceable in your home I hope you are placing your loved ones and
yourself at the top of that list. On the lighter side there is the opportunity to eliminate
another future worry from your life. There is nothing better than returning home and knowing as you unlock your door that
nobody has been or still is in your house. If you open the door and hear a normal welcome home tone, all is well. If your
keypad was removed forcefully by an uninvited quest, you will not hear your tone and you will still suspect that something
is wrong. The scenarios I have just gone over with you will pretty much cover your daily
use of your security system. As you can see the system is not complicated for you to use. The Percentage, by which you decrease
your likelihood of being a victim, far exceeds the inconvenience of having to learn something new. Top
Alarm System Motion Detectors
Passive Infrared Motion Detectors- These detectors are also known as PIR detectors.
The technology they utilize is “passive infrared”. The device is mounted on a wall or in the corner of a room.
It sends invisible fingers out into the covered area in several layers. The top layer goes the furthest and averages about
60 feet straight ahead and 35 feet on the sides. The center layer of beams spreads
the area about mid way and the bottom layer sweeps the room closest to the detector. These beams individually measure the
infrared temperature of what ever they land on and look for a clash of temperature against that point. For example if a beam
lands on your couch and knows what temperature it is, when you walk in front of the couch your temperature is different and
causes a violation. You would be hard pressed to match the temperature of everything in your home as you walk about and that
makes motion detectors hard to compromise. Passive motion detectors have a microchip in them that will adjust the device for slow and methodical
temperature changes. This way as your room warms up and cools down during an armed alarm period, you will not get a false
Some motion detectors are designed to be mounted in the ceiling and spread a 360-degree cone downward. Some are recessed to
replicate an electric outlet and various other combinations are available for the James Bond like clients. Most often the
device is an aesthetically pleasing small device that is mounted 5-7 feet high in the corner of a room. Passive infrared motion detectors
will not see through walls or windows as they will consider touching one of them as their final destination and begin calculating
the temperature. The beams project forward only and will not bend around corners. If your device is placed where a beam can
go into an area with an opened door, it will protect the interior of that area as well. Once the door is closed the beam will
terminate on that door. Motion detectors are not going to protect every square inch of your home or business unless you invest in
many of them to accomplish that. Instead you should intelligently place them as an interior trap in an area or areas most
likely to be violated by the creep or creeps that want to take your belongings or worst off violate you personally. Usually
one placed properly on the main floor and one on the lower level if you have one, will serve as good traps. Stairways are
often a good thing to consider when placing the device, due to the fact that you will prevent unauthorized passage from one
floor to the next.
(HOT TIP!) An alarm installer should always
place a device where it will best serve the user and achieve the most coverage. Many an installer has elected to forgo this
concept so that they can install the device in an area that is easier to get to with the wires. Insist on discussing all placement
options with your installer before they place each motion detector. You can bet that your interests will be prioritized when
they see your involvement in the decision process. Dual Technology PIR- Dual means two technologies are used
in one device. Both technologies must be violated to cause an alarm. These devices are used in harsh environments such as
a garage or sun- room. The first technology is passive infrared and works as explained above. The second technology is most
often Doppler and looks for the invisible movement of air. If you walk into a room the air has to move as your body mass pushes
it along. The reason you would want a dual technology device is clear when you apply common sense to the desired area of protection.
For example let’s say you pull your car in to a cool garage, go in the house and turn the alarm on for the night. Your
motion detector that you put in your garage will see a dramatic temperature change as the heat from your engine radiates into
the cool air. If you had a duel technology motion detector it would not see the air moving because your car is still, so it
will refuse to go into an alarm condition. Pet Immune Motion detector- This is a wonderful advancement in motion detection
that may work for you if your pet free- roams your house while you are away and have your motion detectors on. Before the
introduction of this technology the pet owner had to either confine their pets from the protected area or bypass the motion
detector rendering it useless unless the pet was out of the home with them. The technology is the same as the regular passive
infrared detectors. On the pet immune version there are two sets of beams that are offset from each other. Your pet must hit
two pre- assigned beams simultaneously in order to violate the detector. Pets under a certain amount of weight (up to 85 pounds)
are not long enough to hit both beams so it does not see them. A human torso is designed much differently as per a weight
to length ratio causing them to violate either a horizontal or vertical pair of beams, depending on their favorite burglarizing
posture. On the pet immune detectors the middle and lower span of beams are pet immune but the top layer is not, due
to the distance of separation between the farthest-reaching beams. Care must be taken on the placement of these devices restricting
the high beams from stairways and high ledges your cat may get up on. (6-7 feet high) A good technician will mask only the
beams that hit these trouble spots expanding your coverage options.
Remember that even though your device is technically restricted
for use by weight of your pet, two or more small animals will have an opportunity to hit the two proper beams while playing
with each other. I do not recommend that you use these devices with two or more pets no matter how small they are, unless
one of them is rarely moving about. Also one free flying bird will look like a dinosaur entered the room if it flies close
to the detector. (They have yet to design the “Dinosaur Immune Detector”) If your pets do not fall into the allowances for
using a pet immune motion detector then you should consider other options for creating interior traps. The well- designed
system protects your perimeter as well as possible and creates interior traps in case the perimeter is circumvented. Top 4
Wireless Alarm Remotes
WIRELESS ALARM SYSTEM REMOTES These remotes are also known as “key fobs” or “4 button key chains”. They are wonderful
to have in addition to your keypad as you can turn your alarm on or off without going to the keypad. You still need a keypad
to perform most of the other operations of your system such as seeing what zone is opened or has been violated after an alarm.
The typical programming for a 4 button key chain would be as follows. 1 System Armed. (On) 2 System Disarmed (Off) 3 System Armed –Stay (Motion detectors bypassed) 4 Police Panic (Siren sounds) Your buttons on your key fob can be programmed to do other functions. For example grandma can have one that
calls for medical help if she presses her button.
These key chains and pendants are wonderful
for many reasons. You are most importantly attached to you alarm if you are within the specified range from your system, (anywhere
from 250 to 1000 feet) based on the quality of the transmitter and receiver. If you get out of your car in your driveway and
are approached, you can call for help and sound your sirens with the press of a button. An employee leaving work can call
for help from the parking lot. You can also use your Key fob at night to turn your alarm
on and keep your keys on your night- stand, so that you have a panic button at the ready if needed. Your key chain also allows
you to arm your main floor motion detector at night. If you need to go into the protected area for a late night glass of milk
or something, just press a button to disarm and rearm upon your return. (Make sure there are no other occupants that will
roam the house before using this feature)
If you have groceries and or children
to carry, you can turn your alarm off without going to the keypad. If your garage has a motion detector in it you can turn
your alarm off before opening the overhead door.
If you have a hardwired system you need
a wireless receiver to add any wireless device such as a remote key fob to your system. Once you have a receiver it will take
and process signals from multiple devices, this gives you the flexibility to add equipment later without the expense of additional
5Alarm System: Glass Break Detectors
Alarm System Glass-break detectors- Glass-break
detectors are also known as “Audio Discriminators”.
They are a perimeter device because they catch a burglar attempting
to make entry into your home or business as opposed to walking around the interior and being picked up by a motion detector.
They are available in both hardwired and wireless versions. The detector mounts in a wall or ceiling and listens to an area
approximately 35 feet in all directions. They do not hear through walls or around corners or into a room because the door
is open. The more windows you have in a device’s area of protection, the better the value. Some examples of good coverage
are as follows.
* If you have an open concept kitchen, breakfast nook and family room you can cover all the windows with one device because
they are within the 35- foot area.
* If you have a living room with many windows you can cover them all because they are in the same
area. Often the dining room is within the coverage area and can be protected with the same device.
* If you have an unfinished basement with
windows, this is a very vulnerable area. You can cover all the windows with a single device in most cases.
The glass break detector
listens for the frequency of breaking glass and splintering wood. In the not so distant past the only glass breaks available
were “Single Technology” devices. These listened for the frequency of breaking glass and splintering
wood only. The problem was that sounds such as lightning cracking, some peoples sneezes, clanking two glasses together in
the sink or a pet bird squawking would replicate this frequency and cause false alarms that only the most cunning detectives
would figure out.
Although the single technology devices are still being used today because they cost alarm companies less to purchase, a well-informed
consumer would insist on the newer “Duel Technology” device. The new devices must hear a “Thump”
and than a frequency hit, in that precise order in order to go into an alarm condition. Lets see if you understand what I’m
telling you about the new technology.
Q: If you sneeze at the same time your bird lets out a squawk and this causes you
bang your head on the wall, will this make your alarm go off if it is armed?
A: (NO) because it did not happen in the correct
order. You would have to bang your head on the wall first.
This small advancement in the use of artificial intelligence has created a
very dependable device that you can count on to defend your perimeter.
One of the downfalls of the sound discriminator is that
they are costly and you need one in each room that is vulnerable. These would be accessible windows on the main or lower level
or upstairs windows with roof or deck access. I recommend placing these devices in the areas of most concern and backing them
up with a main floor motion detector. This way you don’t spend your children’s inheritance turning your home into
The best security systems are the
ones where you don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
Alarm System: Smoke and Heat Detectors
Smoke & Heat Detectors- Smoke
detectors are available that will interface with your security system. The smoke detectors that are already in your home can’t
be tied into your security system. The device that the builder put in your home is either electrical, battery operated, or
in some instances both, if you have the better quality detectors. Lifesaving smoke detectors should be in every home. If you
elect to add some to your system, your existing detectors should be left in place, as they are still able to help give early
warning in case of a fire. If you add a smoke detector to your system it should be
placed in the highest point of your home as possible, as smoke will rise no matter where it originates. Some homeowners elect
to place one in the basement and top floor, and some want one added to every floor.
The technology that makes most of these devices work is “photoelectric technology.” This means that the detector
basically takes a snapshot of the density of smoke that enters its chamber, and wants to see a density increase as it samples
every few milliseconds. This technology makes the detector much more discriminating then its inexpensive counterparts. Many of these devices also detect temperature change with their built in heat detectors. This means that the
device will go into an alarm condition, if the temperature in its area of coverage is rising rapidly, even if there is no
smoke yet. Independent heat detectors are also available, if you would like an added degree of protection in areas such as
kitchens, furnace rooms, attics and fireplaces. (Required to meet code, in some municipalities) There are many advantages to adding fire devices to your security system. Some of them are: * Your detector is on all the time, even if your alarm is disarmed.
* The devices work off the power from your alarm system and use its backup power supplies should power fail. * The siren will emit a tone that is audibly different then a burglary siren, so that you can differentiate. * Your dispatch is being
made without you having to call for help yourself. This gives you more time to gather your loved ones and pets for immediate
exit. * A dispatch will take place even if you are not home. Typically flames will
be coming through your roof, by the time your neighbors see them, and call for help. This early response may save your pets
and a good portion of your home.
* Insurance companies often give an additional
discount, off your homeowners insurance, for having a fire system. These devices could effectively pay for themselves, after
a few years. (INSIDE SCOOP!) Some municipalities will not dispatch their limited resources to an automatic
fire alarm, unless it is designed completely to local code. This is a very expensive endeavor that, many homeowners in those
areas can’t justify. Businesses will have to do this, in order to get an occupancy permit. Check with your local fire
authority before investing in smoke or heat detectors that will not get a response. Top
Alarm Systems &
What do alarm systems and automobile tires have in common? This may sound like a strange question to the untrained ear, but
lend me yours and I will make sense of it. The reason I mention car tires is that they are a necessity that most all of us have some experience
purchasing, at least once in a while. Even though we need good tires to keep our cars firmly on the road, when they are wearing out we
often put the purchase off for a few weeks. If we are patient, a Saturday will eventually come along that we have no plans
for, and we force ourselves to go to our local tire store. Maybe it’s the one with the big giant marshmallow looking thing on the
roof, or the shop down the road who seems to be giving away free franks, and has a racing car crew serving them, that gets
us to stop.
If you are jumping the gun and think I’m correlating putting
off the purchase of a necessity such as car tires with a necessity such as an alarm system you would be wrong. The first reason
you would be wrong is because most people don’t see an alarm as a necessity, but as a luxury. Only after they have been
burglarized, do they see an addition of an alarm system as something they need instead of want. Do you know why they realize after the
fact that they need one? Not just because they are upset that someone took the electronics. Not just because the gun that
they considered the only alarm system they would ever need is missing, and god only knows whose hands it will end up in. Not
even because they are freaked out knowing that some stranger was rifling through the underwear drawer. It is because this
is the first time most people start to think about how this unfortunate event could have effected the lives of their loved
ones and themselves, if they had been home or walked in on a burglary in progress. What if my wife came home for lunch and walked
in on them?
What if I came home from work and had my own gun pointed at me when I came in?
What if we were asleep while they entered, and how would that traumatize
After asking ourselves these types of questions is when an alarm system becomes a necessity. Assuming you do know that you need and
want a system as part of your preventative security plan, and you do have researching one on your to do list, let’s
consider how else an alarm system might have something in common with automobile tires. When we go to buy our tires we often tell the salesman
what size tire we need or what make and model our car is. They go to the computer screen and tell you “we have the Big
Brand XTC 10’s for $45.00 each plus mounting and balancing” or “ The Joe Blows are really made by the same
company and they are $5.00 less each” (Sound familiar?) How often does the salesperson, take the time to explain things that are so
important to your decision such as Load Range, Tread Wear, Rubber Composites, Tread Patterns and the Elements, Sidewall Strength,
Speed Ratings, etc. If they did, you would not only know much more than you already do about tires, but you would most likely
justify your choices and the expense with life- safety, as you should. You will also most likely buy your tires at that store
the next time you need them, no matter what they are giving away down the street. Would you believe that alarm systems are often
sold the same way tires are.” We have, this one or that one, which do you prefer?” When making an important decision
such as how a security system will fit into your lifestyle, please take the time to understand all of your options. The available
differences in quality of all the devices you are considering for purchase is astounding, and will make a big difference in
how happy you are with your choices. If you can’t find someone to explain all of these things to you, then you have
not found the proverbial “perfect tire store” Top
Alarm System: Sirens
Alarm Sirens- There is both inside and outside sirens.
Many towns have a noise ordinance, which should prevent your installer from putting yours outside, unless you are on a ranch
where you need to know what’s going on while your out in the barn. You would not want a neighbor running over to your
place during an alarm as they might be confronting a dangerous situation. It is better to let the police do that instead. An inside siren is one that simulates a doorbell and placed high on a hallway wall, or a large siren is often
placed in your return air vent. This will let a burglar know that they have violated an alarm so that they will hi- tail it
out of there. It will also let you know that your system has been violated so that you can release the hounds, load your gun
or hide under the covers, whatever you select as an appropriate response. (HOT TIP!) Sirens are measured in decibels and wattage. A large siren
would be 30 watts or more and at least 100 decibels. If you settle for a non- descriptive commitment such as “It will
be loud” you may have authorized a smaller and less expensive siren to be installed. They are all loud, but the louder
the better when it comes to scaring a burglar away. Top