Security Systems

This is a discussion on Security Systems within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; I've searched and found plenty of articles suggesting having a security system, but nothing about what a good one consists of. I'm a contractor and ...

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  1. #1
    Member Array MnemonicMonkey's Avatar
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    Security Systems

    I've searched and found plenty of articles suggesting having a security system, but nothing about what a good one consists of. I'm a contractor and would like to install it myself, but am not sure what kind of system to look at.

    Since our existing system consists of two 75lb (the great dane pup will be 100+) dogs that sleep as soundly as I do, and roam the house when we're gone, that may factor into the motion sensor use. Since I'm not too sure I want to wire up 9 windows, what are my options? Are wireless systems reliable? Should I just use glass break detectors? Are there any particular brands I should look at or stay away from?

    Adding a yappy dog is out of the question too.

    Any comments or insight would be appreciated!
    "Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am."

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    Senior Member Array raysheen's Avatar
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    I'll let the real experts chime in on most of the questions, but I did a fair amount of research when we moved into our new house (our first time having an alarm). The wireless systems seem reliable, but then there is the issue of powering every wireless sensor...that's what made me stay away from it. Installing sensors isn't that bad either. Lots of long feeler bits and you should be good to go.
    Generally speaking...more zones costs more money, more features costs more money and more types of sensors cost more money.
    We went for a decent yet simple sytem that can be armed when you are home as well as when you leave (just about every system offers this these days). A couple of motion sensors in the house for when we are gone and a perimeter of sensors at possible entry points for anytime the alarm is on. They do have "pet immune" motion sensors of different varieties so that you can leave your alarm on while the dogs roam the house. The biggest thing is research.
    There is a bit of good information available at www.smarthome.com ...at least you can see different kinds of sensors and get a good idea of what you can get an alarm to do for you.
    I'm sure someone that knows more than I do will be along shortly to give you more info.

  4. #3
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    I believe if you install it yourself it only works when your there, it needs monitoring to be effective. If you have a fire or a break in when your gone or need a silent alarm you need a security co.
    They have specials with free equipment for a fair monitoring fee.

  5. #4
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    Do you just want something to wake everyone up at night?
    Do you want a screaming siren for when you aren't home?
    Do you want central monitoring (no DIY)? (Call police when it goes off)

    The dogs mean that motion sensors internal would be interesting. Given that they are BIG dogs a pet gutter sensor isn't probably a good option.

    I typically use a multi-zone (added cost) with centralized monitoring (no more dogs). My zones are external door/window sensors, internal sensors (motion) and garage sensors. I put the garage on a zone so that it isn't armed when I'm in away mode because I use it for coming and going, however when at home mode it is fully covered.

    Anyway. Wireless is ok, but the sensors are bigger and such. I just don't like the look of them personally. I went wired and all in the frames of the doors and windows. I did everything accessible from the ground and the deck. Not cheap however it went in as the house was built, so that helped.

    I had a wired and cell back-up on my system (added cost). With the newer houses the NIUs for the phone lines are on the outside and not secured at all. A BG can simply open it and pull two plugs for most homes and you have no telephone. My system also had a battery back-up on it.

    Place the siren somewhere it will take a ladder to get to, otherwise they are easy to silence. Watched a warrant service on a house on TV. They took the door, the alarm went off with siren screaming, cop reached out and ripped the siren off the wall, no more noise.

    I hide my panels and set them not to chime. The first warning I want a BG to have is the siren. I don't put the signs out front. No need to give a pro advanced warning. Also change the default password on the panel. Not just the one you use for arming and disarming, but the other one you use for programming. Panel manufacturers put a default in for programming that most people don't think to change. If I know which panel you have (sign out front) and you haven't changed it, I can disarm your system (it's useless).

    As an alternative that would cost a lot less than an alarm if you aren't terribly concerned about when you are gone (i.e DIY no central monitoring).

    Drill and pin your windows if they are the sliding type. Put good locks and slide locks on your doors. Basically you are forcing a BG to make a bunch of noise to get in. This should get the dogs and subsequently you up at night. During the day if the dogs are roaming about and the house is tough to get into the BG will probably move on.

    Also ground floor windows should have sticker bushes planted under them. I like these plants. It is fast growing and the stickers aren't evident until you get into it. Don't use plants by entry points that obscure the entry point or give the BG somewhere to hide. Good exterior lighting on motion sensors is good as well. My house in the country had motion sensor lights on every corner and selected other places. The sensors were aimed in tight to the house due to the wildlife, but that also provided a visual clue as to which area to look if we heard something.

    Don't let the dogs meet any repair or service people who enter your house. If it isn't a close friend or family I would not allow any socialization with the dogs in their home. This keeps them on the defensive for anyone else.

    It's like the, "I don't have to out run the bear, I just have to outrun you". You don't need the best security, you just need better than someone close by. The dogs are a plus. That should keep the opportunists at bay for the most part, not all of them for sure.

    I'm sure many others will have good suggestions. Defense against true pros is rather difficult.
    Procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow.

  6. #5
    VIP Member Array Ti Carry's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nn View Post
    I believe if you install it yourself it only works when your there, it needs monitoring to be effective. If you have a fire or a break in when your gone or need a silent alarm you need a security co.
    They have specials with free equipment for a fair monitoring fee.
    Not completely correct. There are systems available that are very smart that these "monitering" companies do not want the general public to know about.

    I am in the communications business and among everything else in the field we offer we also offer sercurity systems that we design install and monitor for companies. Tho our's are not cheap due to they are commerical grade there are systems available now that will monitor your home and if you are away you can set it to either page you, call you or alert you through your blackberry if you have one.

    You can monitor your home and perimeter via the internet with web cam's if you choose to go with cameras and even control them if you choose the cameras with motors even at night if you choose the night vision cameras so you can pan around your house and property anytime of the day, it all depends on how much you want to spend.

    It is amazing what can be done today, though not my expertise and since we sell the commercial grade stuff i never had a need to look for the home version so I can't recommend a system to check out unless of course you are looking for the good stuff and have a check that can be written out for a minimum of 10K for a system!

    I would forget the monitoring companies and find the systems that you can monitor and/or that self monitors for you. The only thing you are giving up is getting a call asking if everything is ok and if you need the police, fire or ambulance to be called. Spend a decent amount on a system, if you buy cheap you will get cheap.


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  7. #6
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    I would try to use "wired" sensors as much as possible, and would be my first choice on a new construction job. I added an alarm system after I built my house, and we used wired sensors as much as possible, and or those difficult areas we used wireless. They've worked perfectly, their power supply is a small internal battery that lasts a LONG time.

    Along with the fire/smoke detectors, we have three exterior doors with alarms and a motion detector that covers the big middle room of our house. That detector is pet sensitive (I can't remember the weight range). I didn't put any sensors on the windows, if anyone gets in here, they'll quickly set off the motion detector.

    With only a volunteer fire station in the area I'm more fearful of losing our house over fire than burglary.
    Turn the election's in 2014 to a "2A Revolution". It will serve as a 1994 refresher not to "infringe" on our Second Amendment. We know who they are now.........SEND 'EM HOME. Our success in this will be proportional to how hard we work to make it happen.

  8. #7
    New Member Array rigger1's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=MnemonicMonkey;440616]I've searched and found plenty of articles suggesting having a security system, but nothing about what a good one consists of. I'm a contractor and would like to install it myself, but am not sure what kind of system to look at.

    I'm not sure of the exact design of a security system for your particular needs but...

    The idea of saving money by using internal motion detectors is, I believe, a very bad trade-off.

    The question you might want to ask yourself is: Would I want either myself or my loved ones, in a dark house with a possibly armed and possibly disoriented crack head? With an alarm going off? The issue, for me, is a no brainer: KEEP THE BAD GUY OUTSIDE!!!

    At one point in my working (such as it was) career I spent about a year as a "sales consultant" for a security equipment manufacturer. I never designed a residential system that allowed criminal entry before an alarm being triggered. Commercial installations were different as often the primary intent was to catch the bad guy, not just to safeguard occupants and/or property.

    As far as adding notification to an alarm there are dialers available to do the job economically. If you do a quality design and installation (and avoid easily accidentally triggered sensors) you'll avoid false alarms and stay on the good side of the police.

  9. #8
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    I just had my home alarm system updated. My wife wanted monitoring, so I got it. Waste in my opinion. I wanted a loud siren at first breech to wake me in the bedroom. I got that. Along with a keypad installed in the bedroom.

    If I am in the house, I want to be warned immediately of an incursion so I can get the tools I need to deal with the incursion. If no-one is home, I have homeowners insurance if somebody steals stuff from my house. I am concerned about my family's safety.

    Most of the alarm installers specials are just to make money on monitoring and not to alert you of all possibilities of incursion of your home.

    Again, these companies cater to the "just call the police, a cell phone is all you need" crowd. If you are not of that crowd, then you have to determine what exact criteria are important to you and order based on your criteria.

  10. #9
    VIP Member Array packinnova's Avatar
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    I don't know about alarms, but I'll second scott's motion on the stickler bushes! I don't know what it's called (have to ask them), but my parents have some evil sort of bush under their windows. The thorns aren't evident until you're up close and personal, but they're all about 2 inches long and razor sharp. What makes it even worse is that I think it's poisonous of some sort because after being poked...the wound stings for about a week!
    "My God David, We're a Civilized society."

    "Sure, As long as the machines are workin' and you can call 911. But you take those things away, you throw people in the dark, and you scare the crap out of them; no more rules...You'll see how primitive they can get."
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  11. #10
    Member Array Whyveear's Avatar
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    Get a monitored system

    Monitoring is a good thing because the thought of the police arriving is the thing that motivates the BG to run away. That is exactly what we want. If the police arenít coming he has nothing to fear, unless of course the homeowner is present and armed. Monitoring assures that this chain reaction is in place and BG's can continue to run for fear of being caught. I have known several cases where the BG initially fled the premises but lingered in the area, and when there was no police response he returned, ignoring the siren, to finish the job.

    The siren is not for the neighbors, it is for the BG, to tell him his presence has been detected. That's why I don't believe in outside sirens. Internal sirens are the way to go IMO and the more ear-splitting and piercing they are, the better, as it might discourage them from grabbing your stereo on their way out.

    Unmonitored systems just ring, and that's it. Nobody cares. An outside siren just annoys everyone in the neighborhood. Residential alarms and car alarms go off all the time and nobody pays any attention.

    Monitored security systems can protect your home while you are away. But even if you don't care about your "stuff", monitored systems also ensure that your unoccupied home is safe for your wife to return to when she comes back from the grocery store. Last year, a young mother was murdered in my area where that exact thing happened. She came home, disturbed a burglar in her home, and after he raped her he stabbed her to death.

    Standard Operating Procedures and false alarms

    Different monitoring companies have different standard operating procedures (SOP) and most tailor their SOP to deal with the problem of false alarms. False alarms are the bane of the industry and the reasons why PDs are now refusing to respond in many cities.

    The number one cause of false alarms is customer error. In order to deal with this, the industry has adopted something referred to as ďalarm verificationĒ, where the monitoring station calls the residence to confirm whether or not this is a real event or just a false alarm. This means that every signal is assumed to be a false alarm and the police are only called when it cannot be confirmed to be false. Something is wrong with that process.

    Some of these big companies even boast about their SOP and feature them prominently in their national TV advertising. Youíll see commercials where a residential alarm goes off and then the security company calls the residence to verify. This is not providing protection; it's unnecessarily delaying the arrival of assistance. The very first thing the monitoring company should do is call the police without delay.

    The delay in dispatching police also gives the bad guy several minutes to roam freely throughout your house and take whatever he wants (while the phone rings) knowing the police havenít even been notified yet.

    You also want the police dispatched ASAP because the result of any delay could be loss of life. Yours or the BG. You have your firearms to protect you, but you want the police to arrive ASAP so that you donít have to kill anyone.

    Just so you know, there are ways to deal with customer caused false alarms where the police are immediately dispatched but then canceled by the user without them even having to pick up the phone. Its safe, much more efficient, and keeps cops happy. Iíll save the details of that for another time.

    Perimeter protection

    There is no protection without perimeter protection. Perimeter protection means that all accessible (some prefer all) windows and doors are wired. This lets you move about freely in your home with the system armed.

    Although the technology in motion detectors/passive infrared detectors has improved in recent years with self-verification and the ability to discern the difference between a small pets and a human walking around, they should still be considered a back-up to the primary protection provided by your perimeter protection.

    After user error, motion detectors are biggest cause of false alarms so should not be counted on as your primary defense. They are also relatively easy to defeat if you know what you're doing. Not only that, but if your entire system is motion detection based, then you have no protection at all when you're at home.

    Perimeter protection gives you early warning of an intrusion before the BG is in your home. When the system goes off at night waking you up, you can retrieve your firearm and make sure your family is safe and accounted for knowing that the BG has only just breached the perimeter and the police have already been dispatched and are on their way. You cannot control whether the police response will be fast or slow, but at least they have been notified, and youíre already doing your own part to ensure the safety of your family Ė gun in hand.

    What company to deal with

    Stay away from any company whose name you recognize. You might think that national recognition would be a good thing but in most cases its not. The reason why they are nationally known and so large is because they built themselves into the huge corporation that they are on those monthly monitoring contracts.

    Many of these big companies set up agreements with smaller companies where the small company becomes the "authorized dealer" of the big company's products. Itís a very symbiotic relationship for them. The small company gets full advertising rights and privileges to use the big company's name and logo which brings in the business, and once the customer signs on the dotted line, the small company sells the contract to the big company. These contracts are usually 2-5 years and provide the big company with the re-occurring revenue generated by the monthly monitoring fees. They might as well be selling cell phonesÖitís the same principle.

    The smaller company may not be concerned about the customer since they already got what they wanted out of the deal. They may not be motivated to go out of their way to provide good customer service since there is nothing in it for them.

    Since itís all about throwing the system together and getting the contract signed, inferior equipment is often used and poorly installed. A great example of poor quality equipment are the systems that are compromised of all-in-one units, where it is the keypad, control panel (brains), and siren, all in one unit. Itís usually large and ugly and situated right inside the entry way. All the BG has to do is break in and take a hammer to the thing and it is defeated. This not a security system.

    They install systems like this to save time...and time is money. They get the equipment in ASAP, get the contract signed, sell it to the larger company, and everybody wins...except the customer. They don't care about the product installed, or whether the job was done well, as long as you sign on the dotted line they are happy.

    For the record, a quality hard-wire installation may take a full day or more depending on the size and construction of the house, and you won't even know its there.

  12. #11
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    good post and informative. It took the local alarm company 2 days to wire in my updated alarm system and they utilized about 50% of the wiring for my detectors (they put in new detectors)>

    My big thing is the loud alarm to wake me up ASAP.

  13. #12
    Member Array MnemonicMonkey's Avatar
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    Wow. I honestly wasn't expecting this good of a response! It's nice having a variety of knowledgeable people around here.

    As I suspected, motion sensors are completely out. Drilling up to the attic to wire the doors and casement windows should be easy, but how about double hung windows? Any tricks there without disturbing drywall? We are on a crawl space, so drilling down is a possibility too. It would have been nice to have the house prewired, but it was built three years before I was born.

    I'm all for monitoring, if for nothing else than fire protection. I believe there are companies that cater to monitoring the DIY crowd for less than the big companies. However, we don't have a landline (2 cellphones), so would it be cheaper to use a cell link as a primary?

    Just so you know, there are ways to deal with customer caused false alarms where the police are immediately dispatched but then canceled by the user without them even having to pick up the phone. Its safe, much more efficient, and keeps cops happy. Iíll save the details of that for another time.
    Please, do share . . .

    Of course we're one of the 20% of people in our neighborhood that have any outdoor lighting on at night, so hopefully that will work in the interim. Apparently our ridiculously low crime rate makes people a bit complacent.
    "Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am."

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    Member Array Whyveear's Avatar
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    Its simple. If the system goes off when you KNOW you have tripped it, you would just disarm the system by punching in your code. The monitoring station sees the system has been canceled and then calls off the police response.

    If you were ever forced to disarm the system by a BG, you would do so with an alternate, but easy to remember, code which would not only disarm the alarm, making the BG happy, but alert the monitoring station that you have disarmed the system under duress. This info would be passed along to the police which would affect how they responded.

    Of course, the above would have to be arranged with your security company. Some companies may not be willing to alter their cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all operating procedures. That would be your cue to move along to another company.

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    My security company calls the house when there is an alarm tripped and not turned off in 30 seconds. At that time, my wife or I have to say a secret password (we chose). If we fail to say that, then the monitoring company routes directly to police. There is a panic button combo (two keys at same time). Police are immediately dispatched if that combo is pressed.

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    oops.. never mind
    You have to make the shot when fire is smoking, people are screaming, dogs are barking, kids are crying and sirens are coming.
    Randy Cain.

    Ego will kill you. Leave it at home.
    Signed: Me!

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