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COVID-19 Response (Keep Yourself SAFE)

State governors releasing murderers and rapists while forcing “shelter in place” for law abiding citizens.  Houston Mayor pleading with criminals to refrain from crime until the COVID-19 is beat back.  Abortion clinics deemed “necessary” but gun stores closed.  Relief bill delayed while members of congress tried to stuff “pork” into the bill.  Police issuing a simple summons for burglary, auto theft, shoplifting.  Door to door searches by state National Guard troops, check points at state borders, talk of forced quarantine, hotlines for snitching on neighbors, tracking citizens by their cell phones? There is something MUCH larger than a flu virus going on here. Does this sound like your elected officials are concerned about you?

Take responsibility for yourself. 

  • We are NOT advocating that people who have no experience go out and buy guns and ammo and try to self-train. If you know how to use guns safely, get more.  If you don’t, ask a friend or neighbor who is proficient in firearms for advice on what to buy and how to safely use them.  Take your proficient friend to an outdoor range and practice safe and accurate firearm use.  Guns in the hands of inexperienced users are more of a liability than practical protection.  If your local gun store is open, check to see if they are offering safety and proper usage classes at this time and enroll if they are.
  • Stock up on food. Notice I didn’t say HOARD.  Hoarding is extremely selfish and the reason to stock up on food is not that anyone is predicting shortages but if the supply chain is disrupted for a short time, you’ll have some variety to choose from rather than Top Ramen every night.
  • Get a professionally installed alarm system. Alarm systems help protect your home while you’re away; help protect your family while at home and can alert you to activity in and around your home via text notifications. Copy and paste this URL into your browser and read what is happening.  https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bronsonstocking/2020/04/02/burglaries-auto-thefts-on-the-rise-after-stay-at-home-orders-issued-n2566244.
  • Don’t believe anything you hear on the news; do your own research. It is becoming apparent that this pandemic isn’t nearly as dangerous as it is being portrayed.  Check multiple news sources and compare what the government or any news agency is stating as fact.  Most of the projections being peddled of infection rates and death rates are being generated by computer models which are only as reliable as the data that is input and the people inputting the data.  Remember Global Warming/Climate Change/Global Cooling?  All generated by computer models; never proven by actual events that the “experts” told you, repeatedly, were going to happen.  Initial and subsequently revised infection/death rates are NOT materializing.   They could later but our research shows that they most likely will not.

As much as we all want to think that the government has our backs, in many ways, people in charge are proving that they do not.  It would be easier to believe if the things mentioned above weren’t happening; but they are. As insane as many of these things sound, it all points to one truth…you MUST protect yourself and your family.

Also, keep in mind that any government that temporarily suspends your constitutional rights is most likely not to give them all back.  When was the last time a “temporary” government program didn’t become permanent?

Two (Opposing) Alarm Company Business Models

Most national alarm companies have fashioned themselves, business model-wise, after ADT, one of the oldest and largest alarm companies.  Why?  Because this business model is extremely profitable, both for the national company and their network of authorized dealers.

Using the fictitious national alarm company name of APZ, the anatomy of the company’s sale of an alarm system very often looks like this:

1) The alarm sales team, which is almost always employed by an independent, authorized dealer of APZ, knocks on the doors of homes around dinner time on weeknights.

2) If allowed entry, the sales team applies high pressure tactics to get a signature on an APZ contract that evening.

3) The authorized dealer sends a crew out to do the installation and sets the system to be monitored by APZ’s monitoring centers.

4) The authorized dealer sells the signed contract to APZ for about $1600.00.

This business model is packed with problems for the buyer.  First, the authorized dealer, after selling the contract to APZ, has absolutely no reason to provide you with any further assistance, training, service or after sale follow up.  They got paid and they’re “down the road”.

Second, they buyer has no idea where their system is being monitored.  It could be one of dozens of monitoring centers around the country (and even the world) used by APZ.

Third, if the buyer calls for service, APZ has to pay a local authorized dealer to go to the home to provide the service.  Because APZ is paying the dealer, they are going to avoid an actual in person service call in any way they can; blaming the buyer’s incorrect usage is one of many we’ve heard.

Fourth, the chances that the service person sent by the local authorized dealer is actually the person who installed the system (or is even employed by the same dealer that installed it) is very remote.

This business model is almost completely focused on making local dealers, and the national corporation, millions of dollars a day.  It is the antithesis of a customer focused business model.

At Sierra Security, we are completely independent of any national affiliation and we don’t knock on doors and strong arm you into making a decision.  Typically after talking with prospective customers and assessing the needs, we will leave, and then email a proposal back, allowing you to make a decision with no pressure.  The technician who actually installs your new system will more than likely by the technician who is sent to service it for any follow up or future service requests.  And your system is monitored in one designated area at one center in Lake Forest, California, with a complete backup in Arlington, TX.

If you are going to pay us hard earned dollars to monitor your system, day in and day out, we are going to make sure you become a customer for life through outstanding customer service; and our business model is designed to allow us to do exactly that.

How Much is TOO Much Security?

When evaluating alarm systems for your home or business, there are several factors to consider in choosing how much equipment is necessary to adequately protect yourself and your property.  The decision really comes down to a few factors.  Money, of course is one factor.  Where the property you’re protecting is located is another, and how the building or home is constructed is a third.

Money.  Many people initially think that every door and window must be connected to the alarm system, with motion sensors as a backup to door/window contacts.  Keeping in mind that burglars are, in general, lazy (or they would probably have real jobs), contacting 2nd story windows that can only be accessed by extension ladder is, in most cases not an economically sound decision.  Burglars typically don’t carry extension ladders around with them and if confronted with the prospect of only being able to enter a home or business by deploying extreme measures, most will move on to another property that is easier to enter without much effort.  According to Department of Justice (DOJ) statistics, most burglars enter through the front door.   After checking to see if anyone is home by knocking or ringing the doorbell, burglars will simply try to kick in the front door.  If that isn’t possible, they will generally try a side door or back window.

Motion sensors, glass break sensors and infared beams work well for areas where large glass windows or doors could be broken and the property entered through the broken glass, without opening the window or door (which would normally trigger the door/window contact).  Even if you want to cover that second story, a motion sensor near the upper landing of the stairs will usually do the trick.  Even if a burglar enters through a second story window or door, they will typically be carrying stolen items to the stairs rather than trying to climb back down a ladder with the goods.  One motion sensor is much more economical than 10 window contacts.

Garage doors (roll up car doors), if they don’t have glass panes, are almost impossible to break into without destroying the door.  We typically suggest NOT contacting these types of doors unless the garage contains very valuable items.  Again, the burglar is not typically going to limit the scope of the burglary to the garage only and will venture into the main building where a door contact or motion sensor will set the system into alarm.

Location.  With everything in life, there are exceptions to the rules.  Most of what is outlined above is true in areas where burglars know they only have a limited amount of time to do damage to obtain entry before they are discovered.  Standard neighborhoods where neighbors are plenty are much different than homes on 10 acres in the middle of the forest.  We have seen situations where burglars knew they had plenty of time to do whatever it takes to break into a home and spent literally hours pillaging a home because they were so far from any neighbor.  In one specific burglary, all of the custom furniture in the home was methodically dismantled and loaded into the homeowner’s pickup truck and driven off, without any detection.  (This same home was burglarized again after an alarm system was installed and when the burglars heard the alarm siren, they left quickly…they knew they had been detected.  The only loss was a door frame on the door they kicked in to gain entry).

Construction.  Commercial buildings tend to be much more difficult to penetrate than homes.  Homes typically have wood doors and frames which can easily be kicked open.  Business properties generally use steel doors and frames, which with a good dead bolt require a great amount of muscle and a crowbar to successfully open.  Commercial warehouse roll up doors are also usually made of steel and virtually impossible to break into.  Most commercial buildings with these features can be protected with a few strategically placed motion sensors to catch an intruder if a window is broken for entry.

Sierra Security can design a system that balances necessary protection with a realistic budget.  Call us now, or use the form here on our site, for a free consultation with a true security specialist, NOT a high pressure, “sign the contract now” salesperson.

AT&T Alienates Millions of Customers

AT&T has recently announced plans to sunset their 3G cellular service in February of 2022. Unfortunately the alarm industry as a whole has always been a bit behind in wireless technology and there are literally millions of systems out there with 3G communications modules. We expect Verizon to announce their 3G sunset plans very shortly. We have done extensive research into multiple ways and many different products available to upgrade systems, with the goal of providing the most cost effective upgrade options without sacrificing our ability to provide excellent customer service. In light of this, we will no longer be putting alarm systems on the AT&T network. In order to provide the best possible service, the largest coverage area and the network with the most longevity, we will be putting all upgraded and new systems onto the Verizon LTE network which will be viable for the next 10 years + after 3G is sunset. And, since most systems already include some level of remote (phone) control, the features available through the app were very important and we’ve landed on Alarm.com as the product and service provider for all upgrade options. Alarm.com is not the least expensive solution available, but their award winning products and services are the most solid, dependable and best supported in the industry, and will allow us to continue to provide excellent customer service.

 

Smoke Detectors, Local vs. System

One of the most common mistaken calls we get is when someone’s local smoke detectors are triggered.  For whatever reason, many people assume that the smoke detectors installed inside and outside each bedroom are connected to the burglar alarm system.  We have actually had customers insist that we are wrong and they are positive they are one system with the burglar alarm system.

These local detectors are typically installed by the job electrician during the construction of the house to meet local building codes.  They are not, and cannot be, tied into a burglar alarm system.  There is no auxiliary output on the detectors to be monitored by an alarm system.  The purpose of a local smoke detector is to alert occupants of a fire, while they are at home.

Local smoke detectors are all wired together so when one is triggered, they all sound off.   If you do have a system smoke detector connected to your alarm system, when triggered it will sound a siren on each detector and sound the burglar alarm siren, as well.  If you have a smart phone app for your alarm system, you will get a notification of the alarm.

Most insurance companies will provide a small discount on homeowners policy premiums if the monitored alarm system has a separate smoke detector(s) connected to it.  The sole purpose of this incentive is that in a real fire situation, if nobody is home, the alarm system will alert the fire department more quickly than if the fire is completely out of control and a neighbor sees flames coming out a window.  Quicker response means less damage to the home and a smaller insurance claim.

If you do have an alarm system with a system smoke detector, make sure to ask your monitoring company for a certificate showing the system is being professionally monitored and includes a smoke detector.  Provide this certificate to your insurance company and ask for a premium discount.

False Alarms Shouldn’t Be a Reason Not to Have an Alarm System

One of the most common reasons we hear for people not having an alarm system is, “I’d probably just have false alarms all the time”.  This is a valid concern considering that most municipalities will actually bill a user for alarm response after a certain, fixed number of false alarms in a one year period (generally speaking, this number is 3 per year).  (And, 99% of alarms are actually false).

False alarms where police are dispatched are certainly not a good thing.  Many police agencies will brand homes or businesses with regular false alarms as a problem property and will take their time attending to a dispatch request at that address.  This is obviously a problem if there is an actual, true reason for dispatching.

Sierra Security employs several different procedural rules to prevent police from being dispatched needlessly.  Our goal is to make sure your alarm system is effective and that police are only dispatched in a real burglary situation.

1)  Every system user is trained by our installer, not only on how to use the system itself, but how a central station operator is going to respond to an alarm situation for this particular user.  Knowing how the entire process works, from the alarm being triggered to a police car rolling to the property, is key to preventing false alarm dispatches.

2) Our monitoring center codes each zone, on each alarm system account, with a response code that dictates how an alarm on that zone is to be handled.  The response codes can vary greatly.

The code for “Dispatch 1st”, meaning that as soon as the alarm comes in, the dispatcher calls the correct local authority, is often used with fire alarm devices, hold up alarms and medical panic buttons.  These buttons are deliberately pressed for 2-3 seconds so the chances this is a false alarm are slim.  Time is of the essence.

The other end of the spectrum would be Code 402 which instructs the operator to call every contact on the customer’s list of responsible parties (RP’s), before dispatching police.  This gives 2 or 3 people the ability to call off the dispatch in case of a false alarm (not just anyone can call off a dispatch; they must have the owner’s assigned code word on hand to do so).

3) Our monitoring center can also input custom instructions for specific needs of users.  Several customers have instructed us NOT to dispatch at all unless the operator actually talks with an RP who authorizes us to dispatch.

To clarify, all of these specific response codes are assigned to each ZONE on a system, not to the system as a whole.  This means that all the various devices connected to an alarm system, can each have their own response code.  We regularly monitor systems for burglary, fire, smoke, carbon monoxide, freezing, standing water, motion, glass breakage, etc.  Most of these devices would dictate a specific response code based on the device, the customer and the location of the device.

Free consultations are always available at Sierra Security.  Call today and schedule yours.

DIY Residential Cameras

We constantly get asked, no, almost begged to install residential surveillance cameras.  Our resounding answer to homeowners is, “No”.  There are two reasons for this.

First, most homeowners have had something happen recently and they want to “catch” the person.  No offense, but it really doesn’t work that way.  The chance of getting useable video for the local authorities is extremely slim, and most police agencies do not have facial recognition software, yet.  Plus, for probably the last 5 years, every time we’ve quoted camera systems for residences, the homeowner opts not to spend that kind of money.  We do high end systems for schools, churches and manufacturing.

Which brings us to the second point:  We just cannot be competitive with what is available on Amazon or at Best Buy.  Given that statement, there are some very good DIY systems available from companies who have the technical support available in the remote chance you run into problems.

We generally do not endorse products we don’t sell but we recently helped an existing alarm customer install an Arlo brand camera at her front door.  Arlo cameras are readily available at Costco, Amazon and others.  This is not an amateur style camera.  These are high definition (1080p) cameras with built in motion sensing (adjustable range) that are perfect for around the house.  They are not the least expensive out there but they are worth the difference.  They are battery operated so they can be installed almost anywhere.  (The mfg. says the battery life is about 3 months).

The base station, which the cameras communicate with and connects to the Internet, was extremely easy and quick to set up and get connected.  Several mounting options are available to make positioning the cameras easy to whatever the application.  An automatic iris adjusts the cameras light sensitivity to whatever the surroundings and the motion detection is outstanding.  The operation of the camera is customizable but we set this customer’s unit up to pull up the picture on her cell phone when someone was about 10 ft. from the front door and it worked flawlessly.

If you’re shopping our site for surveillance systems for your home, please check Amazon for Arlo cameras and save yourself a good deal of green.

We’re Ready for the Next Challenge

We have recently completed one of the most fun and rewarding jobs in our recent history.  Every year or so, one major new challenge comes along, major either because of the size or the complexity or installation timing.  This year it was a church that was remodeling a good portion of their main building.  In the process they required a new commercial fire alarm system, a new burglar alarm system, an access control system and an 11 camera video surveillance system.  The fire alarm system utilized a Honeywell intelligent panel and about 90 devices along with a cellular alarm communicator that must produce a “heartbeat” signal to the central station every 5 minutes.  It was interfaced with the sprinkler system and the whole system was design approved on the first submittal to the fire department and operationally approved by the fire department on the first visit after system completion.

The burglar alarm system, in order to save money, had to be wireless and yet work in steel framed buildings and across the church campus to out buildings.  Using the new DSC Neo system, we installed wireless door contacts, wireless motion sensors, wireless sirens and (4) wireless keypads to complete a system that acts like 4 different systems in each of the 4 different buildings but is connected to one main panel saving huge money on monthly monitoring charges.  Instead of 4 monitoring bills for 4 systems, they only pay one.

The video surveillance system was very typical EXCEPT for one camera that was to look over a playground from a building with no physical connection to the main building where all the other cameras and the DVR were to be located.  Using a TrendNet, 2 piece outdoor access point, we were able to “beam” the playground camera signal from an outbuilding to the main building for integration with the DVR.

The access control system was also very typical EXCEPT that we were interfacing with an existing magnetic door lock system instead of replacing it, again to save money.  We investigated the operation of the existing system and found a way to utilize it’s control board to provide the lock and unlock mechanics when triggered by the new system we were installing.  The church now has a two door system that can be accessed by PIN code or proximity tag, whichever each user prefers.

We’re ready for the next challenge, whatever that may be.  Bring it on!

Commercial Fire Alarm

Commercial Fire Alarm

NFPA Compliant Design and Installation for Commercial Buildings

 

New Life for Older Alarms (we have an app for that)

We have recently concluded testing an ingenious device designed to bring older DSC  alarm panels into the 21st century.  The Envisalink 4 is a very affordable retrofit device allowing smart phone control, Internet monitoring and event messaging on your DSC 5010, 1616 or 1832 panel.  Previously, if you wanted an app or web portal to control and view your alarm system, the alarm panel and any keypads had to be updated to the latest model and a cellular communicator added.  When we offered this kind of upgrade for around five hundred dollars, we had very few takers.

The Envisalink 4 can be retrofit onto your existing system, including labor, for $149.00 plus tax.  And, since the Envisalink 4 allows your system to be monitored via the Internet, you can cancel your phone line used for monitoring, saving up to $45.00 per month!  (Internet monitoring adds $5.00 to your existing monitoring rate).

The system can be programmed to send messages to your cell phone or email address when the system is armed or disarmed (including which code was used), when there are system troubles or an alarm occurs.  The Android app and the mobile web portal (which look the same), show the real time status of the system including whether armed or disarmed and the open/closed status of each zone.  Both allow bypassing of individual zones and a history of recent activity on the system can be viewed at any time.  All these features make your alarm system much more flexible and user friendly for an active, on the go lifestyle.

We have thoroughly tested this device with the most common panels that we installed back to 1999 with great success and are excited to offer this as a very affordable upgrade to your system.  Please call us at 949-588-9870 or email us at mail@betterhomesystems.com to schedule your system upgrade.