Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Linking home inspections and home security


Although it may seem like an uncommon union to link a home inspection with home security, after close examination the two fit like a hand in a glove. The home inspector and the security professional identify and propose solutions to household hazards. Several common safety threats often cited by home inspectors are improper or undersized wiring, old inefficient heating systems, and plumbing problems. Modern life safety systems formerly referred to as security systems can assist with the detection of the aforementioned threats.
• Improper or undersized wiring can easily cause a house fire. A good home inspector can locate these wiring problems. Some 20 percent of all problems identified by home inspectors are due to improper wiring. Insufficient grounding of electrical wires, overload problems, aluminum wiring and amateur wiring problems are most often found by home inspectors. These issues can cause a catastrophic house fire that could cause loss of personal possessions, displacement from the home for six or more months but most importantly loss of life. A quality home security system will combine the elements of photo-electric smoke sensors that can detect the presence of cold smoke as well as a dramatic rise in heat temperature. The quicker a fire threat is identified the quicker the home owner can be alerted and emergency officials notified to eliminate the threat. With most homes only having the minimum state mandated fire detectors called ionization detectors, that only detect fires that dramatically increase the room temperature, home owners are still susceptible to the risks of smoldering fires that emit toxic fumes that can cause death.
• Old and Inefficient heating systems can have problems that pose serious safety risks such as poor ventilation and clogged chimneys, flues and gas leaks. A quality home inspector through a complete home inspection will uncover these problems so they can be fixed by a licensed contractor. Adding your life safety system to assist with identifying these threats will include adding a carbon monoxide detector.
• Plumbing problems can also lead to numerous safety problems as well. Water and electricity don’t mix and when the two are combined the results can be deadly. Often a leak can make its way to a light fixture or some other electrical apparatus causing an electrical fire. A water heater located in the crawl space that develops a leak can cause mold as well as an increased water bill. A quality home inspection can detect these problems. Adding a wireless water detection device to your home security system is also advised because it can detect these threats between your annual home physicals.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Citizen's Alert-Your Crawlspace Could be Calling Crooks


Whoa Nelly, Crawlspaces and Crooks; "What You Talking About Willis?" Certain areas of the home that are out of sight are often out of mind: like the crawl space of your home. The crawlspace is the area underneath a home that is most often accessed from a small to medium sized door located on the outside of the house. Crawlspaces often contain the cold air return and air handler of a heat pump and the hot water heater. Criminals don't want you to know this information because what you don't know can be most damaging to you. So since criminals suck, I will tell you the top secrets to crawlspace security. The top reasons a crawl space is attractive to criminals: are ease of entry so they can access the home: they can study the occupants activities by listening from below: they can steal copper pipes and they can get into the house from below easily by removing the cold air return and coming in through ventilation system. I first elaborate on the reasons then I will provide several tips to securing this often vulnerable and overlooked area of the home.
Crawlspaces are easily entered because they are often unlocked or only secured with a flimsy padlock that can be opened through Brut force from a blunt object like a hammer or mallet or cut with bolt cutters. The design of crawlspace doors also makes them vulnerable. Crawlspace design often has the door hinges facing outward where the screws can be recessed and removed, allowing entry from the hinged side. Another reason criminals target crawlspaces is to obtain valuable metals like copper.
Valuable copper piping is found running underneath many older homes and crooks want to sell the copper for cash. Drug addicts find copper theft appealing because it can be done quickly and easily. Once the crook has shut the water off from the street, they go under the home and take hacksaw and cut the pipe. By posing as a contractor these criminals can take you for thousands from beneath the home. Just imagine coming home and turning on the water and nothing comes out of the spigot. You hear water running if the crook turned it back on, but it is all running underneath the house in the crawlspace. Also if a criminal wanted to scout a family’s routine they could do it from below.
From underneath the home the home a large portion of what you say and do can be heard. The criminal can be listening and you are completely unaware that they are there. A savvy crook could even install a small pinhole camera from below and point it at your security keypad to learn the code. Once they had the code they could bump the lock, enter the home and do anything they wanted. This should creep you out just thinking about it. The final thing they can do is to come in through the cold air return.
A small individual can easily fit through many cold air returns, remove the screen and kick out the cover. Once they are inside they could rob you blind. Many of the cold air return vents are in areas where there are no security devices, especially if the person only had a basic system with three door sensors and a motion sensor that was places in a family room or kitchen.

Most crawlspace doors are not locked so it is vital to install a good quality lock such as a (U) style lock. This lock is similar in style to a bike lock. It is difficult to break and can not be cut with bolt cutters like a traditional pad lock.
The second security weakness of crawlspace doors are the hinge system of these doors. Most often the hinges are on the outside, where a criminal can take out the screws and gain entry from the back side. To prevent this problem remove the existing screws and replace them with star bolt screws. It is unlikely that criminals will have the necessary tool to remove them.
The final component to protecting a crawlspace is to install a security door contact to the crawlspace door that is set for instant alert when the security system is activated. If the system is monitored it will dispatch the police and notify you that someone has attempted to gain entry to that zone of your home.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Are motion detectors something you’ll regret if you have pets?


Having a security system is equally as important for your pets as it is for the humans that dwell within the four walls that make your house a home. A proper home security system design will take the presence of pets into account and may or may not use motion detectors. Improper use of motion detectors can cause false alarms and agitation of pets due to the noise emitted from the high piercing audible siren. So it is important to make sure that motion detectors are the best method of providing the adequate protection when pets are present. Having the sensors installed according to the manufacturer and industry standards is imperative.
Although some motion detectors are equipped with a pet immunity lens that will allow them to bypass small animals under a certain mass, there are exceptions to how this feature works. People with multiple pets, either dogs or cats, which run in tandem, will trip the motion sensor. Also a single cat that has the ability to jump and climb can easily trip a motion sensor with a pet immunity lens. The best security design will use either glass break detectors or window contacts in order to accommodate pets and prevent false alarms. Although contacts and glass breaks will cost more upfront than a single motion detector the long-term rewards will far outweigh the initial investment.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Alarm system contracts, know what they are saying!


It has always been said, let the buyer beware. This should be true when it comes to alarm contracts. It is not what is written in bold type that one will have an issue with, but the fine print, cloaked in legal language that is often confusing and written to protect the company and not the client.

Several important areas to consider when looking at security system contacts are the renewal clause, rate increase clause, warranty clause, and ownership clause. It is in these areas that many clients find themselves in an unfavorable condition when something comes up.

Alarm companies must clearly disclose the length of the contract but it is how the contract renews that places the client in an unfavorable situation if the contract automatically renews for the full length of the original term or in one year increments. A client may think that they have only signed a 36 month agreement, only to discover that the contract rolled over for another 3 years or another year. The best type of contract to get is a contract that renews month to month. Auto renewing contracts trap clients into remaining with a company and not being able to shop the open market. Another area to consider is the rate increase clause.

Most alarm companies have a rate increase clause, but clients should be aware of when it can be applied, and how much annually. With most people on a budget a 10 percent rate increase may place a customer in a difficult situation. One of the biggest areas where people find themselves unhappy with their alarm company is how warranties are handled.

The alarm warranty clause is a must read for a client. If you have a limited lifetime warranty, know what that means and also know if there are trip charges or service fees. If you have a full warranty, know what if anything is not included. Finally read the ownership clause.

The ownership clause will state what if anything the alarm company maintains ownership over. If the company retains ownership over the master control panel, this will allow the alarm company to come out and take it at the end of the agreement, rendering the system dead. This means that it can not be sold with the home, or used as an audible alarm. Some companies even maintain ownership over the window decals and yard sign.

In conclusion, know what you are signing and don’t be pressured into signing something that may hurt you in the long run. For more information regarding security systems call Jim McNeely at 919-949-9690.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Social media snafu’s leading to home burglaries


In a recent meeting I attended a gentleman who works as a computer specialist told me a bout a website called http://pleaserobme.com which lists the recent tweets and social media updates of people that left home and are now vulnerable to having a burglar exploit them. Criminals can easily find the full name and address of location-sharers using Google Buzz, Foursquare or Twitter. According to FBI crime stats a home is burglarized every 15.4 seconds, and the average home robbery is under six minutes. New technology often has the effect of causing people to get swept up in the novelty and forget about safety measures. Facebook has announced that they will add a location share feature at the end of March 2010. This can be extremely dangerous and this is why the “please rob me site” was created. The site creators want to shock the people who are updating their location and announcing to the world that they are not home, into stopping such activities.
I have often heard people who do not understand social media or twitter say, “Who would be interested in what I am doing during the day?” Now we have the answer- the criminals. Announcing to the world that you are not home is not wise under any circumstances. Whether you use social media or not it is important to develop a security consciousness. Far too many people fall into the category of believing that a burglary can not happen to them. It really is not a matter of if it can happen but when, especially if you have not made the correct security measures. Security systems are not a luxury but a necessity, and just a cell phone everyone should have one. In fact security systems are as easy to obtain as a cell phone so there should not a reason for not having one.
In conclusion, never announce when you leave your home on a social media sight because burglars might be watching. Always lock your doors. Have adequate lighting and install a home security system.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vulnerabilities of Security System Communication


Many security systems rely on a single means of communication – the telephone; making the system vulnerable to being compromised. There are several problems that arise from the telephone line. The first is that there are more than one type of phone lines, the conventional Bell South or Verizon line and the Voip (Voice over Internet Provider). Both types of phone lines can be compromised.
The conventional phone line can be cut or disconnected from outside the house and this is also true with Time Warner Voip phone lines. This makes the security system unable to communicate with the central station to alert them of an intrusion, fire or medical emergency. Another weakness in Voip phone lines is when the power is interrupted the modem that creates the dial tone becomes nonoperational and the security system is only able to sound a local alarm. Three simple solutions are to fortify the phone line, add a backup battery for the modem and the most effective is to install a cell backup unit to the alarm system. For more information on home security systems go to http://whensafetymatters.com

Monday, March 8, 2010

Overlooked aspects of Home Security Systems



You may only think about your security system when you turn it on or off, but if your system is over three years old or you just purchased a home with an existing system there are some important factors you should consider that may make your system inadequate or vulnerable.
Many security systems are basic alarms that consist of two or three door sensors and a motion sensor placed in the main area of the home. Burglars want to access the master bedroom to get guns, money and jewelry. If the burglar can get to this room without tripping a door sensor or motion; they can get around your alarm. It is wise to consider adding a motion detector, window sensors or glass break detection device to that area. A combination of these items may also be a better fit depending on the layout of the home.
Tomorrow we will discuss vulnerabilities in the security system communication devices.
For a complete analysis of your home security system call (919) 949-9690 or go to http://whensafetymatters.com