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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.

Powerful New Wireless Alarm Products

Sierra Security has recently completed our first two installations using DSC’s new NEO product line.  The original idea behind this product line was to deploy an exclusive “spread spectrum” wireless technology capable of vastly increasing the effective range and wireless reliability of system devices.  In the past, wireless technologies could be a bit finicky and devices mounted on metal surfaces or systems with a good amount of metal in the building were problematic.  In many cases, to avert false alarms, we’ve had to install the actual radio frequency device off of metal surfaces (like on the wall above the door), and then hard wire the device to contacts on the door or window being protected.  Aesthetically, this is not the most desirable method of protect a door in a retail location as there is wires showing between the device and the contacts.

One of our NEO installations was residential; a house and a shop about 100 yards apart.  The brains of the system were installed in the garage of the house with a wireless keypad inside the garage entry and wireless door and window sensors, with wireless area motion sensors, in both the house and shop.  Since installation in early December 2016, we have had ZERO false alarms and communication issues.

The second NEO system installed was a combined commercial/residential application; an auto and boat repair facility (4 bays and office space), with living quarters above the shop and office and a separate building located on the property about 80 yards away from the main building, used for boat storage.  The installation included door and window contacts and motion sensors throughout all three distinct areas, with keypads in each area and each area partitioned off to act as its own system.  Since installation in early November 2016 we have had ZERO false alarms and communication issues.

Although the NEO systems are a bit more expensive than traditional DSC systems, in the right application NEO is simply the only system that we are going to trust for care free ownership and management.

Cameras for “Home Security”

We constantly get homeowners asking for cameras for “security”. Hollywood, via TV and movies, has created a false narrative that starts with a bad video image of a person that is then software enhanced to finally result in a recognizable facial image fed into a database and the perpetrator is recognized and apprehended. Real life doesn’t work this way and we almost always recommend homeowners not waste money on cameras. If someone broke into your home and you got a decent image of them, where would you take it? The FBI and a very small handful of large, local police agencies even have access to facial recognition software and unless your burglar is already a convicted felon, their face isn’t in the database. And often times, burglars mask their identity by wearing a hoody covering most of their face anyway.
We do install cameras, often, in commercial applications. Local 24 hour access gyms must have cameras to get insurance. Mini storage facilities use cameras to track vandalism, most often occurring after a non-paying renter is locked out of their unit. We’ve even installed cameras on manufacturing processes so a remote user can see and control machinery in the process.
We have a handful of customers who paid us to install cameras on their second homes, but purely for entertainment; so they can see what the weather is like or the lake conditions from their primary homes. Don’t waste your money on cameras for “security”. Like our insurance broker has said “having cameras is a great way to watch your stuff being stolen!”.

Johnny Come Lately?

Has your cable company or internet provider solicited you for alarm monitoring yet? If not, they will soon. AT&T, Time Warner, Comcast, Suddenlink, and many others have decided that the alarm system monitoring business model fits well with their current model. The only problem is their experience in the alarm industry. One non-monitored customer who had a system in her house that we installed 10 years ago called recently asking where the alarm system was located. AT&T sold her on a “digital” alarm system and their technicians had been at her house three hours and had not yet located the existing system (which is cleverly disguised in a 12 by 12 locked box in the master bedroom closet with our company logo on it!). Is this the kind of alarm system support you want from the company monitoring your alarm system?
When approached by an alternate provider whose primary business is NOT alarm monitoring, ask the technicians some simple questions.
1) What is a “digital” system and what advantages does it have, functionally, over the system I have now? (hint, all alarm systems manufactured over the past 15 years are digital).
2) How long has this company been in the alarm monitoring business?
3) Where is their central station located? Local?
4) Is their initial monitoring rate a “teaser” rate like their super low cable and internet rates that are designed to get new customers and then go up to “normal” after a year?
5) Is their monitoring center actively involved in YOUR local alarm industry professional associations?
If you don’t get a great feeling that the answers to these questions were not just made up on the fly, don’t compromise your monitoring. It’s your home and family that you’re protecting. Leave it up to professionals that have been in the business more than a couple years.

Second Home Protection

This is the time of year when many people walk away from their summer homes in the Northwest for the next six or seven months; some just taking their chances on having their homes burglarized, or not.

Even the most inexperienced burglar can spot an unoccupied home, and even easier is spotting that home that has been unoccupied for a few weeks or months. Accumulated advertisements stuck in the front door, phone books on the doorstep and virgin snow in the driveway are all dead giveaways that nobody has been home for a while. This is why not a small percentage of our business in residential alarm systems comes from people who have experienced a burglary while away for an extended period of time.

The most effective way to protect your home, obviously, is a multi-faceted alarm system that can detect burglary, fire and water intrusion making sure that whatever happens, someone will be notified quickly to respond, minimizing damage or loss. With our smart phone app, a system owner can view the real time status of all the homes protected zones, get customized text alerts if virtually anything happens, and remotely arm and disarm the system…all from anywhere there is cell service.

If you know someone with a home in the Northwest that would like to have peace of mind that the home is protected while they are away, please have them call Sierra Security instead of rolling the dice every year.

Why should you care if your alarm company is licensed?

Licensing is a way your state helps protect the consumer.   First, most license issuing agencies require proof of and maintenance of liability insurance. Second, the licensing agency provides a vehicle for consumers to file complaints about contractors with whom they have legitimate issues that have not been resolved. Agencies investigate complaints and log those complaints for future consumers to see on their web sites. If you don’t have personal referrals or glowing references about the company you are considering, at least check their license status and any complaints on your state’s web site.

Third, some licensing agencies, such as California’s Contractor’s State License Board (CSLB) and Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) require a certain number of hours worked in the particular field and the successful completion of a qualifications exam before issuing licenses. In order to do business as an alarm company in California, Sierra Security must hold 4 separate licenses. 1) Low Voltage Contractors License. 2) Alarm Company Operator License. 3) Alarm Company Qualified Manager License. 4) Alarm Company Agent License. All these licenses require verifiable experience and testing.

For certain the best way to select a contractor is by personal referral, but always check a prospective company’s license status. If the company is not licensed, contracting with them for a system could be risky.

Eleven Percent

Read below the article from the CDA Press regarding recent burglary discoveries in and around Coeur d’Alene.  With an average of only 11 percent of burglaries resulting in an arrest in KC, it would have been much better for the owners to have alarm systems.  This is exactly why insurance underwriters discount premiums for alarm system owners.

“The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office has received reports over the past several weeks of waterfront summer cabins that have been burglarized. The reported crimes occurred sometime after the end of the 2014 summer season.

The cabins that were burglarized were on Hayden Lake and Lake Coeur d’Alene. Forced entry was made on the cabins by an unknown means and items stolen include household electronics and power tools.

Detectives believe that several of these burglaries were made by the same suspects and are hoping that timely reporting can further the investigation and lead to the recovery of the stolen property.

The sheriff’s office is asking individuals who have unoccupied summer homes to check the residences, and if they have been a victim, to contact deputies as soon as possible.”

A New View on Cameras

I used to be somewhat of an “anti” camera person.  Most video obtained by reviewing DVR footage results in less than identifiable pictures (ask your local police department…they’ve seen it all).  However, after helping a friend last week hack into her DVR (she forgot her password) and review some footage after her business was vandalized, I was able to pull up and print the actual vandalism being perpetrated and printed out some stills of the perpetrator.  After posting the stills around her business, the perpetrator “fessed up” as he knew he would be identified eventually by other regular customers.  We have also lately seen a very different use of surveillance cameras.  A new customer has hired us to install cameras in an industrial plant so an equipment operator can view various shots of the equipment he is operating, all on one screen.  Nothing to do with security, but everything to do with knowing what is happening in a much broader area than can be viewed physically.  I am definitely going to keep my eyes open with a much broader view of what good quality cameras can do.

New HD Suveillance Cameras In Stock!

Our primary distributor has just begun carrying an awesome line of HD digital surveillance cameras and DVR’s with two killer features.  First, they are designed to be retrofit on virtually any type of wire used in a previous installation of older analog or digital equipment.  This makes retrofitting a facility with new, state of the art equipment, much more cost effective.  Second, the price point of these cameras and DVR’s rivals far inferior low definition, analog cameras/DVR’s.  Now, for little more than the price of a “do-it-yourself” analog camera system, you can have a professionally installed, digital, high definition camera/DVR system.  This is great news for any commercial building with outdated cameras.  Time to upgrade?

The Versatility of a “Smart Outlet”

One of the best self “security” devices I’ve seen in a long time…the smart outlet.  Simply put, it is a small outlet that plugs into a standard outlet and connects to your home WiFi network allowing you to control the outlet via your smart phone!  You can set up schedules, delays to the schedules and control the outlet manually with an app downloaded from the manufacturers web site via a QR code included in the packaging.  What a fantastic way to control lights, a TV, stereo system and anything else in your home to make your home look lived in while you are away.  No more fixed schedules that burglars casing a home can figure out (same lights on and off, same time every day with standard timers). Now you can just turn electrical devices on and off whenever you feel like it.  Also great for people who don’t like coming home to a dark house.  Simply turn lights on before arriving and enter into a brightly lit house.  Now I can control my alarm system, my heating and air conditioning and my lights, all at my convenience.