As promised this week we will deal with some features and flaws of alarm systems. To be sure there have been several improvements to the systems that are out there now, but they are expensive. If you are thinking of buying an alarm system, PLEASE take time to go over the place you want to secure and think of the items presented here.
Not to be too technical, but alarms systems are basically closed circuit systems that have several sensory devices (circuit switches) that when moved or “opened” will activate the system, thus causing an “alert.” If you really want a more in-depth view of the basic system and a more “techie” explanation, you can read the twelve page internet ditty called “How to Circumvent A Security Alarm in 10 Seconds or Less.”[i]
The author does not give his (or her) name for this piece, and the material here is somewhat dated, but there are some thoughts there that are truly scary. If nothing else it tells you that there are people out there who have gone through the process of knowing how to completely circumvent an alarm system. SO BEWARE! You need to know the weaknesses of these systems if you are to get the maximum security that they can provide.
Before I go into the actual features of alarms systems there are some major things that one should be aware of:
- As stated in last week’s article about alarm systems— it is absolutely imperative that you know that you can trust your installer. Why? They will have what is known as an installers code that will operate every function of your system through the control keypad. The installers code is a permanent code that is placed in an alarm system model. This code may be the same for several systems, thus allowing a technician access to all of them.
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If I could suggest one change in all of the alarms systems out there it would be make these installer codes subject to the user’s personal code. It simply isn’t a safe setup when somebody knows the base code to your system that you, the owner, can’t control. If the person who installed your system wanted to get into your house and disarm your system—NO PROBLEM!
- One of the weakest points in every alarm system is its battery backup. When a power outage strikes (or God forbid someone is plotting to cut off or disable the electric lines to you house) the only thing keeping your alarm system alive is the battery backup it may have. Do you know how long the battery lasts?
One alarm company I used in the past told me that my battery should last 48 hours. Well as it happens when a thunderstorm rolled through my town and caused an electrical outage, my alarm system went down after four hours. The lithium backup battery was less than a year old. I believe it may have been worn out by the number of electrical outages we have around here. The point is that batteries—especially old and overused ones won’t hold up as long as they should. Your home could be left defenseless if you are not at home for a few hours and the electricity goes down.
- In “How to Circumvent A Security Alarm in 10 Seconds or Less,” he talks about the system being foiled by simply cutting the phone line to a home or business. Your phone line is how the digital alert signal goes out to the monitoring service you use. If your alarm system is old enough not to have cellular callout module—get rid of it! It is useless! This is one of the greatest reasons that those alarm system “specials” aren’t worth it—they usually don’t include a cellular backup in case your phone line is disabled.
- For those of you thinking of having a wireless alarm system installed please know that these systems are easily circumvented. Anything that operates on a sonic signal can be neutralized or blocked by sonic devices that can be bought by anyone. There are ways to even record and mimic the airborne signals that operate your alarm system. Whenever you use a key fob, someone may be “listening.” In a few states it is illegal for just anybody to own these devices that can record and play signals in the mega to gigahertz range, but the law rarely stops criminals. This is how some car thieves operate. Homes have been invaded through garage door openers that operate through sonic signals. If you are really serious about a security system get one that is hardwired into your home or business.
- One of the biggest problems with home alarm systems is that they do not cover the entire house. They only cover entry level doors and windows. Burglars will look for any point of entry into a home. This could be an upper level window or even the attic. Homes built on stilts, or a foundation where there are crawl spaces underneath, can be entered into through trap doors meant to give legitimate services for that home. If an alarm system doesn’t have a way to detect unconventional entries then they may be useless. Once in your home, burglars can confound motion detectors and pressure pads. If they are entering in through an attic chances are they won’t need to worry about an alarm system because they can get the valuables from the upper floors (bedrooms are the main areas that they want to get to), then leave the way they came.
Now to some pointers on the features that alarms systems come with. Conventional security systems come with what are called “sensors” or “contact leads.” They basically cover the doors and/or windows and will relay a signal to the alarm system. If the window or door is opened while the system is “armed” this will produce an “alert” that causes the alarm to go off and the monitoring service called. Alarms systems can also be set up to “monitor” the doors and windows so that when they are opened a “chime” will sound—a “non-alert” situations, no alarm will sound.
Published in: Home Improvement