Does an intruder know more about your home security system than you do?


Have you ever thought about whether it’s worth investing in home security? Maybe you’ve seriously considered it, but decided against installing a home security system in your home because you were concerned about the costs and the work involved. That’s an understandable concern: nobody really wants to spend money if they can avoid it. Yet, when you consider that statistically a burglary or property crime takes place on average once every 3.7 seconds, that decision might no longer seem like the wisest choice you’ve ever made, particularly when you see evidence [Protect America] which shows that homes which are protected by a home security system are 33 per cent less likely to be targeted by thieves.

Alarm systems, despite the initial financial outlay, are without question a wise investment. They offer security, comfort, and, most important of all, peace of mind to home and business owners, and that is a priceless commodity. However, even when you’ve installed a home security system, there are still things you’ll need to do to make it as effective a deterrent as possible. You’ll need to get to know your alarm system inside-out, and be aware of any inherent flaws in the system that could make it vulnerable, because if you’re one of the unlucky ones who are targeted by burglars who know about your alarm system than you do, then you’ll be the one who’ll pay the ultimate price.

What are the common flaws with alarm systems that intruders could potentially target?

Prolonged Power Cuts Can Disable Alarm Systems

It won’t come as a surprise to most people that every alarm system needs electricity to function, whether that’s electricity from a plug in the wall or power hard-wired into the building. So if the electricity supply is interrupted, or a fault in the wiring system trips the power, then the alarm loses its main source of power and, therefore, it’s deterrent value.

Most home owners wouldn’t be overly worried about a power outage as they know their alarm system has a back-up battery, which is either located in the panel, or in the case of enclosed systems, in the keypad itself. Most home owners know the alarm system will continue to function using the back-up battery. What they aren’t necessarily aware of, however, is just how short a life expectancy most back-up batteries have. They’re also probably unaware that the back-up battery will need to be checked regularly to keep it in optimum condition.

Seasoned intruders are aware of this flaw, and will know that after 12 hours use in most residential and small business alarm systems, the back-up battery will be exhausted and will no longer function. They will then also know that the home is no longer protected.

What can alarm owners do to combat the problem?

  • The simple answer is to maintain your alarm system back-up battery properly. Test your battery periodically, and change it regularly.  For sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries, which look like small car batteries, change them every five to seven years. For enclosed systems that use regular AA or D batteries, change them every year, and always after a power outage. SLA batteries will recharge once the power comes back on, but enclosed system batteries will not.
  • If the building is in a remote area, or in an area prone to regular power outages, it might be worth considering investing in a backup generator to provide electricity during power cuts. 
  • If the building is uninhabited for a period of time, it’s also worth checking the system periodically to make sure that the power is on and that the alarm system is still functioning.

If the Phone Line is Not Working or Damaged, then There is No Signal to Alert the Authorities

If the phone line is damaged or cut by an intruder, the alarm may well sound once they enter the property, but no call will be made to the alarm company of authorities to notify them of the break in. Most intruders will know that even multiple phone line systems are pretty easy to disable from outside the building.

How can you overcome this problem?

  • Consider a cellular/ mobile phone or radio back-up, which send out signals wirelessly. Admittedly, they are not always 100 per cent reliable as they can quite easily lose signal for no obviously apparent reason, but they are certainly useful as a back-up option. Some mobile devices can even be configured/programmed to send a signal when the main phone line is tampered with, ensuring you are at least aware of the problem.
  • Even though no signal will be sent to the police or alarm company, the alarm siren will still sound, so everyone inside and outside the building should be aware that something is amiss. It’s worth speaking to immediate neighbours, particularly if you are going away for any length of time, and ask them to check the building should the alarm sound.
  • Test the alarm system’s communication lines every month. You can ask your alarm company to give you advice about putting your system on a disregard status, so the authorities are not called out needlessly when you carry out the testing. 

3. Police Response Time

Alarm companies will usually respond to alarms pretty quickly: the authorities, like the police, may not be so speedy. Average response times can vary anywhere from a few minutes to several hours It’s understandable given the number of calls and incidents the police have to respond to, particularly in city or built-up areas.   

Intruders will usually be aware of these response times. They will generally have monitored the area, and may even have broken into other houses in the neighbourhood. With this knowledge, they’ll know exactly how long they have to remove anything of value form the home and make their getaway before the police arrive on the scene.

What can you deal to deal with this issue?

  • Make sure you do everything possible to keep false alarms to a minimum. If the authorities get a number of false alarm calls to the same property, they are much less likely to take another alarm notification seriously, and unfortunately that may be the one genuine alarm call where you really do need their help. 
  • Make sure you have at least one person on your emergency call list who can check in on the property should the alarm sound. If they spot anything out of the ordinary, they scan then call the police or alarm company and let them know that there has been a confirmed break-in. Typically, police will respond much faster when someone has physically seen a problem. Also, if someone is going to respond to the alarm on your behalf, make sure that the authorities or the alarm company knows who it is: you don’t want them to get arrested mistakenly.  Police Investigation is Sometimes a Drive-By Look-See

Change Your Alarm System’s Automatic Codes as Soon as You’re Confident Using the System

When alarm systems are installed, they have a set or predetermined code out of the box so that the technician and the new owner can arm and disarm it easily while installing and learning how to operate the system. What most owners will not necessarily be aware of, is that this code is the same for nearly every alarm system, regardless of brand. Most alarm systems are usually set at 1-2-3-4, and most intruders will know this, and f the homeowner fails to change the set code, then it simply makes the burglar’s job that much easier.

What can homeowners do?

  • Well, the answer’s simple. Change your code after it installation, preferably while the technician is still on site. Whatever code you chose, make it memorable and make sure it has meaning for you- whether that’s the last 4 digits of the phone number, house number or birthdays. 
  • Once you’ve changed the code, make sure you disable the old one no longer works. [Some systems allow for dozens of codes to work at the same time, and one wrong button can leave the old code available.] 

Remote Arming and Disarming may be Convenient, but it can make an Intruder’s life easier

Should the alarm key fob that you carry around fall into the wrong hands, any potential intruder will easily be able to walk into a property and turn the alarm system off.  Whilst alarm companies can replace your remote and re-programme your system if the key fob is stolen, this is rarely covered under any warranty, guarantee or maintenance plan.

What should you do about key fobs?

  • If at all possible, avoid using your key fob remote control. Arming and disarming an alarm system is pretty easy. If you can’t remember your code, your alarm company will happily talk you through the process and show you how to do it.
  • Keep your key fob remote in a safe place. Keyrings are fine, but they do have a tendency to get lost or stolen.

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