OT: In need of a home alarm system

jrazz wrote on 12/20/2005, 8:43 PM
My neighborhood has recently become the stomping ground for thieves and would be theives. My neighbor, who is in her eighties had some items stolen out of her trunk while carrying in groceries and 2 days ago someone threw a brick through her window and tried to crawl through the opening but the police scared them off before they could take anything and no, they didn't get caught. Apparently the same thieves broke into her next door neighbor's house just a week before and took some items. Another neighbor lost a weed eater by someone entering their back yard and the tool shed to get it. I have lost a lawnmower and my wife's bicycle and who knows what else has been taken.

So, with all that being said, do any of you use a home alarm system and if so, what? I would hate to come home from vacation or being out of town and find that my house was broken into and that all of my cameras, computers, monitors, sound equipment, etc is missing. Yeah, I have insurance on ALL those items, but if I can be proactive and preventative, I would love to. So, any suggestions. I have looked at GE, Brink, and ADT... GE is apparently running a promotion for big discounts on equipment- almost a 1,000 dollars off the package that I would need compared to Brink and ADT, but their monthly monitoring charge is a couple bucks more... alright, enough with the rambling; any suggestions?

j razz


JackW wrote on 12/20/2005, 9:24 PM
We've been protected for many years (Seattle area) by a company called Home Guard which I believe is national. We pay $28 a month, and get a break on our home-owner's insurance. The installation is about 10 years old now, but as I recall it was considerably less than Brinks and ADT at the time.

Home Guard's customer service is excellent -- they've made a couple of trips out to deal with old sensors that have gone funny, free of charge -- and the only time we had an event the police showed up within a very few minutes, notified by the local Home Guard office. I've set off the alarm two or three times by mistake and HG has checked up within a minute or two.

Coursedesign wrote on 12/20/2005, 9:42 PM
There are two levels to alarm companies.

Most of them just note "oh, there is a company burglar alarm going off at 123 Wisteria Lane. Call the cops and ask them to go out and check it." The cops may be busy elsewhere, they may already have had 100+ false alarm calls in the last month (there's a VERY high false alarm rate), and as a result they may wait until they have finished the whole box of doughnuts before slowly driving over to the alarm site, at which point of course any burglars have already cleaned house.

In some areas, (even in major cities), it can take 2 hours for the cops to show up!

Better (and a bit more expensive) is to go with a company that has its own continuous armed patrols of your neighborhood. Any alarm can then typically be responded to within a minute or so, and that makes all the difference in the world.

If you have a lot of expensive gear at home, the best protection is to buy a house on a dead-end street. Burglars don't like getting stuck with only one exit, so they go elsewhere.

riredale wrote on 12/20/2005, 9:57 PM
The real value to a monitored home system is the little signs that you put outside and on the doors and windows. A thief, given the choice, will hit an unmonitored house first, right? You can buy some signs and forget the actual service, but those store-bought signs look hokey and any thief with any brains at all would know you can buy the signs.

We had Brinks (Pinkerton's) for years and I finally got tired of paying $30 a month. Still have the Brink's signs, though, which I guess proves my point.

Besides a monitoring service, there are a couple of other things to consider:

(2) Buy a dog. Seriously.

(3) Organize a "neighborhood watch" program and put up THOSE signs in the neighborhood.
DavidMcKnight wrote on 12/20/2005, 10:22 PM
We have Brinks and we like it. When we bought the house the equipment was already installed, so we just assumed the $30 a month. The above statements are all correct - most thieves will look for an easy target, so at least let them think you have a system. Also, keep the house well-lit and hedges trimmed. Put up motion activated lights if you don't have them already.
RBartlett wrote on 12/20/2005, 11:53 PM
With only 60+ million inhabitants, in the UK most criminals are already known to the police. If you can capture their picture - they can very often be identified and located within hours. So in addition to any physical security defence, alarm generating trips and signage - many folks with broadband are using network enabled cameras and the main PC to detect movement - then upload these MPEG4 clips to their web hosting account (ftp usually) as the frames occur.

These cameras are the equivalent $ price of $100 in the UK, so in North America - they'll probably be $30-$40! You need to power them - so my thinking is that running ethernet to a wireless access point or powerline adapter isn't much more difficult than finding power. You also need a PC turned on to change the constant motion video into visible-motion-clips. A camera facing a quiet street can clock 800MB on a day, but a sideway or rear view of the house might only gather 150MB (from trees swaying, bees at the window, birds/foxes/racoons!). The picture quality doesn't vary too much between brands - it is just average to poor quality 640x480 usually. Night would need a sensitivity range to suit your flood incandescent lights or infra-red flooding. IR is also another deterrent. The red glow shouts of a quality security system. Burglars do not like to be seen.

In the UK we can pick up DLINK and Dynamode (taiwan OEM rebadge for the UK) which as you might expect at this price point have no pan-tilt-zoom capability, but these are circa UK£65. An old PC with Windows and a shared broadband connection - you have two confidence factors - remote monitoring live and stored movement archives - even if your entire security PC and cameras go before the police/law-enforcement show up.

DLINK and Dynamode even supply the same multicamera security software - so you can add either camera and use the common acquisition software.

Home automation kits also provide security options - but I would, given the incidents in the original posters neighbourhood - use a professional intrusion alarm company for at least the next few months or couple of years. I've a mate who has dabbled with some of this - at the budget end - with less overall success than the camera supplemental security.

tongue slightly in cheek:
Then sign up to join the fight by becoming more socially engaged in occupying the kids and educating those not yet caught by drugs about the horrors of the habit. I'm preaching what I'd personally find very difficult to do myself in practice - but this is part of the cause - fragmented society.

Oh, if you have someone at home, it is quite amusing to send a cell phone message to the occupant when a guest arrives. Next step is to interface a megaphone for those who let their dogs &oo& on the pavement in front of the house!
Grazie wrote on 12/21/2005, 12:26 AM
"Next step is to interface a megaphone for those who let their dogs &oo& on the pavement in front of the house!"

. . please warn me in future . . I spluttered my morning coffee over my KB! - RB, very funny!

. .. funny? But kinda cute .. you've given me an early project for the hols ... hmmm....

. . ..

[ very loud . . as per RoboCop cah-chunk .. cah-chunk .. cah-chunk .. ]
"Warning! Warning! Dog Defecation in front HouseXX! Be warned this is a City Violation and you will be arrested! "


AlanC wrote on 12/21/2005, 1:22 AM
Perimiter protection is the best defence. Detect and deter the B*****D's before they cause any damage.

Check out my company's website to get an idea of what is available in the U.K. There must be something similar in the US.


richard-courtney wrote on 12/21/2005, 7:10 AM
Regardless which system you go with I recommend a monitored
service that has both wired and wireless connection. Phone wires
are easy to cut.

Alarm bells and horns can be filled with expanding foam to silence
them from the neighbors.

So, lots of lights and don't park your "I have expensive video cameras"
truck out front of your house at night.
JJKizak wrote on 12/21/2005, 7:57 AM
Have had a system for 15 years now. Motion sensors, smoke detectors, temperature sensors, the whole bit. Here are some facts to ponder:
1....The first time the alarm goes off the monitoring service (per agreement instructions) either calls the cops or you. If the cops come out (they basically ignore home alarm systems and have the excuses to back it up) they will instruct you that after so many false alarms you will be fined "X" dollars. This is not in a bad neighborhood but standard suburb.
2....After about a year or so the cops will not even show up. So last year we cancelled the monitoring service which is utterly useless. The $26.00 per month was a total waste.
3....Even if your system reports by cellular the cops won't come out anyway.
4....If you live in a bad neighborhood and call the cops (911) they won't show up maybe 2 hours after and always have an excuse.
5....The only thing you need are smoke detectors and a couple of Dobermans. Everything else is a waste of money. You can also deduct the Dobermans on your income tax for security purposes , and the feed, and the shots, etc.
6....Teach your Mother how to handle an AK-47 (or automatic 12 gauge) fully loaded ready to go with the safety off, you don't have time to figure out if the safety is on or off, especially in the dark.
7....Instruct shooter that if they shoot make sure the crooks are stone cold dead.
8...Invest in the special triple glaze wire re-inforced windows that will not let a 4 x 4 penetrate. (military loves them) Use metal doors with double dead bolts.

CTJ wrote on 12/21/2005, 8:42 AM
go to www.x10.com
jrazz wrote on 12/21/2005, 8:44 AM
6....Teach your Mother how to handle an AK-47 (or automatic 12 gauge) fully loaded ready to go with the safety off, you don't have time to figure out if the safety is on or off, especially in the dark.

So, basically build a compound like David Karesh and wait for the ATF to show up?

Thanks for the suggestions. I have a cop and a sherrif that live right next door, but for some reason that doesn't deter. We do have their numbers, but when we are not there, I would like to get a call from those monitoring the alarms to let me know that something is going off and is everything okay. Believe me, I do keep a shotgun next to the bed just in case... man, I am making it sound like I live in a riot zone, but having a wife changes everything. It is not just me anymore, but I have someone that I am responsible for keeping safe and secure and there are plenty of times when she is home and I am not. Anyways, thanks for the help- does it matter that I don't have a land line phone?

j razz
jrazz wrote on 12/21/2005, 8:46 AM
I have some x10 cameras and software, but if they break in and steal my computers, then that does me no good- I have used them for a while but the quality is not that great and if the power goes out then I am out of luck... which it does go out about once a month.

j razz
johnmeyer wrote on 12/21/2005, 4:25 PM
My house is completely automated (e.g., when you walk into a room, the lights turn on automatically and turn off when you leave; when a car comes up the driveway, a magnetic sensor sends a signal to my home system, which then turns on the lights and sounds a chime in the house). Many other things.

I could have put in a security system, since I have motion sensors everywhere, but I absolutely detest having a house that is "hostile" to me. My parents had a system like this and if you screwed up, alarms went off, the security company called, and you had to give them the password, or else the cops would show up. I guess that is peace of mind for some people, but I found it intimidating.

In addition, lots of people with alarm systems still get hit.

My solution, and my recommendation, is the same as RBartlett and others: cameras. You may not be able to stop the bastards, but you sure as heck can make sure they get caught. It is fairly simple to set up a few cameras that have their own IP addresses, and have these post their pictures on an external server (away from the house). This can be done either on a motion trigger, on a continuous basis, or on some other event you create. Many of these cameras have their own motion sensor built in.
Orcatek wrote on 12/21/2005, 6:14 PM
Buy a beware of dog sign. I've got one and even the police won't go in the yard without checking. Add a few props, dog bowl, large bone etc.

A monitored alarm is great, long as you don't false. Otherwise it gets expensive (many cities charge for false calls). Unmonitored don't do much. Most people will ignore them.

Good exterior lighting, good locks. Make your house hard to rob. Crooks are lazy. If your house looks like a lot of trouble they will go some place else. Thorny bushes in front on windows, but don't block the view to windows. Make sure all shrubs are prunned to allow all doors and windows to be easily seen.

Add a rider to your insurance to cover your electronics and cameras!!

PumiceT wrote on 12/22/2005, 6:39 AM
I have 2 "Beware of Dog" signs, but I crate my dog when I'm not home.

Aside from that, I don't think a 7 pound Toy Fox Terrier is going to scare any intruders away, crated or not. I figure he's safer in his crate if someone breaks in, or they could easily punt him across the room.

I'd rather they take my stuff, but let Thor remain safe.

After their house got robbed, and their insurance didn't cover the full amount of gold and diamond jewelry my mom had (they only had up to $5,000 covered, and mom had lots more than that), my parents got a full alarm system with door protection and motion sensors. It is wired and wireless.

I've considered getting an alarm system for the house I'm living in now, but it's hard to accept paying ~$30 / month for something that a sign on the lawn can do for a one-time fee of 97¢.

Funny thing is, I had a webcam that I would occasionally set up to monitor my bedroom, just for curiousity and to see if it was a viable security cam. Of course I didn't have it set up that day. They stole my laptop which had some sensitive info from my last job. From what I've been told, most thieves know enough to never actually boot the computer, especially if it's connected to the internet. They probably sold it to someone immediately.

I think I'll get wireless webcams or something someday. Set one up to see the front door, one to watch the living room, and one for the studio. I could use the front door / driveway one to see when guests arrive.
ken c wrote on 12/22/2005, 7:54 AM
The best defense is physical barriers, great tips so far..

Example: make sure to have a double-deadbolt, long screws, no glass near where they could knock out a door window and unlock from inside.

For my basement, I bought these www.mrgoodbar.com security bars and installed, they're great... look nice, white, and at least give me peace of mind that a burglar would cause a lot of ruckus to have to get through them, so nobody's going to enter via basement windows (very common), without me at least hearing a lot of noise.

And of course, I have my Remington 870 tactical, Glock .40 cal and Sig 9 mms for tactical defense. And I'm well trained in how to use them.

One tip from my local PD is to plant cactuses in the basement window wells, that's a good idea, another physical deterrent. Another tip from the PD, is if someone knocks/rings the doorbell and you don't answer, at least turn on some lights a few minutes later, so they know you're home, and don't try to enter since they tested/think nobody's home.

I'm always concerned about safety.

Remember, people can find your home address for $14 with www.peoplefinders.com , so there IS no such thing as nobody knowing where you live, if they're determined. So be safe out there!

jrazz wrote on 12/22/2005, 8:03 AM
I went with protect america . com and went with the basic package with a monitoring charge of 29.95 a month. I have 4 doors but would only need to cover 3 as... wait a minute, I hope there are no thieves out there reading this as I was just about to give out details on how my house is to be protected and the vunuralbilities of the system... but now I think I will leave it at that : ) Anyways, I went with the motion sensor, the wireless broadband simon 4 module. They threw in a lot of what they called "free upgrades" and cut down costs on their items. I got microsensor upgrades for free as well as an extra panel (total of 3), a heat/motion sensor, decals, signs,etc. He sure was liberal with those free upgrades but I guess they try to make it sound good as if you are getting a deal. I don't know any keypad that should cost over 300 dollars and anybody would throw it in for free. They must have some incredible mark-ups. Anyways, they seemed like the cheapest and did everything that ADT and Brink does, except protect america does not require a phone line for monitoring, they can use broadband, which is good for me b/c I don't have a land line phone.
Thanks for all the help on this,

j razz
fldave wrote on 12/23/2005, 5:35 PM
I have two:
80lb Husky Shepard
95lb Lab Mix

Free to roam the house, gave up on the crating when I'm gone.

Main reason I will never be without a large dog that barks at every house creak: my 6yr old son. No one is coming into my house to steal my son in the middle of the night. Or for that matter, my other good stuff.
epirb wrote on 12/23/2005, 7:29 PM
Dogs and monitored systems....another item to consider.Which is why I am installing a monitored system after the first of th new year.
We have a dog(Boder collie, that is more likely to lick a burglar to death than bite) But none the less is basicly our "only child". We as others dont crate her while we are gone during the day.(How is she gonna get her chores done in a crate?)
But the one thing I do worry about ,having so many elec gadgets..uh um excuse me... "equiptment", is the possiblity of fire while we are gone, while our Marnie is a very smart dog ,I dont think I can teach her to dial 911 when she hears a standard screamming smoke detector .Monitored systems have the ability to not only destiguish between fire and an access point being breached, but can notify the police fire department that someone or something ie: a pet is inside.
$30 a month for that security of having that protection for my dog as well as my equiptment is good insurance.
fldave wrote on 12/23/2005, 8:05 PM
Point well taken with the fire issue. All the more reason to have off-site data backups. And someone who can let the dogs out.
JJKizak wrote on 12/24/2005, 5:24 AM
As long as your agreement with the monitoring service says to report the fire alarm immediately to your local fire department (police) and they actually answer the call. There are a lot of variables here that will surprise you in this world of reality.

Steve Mann wrote on 12/25/2005, 11:58 AM
My house looks so crappy, no one would think that there's anything of value inside.

Actually, I have a few security cameras outside, in plain sight. (Three dummies and one real one). And two motion detecting lights.

The working camera came with software that telephones me on my cellphone when it detects motion. Now, if I could get it to send a photo to me as well.