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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.

Traveling Over the Holidays?

Leaving home for the Holidays? Burglars love this time of year. Obviously empty homes everywhere for one or two weeks! This Christmas, if you’re leaving town, don’t make your absence so obvious. Some simple basics will make your home appear lived in, even though you’re gone. 1) Put some lights you regularly use on timers set to mimic your actual use of those lights. 2) Leave the stereo or a TV on (or also on a timer). 3) Have a neighbor pick up any hand bills, yellow pages or other items left on your porch or driveway. 4) Have a neighbor get your mail so it isn’t overflowing in your mail box. 5) If there is snow on the ground, have a neighbor drive up your driveway. Nothing says “nobody home” more clearly than virgin snow on the driveway. Do these simple things even if you have an alarm system; it might just save you a broken window or door. Merry Christmas from Sierra Security.

Access Control

Access Control-limiting access to a certain area to persons authorized. Applicable to mini-storage facilities, commercial buildings, gated communities and the like. Most systems installed are old enough so as not to be very user friendly. Many require on-site programming to add or remove authorized users. This means that the owner must physically go to the site with a programming tool to remove a user who has cancelled the service or not paid rent.

Sierra Security can install an inexpensive solution that includes web and smart phone control. Users can be added or deleted by the owner in less than a minute via web browser, Android app or iPhone app. The owner can also view a history of access by user name, including a time stamp.   If you know an owner of a mini-storage facility that would like to have full control of their access system in the palm of their hand, have them call Sierra Security.