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The month of May starts tomorrow and so the first official travel month for summer vacations has arrived.

We thought we’d talk a little bit about preparation today from a security standpoint.  If you take certain steps now, you’ll feel less stressed about handling other pre-vacation tasks during prime traveling season.

Pictured above are motion sensor lights, an ancillary part of security systems.

Bottom line: You still have some time to beef up your home security before a possible Memorial Day trip, for instance.

If you live in a cold weather climate like we do here in New England, it’s delightful to look out the window and see not only buds, but actual leaves forming on the trees.  Witnessing spring’s annual renewal never gets old.

But don’t let your shrubs and other vegetation in proximity to your house grow too much.  It is sound security advice to keep your hedges trimmed so as not to provide cover for thieves to hide under when approaching your house.

If you stay on top of this early in the growing season, it won’t become a daunting task later in the summer when full growth has set in.  However, be sure to read up on the subject or to consult a landscaper regarding when the best time is to prune certain shrubs—you don’t want to harm their long-term health.

You will want to address both your interior and exterior lighting.  If you don’t have them already, explore motion sensor lights to be installed at strategic locations outside your home.

And acting early also gives you time to install timer lights inside your home as well.  You can even have timers set to televisions and stereos in addition to lights.

Please don’t simply leave lights on the entire time you’re away to make it appear as if someone’s home—thieves typically know that this is actually a sign that you’re away.  Timer lights do in fact give the appearance that the house is being lived in because they turn on and off.

If you choose to use an electrician for your security lighting needs, you should have plenty of time before you travel if you act now.  Trying to secure your electrician of choice at the last minute can lead to the work not getting done, to you ending up paying more or not obtaining your electrician of choice at all.

Now is also a good time to pick a neighbor, friend or family member (or combination of all three) to handle a few important tasks while you’re away.  You’ll feel better knowing that you’ve got someone lined up instead of having to ask at the last minute.

These tasks include picking up your mail and newspapers if you don’t suspend service, holding a detailed itinerary of your trip as well as any spare keys that you may have been keeping outside your door in a hidden location.  It’s a good idea to not leave these out while you’re away.

Also be sure to secure someone to mow your lawn during this prime growing season if you plan to be away for more than one week.

Something that will be able to bring you some peace of mind while you’re away is remote video monitoring.  If you act soon enough before you leave, you can have your security systems integrator set up this convenient function.

All you need is an internet connection and a smart phone, tablet or PC.  This is a non-invasive procedure and the installation and equipment costs are relatively low.

You will be able to check in on your home while you’re on vacation.  Also, if any motion occurs during a certain timeframe or within a set field of view, you can receive email alerts and view the footage.

As are many things in life, it’s all about timing.  You certainly want a stress-free vacation, but you also want a stress-free time preparing for your vacation…so start preparing now, especially for the security aspect.  You’ll feel better while you’re away knowing you took preventive steps.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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Two conditions exist that make the installation of new security systems, as well as upgrading, a good choice nowadays.

We’re in a favorable time of year in terms of weather and have returned to a healthier economy (at least relative to a few years ago).  We’re obviously not out of the woods by any means, however, things are improving.

A possible security upgrade could be a biometric and card access combination.

Nonetheless, people are building new structures as well as expanding on their existing businesses.  And among the many contractors they are dealing with in these projects are security systems integrators regarding security upgrades or new equipment.

Ideally, you’d want to speak with your security provider before plans are drawn up, but it’s certainly not too late if you did not get that chance.

What security measures will you be adding to the new space?  What will stay the same and what will be different?  Are you going to have a security upgrade?

Three main areas we’ll focus on today are your video surveillance, access control and your security or alarm system.

1. Video Surveillance.  You will be able to move your current system with you to your new building, or if you’re expanding, you can add cameras of the same or similar type in the new areas.

But this may be a good time to consider upgrading.  Do you currently have analog cameras which are performing satisfactorily but aren’t quite as crisp and clear as you’d like.

Consider IP / Megapixel technology.  Achieve better facial recognition.  Decipher cash transaction at registers. Recognize makes of vehicles better in parking lot incidents—sometimes even license plates.

Reduce the number of cameras needed due the better coverage offered with Megapixel technology, for instance. Install 180 or 360 degree cameras.  Not only are you receiving the latest in camera technology, you’re requiring fewer wire runs and less maintenance.

2. Access Control.  If you’re currently set up with locks and keys at your building, then you may want to consider the conveniences and safety of installing an electronic access control system in your new location.

There’s no longer a need to worry if an employee loses a key or is terminated and keeps one.  With a card access system, you simply disable that particular card. 

What if you want to create an “audit trail” telling you who went where and when.  Access control systems allow for this.

And if you already have an access control system at your current location, you may consider biometrics for access control at the next building—at least for some of the more sensitive areas.

Biometrics reads body characteristics instead of a card or a fob.  It’s a higher form of security because if you lose your card, with normal access control (if it hasn’t been disabled yet) someone can use it to enter and it will appear as if it were you.

With biometrics, this can’t happen because the individual’s unique body characteristics such as her iris or fingerprints are read.

3. Security or Alarm Systems.  For an alarm system, often referred to as your security system, it benefits you if the security integrator can be in contact with the builder in terms of wiring before construction. 

Many people prefer hardwired devices on their security system, and with new construction, this is so much easier to achieve than with an existing structure.

There’s nothing wrong with wireless devices, they perform admirably.  They are simply chosen over hardwired devices often because wiring can be invasive.  So again, if your security system is integrated at the outset of building, then this isn’t an issue.

We hope you get a chance to explore improving your security either through security upgrades in your new building or expansion of your current location.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Tagged in: Security Upgrades
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It isn’t a stretch to think that administrators are not only genuinely determined to increase school security in the wake of recent events, but are also expected to do so by their constituencies.

Pictured above is a video intercom unit which can be used for school security.

 

We know that the solutions we present in this blog post can’t stop every situation and may not have stopped all the horrible situations of the past.  But to take no action with the knowledge of the things that can happen isn’t the answer.

We wanted to present a few safety measures, keeping in mind that nothing can be completely impenetrable.  However, these safety measures can be put into place that can sometimes stop a situation from happening altogether, and at the least, can delay things until law enforcement can arrive.

One area we’d like to focus on today for school security is access control through video intercom.  This would make it necessary for anyone who wants to pass through an entrance to be buzzed in—but only after being seen via video by someone in the main office.

Not only would the staff be able to see things such as how a person was dressed and what he may be carrying, but may also be able to judge his frame of mind from his behavior in some cases.

They would ideally enter a vestibule one by one.  The aforementioned video component should render any screening window in a vestibule unnecessary.  Due to their proximity to a potential dangerous person, a window can obviously be unsafe.

There are two ways to achieve video intercom.  One could have an intercom unit installed that includes a camera lens inside the housing, or a separate security camera could be installed above to capture more of a field of view.  This would make it much more difficult to hide.

Another important layer of school security is to install panic buttons in the classrooms, almost always under the teachers’ desks.  An alternative to this, while achieving the same result, is to have strategically located pull stations.

These devices make it possible for teachers, staff and administrators to relatively easily send out a distress signal that transmits immediately and directly to the police, and can also set off a tone or horn that informs everyone in the school to lockdown.

And speaking of lockdown, universal keys are an effective tool.  They allow teachers and staff to quickly lock any classroom with the same key—any teacher can jump into any classroom and secure it.  Another important thing is that they lock from the inside.

The issue of door security is a challenge at many schools.  Ideally, you’d have an entrance or two that can be secured, electronically and automatically.  Then, several ancillary and peripheral doors can be locked by a custodian once classes begin.

This allows the main office to monitor everyone who tries to enter.  And even if an entry was forced, the panic hardware mentioned above could be used to immediately notify authorities…and even more importantly in the short term, would allow teachers and staff to take cover in secure classrooms.

But the ideal situation mentioned above does not always present itself.  Sometimes there are courtyards that have students crisscrossing to and from several entrances throughout the day.  How do you keep those secure?

Also, there could be separate buildings that students travel to and from during school hours.

These are situations where it’s best to have a professional security integrator come visit your school for a consultation.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Tagged in: School Security
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It’s noteworthy that with the thousands of cell phones taking pictures and videos near the finish line of the Boston Marathon around the time of the bombing on April 15th, that it was storefront video surveillance that produced the images that identified the suspects.

Of course this should come as no surprise.  This sort of occurrence is not rare—video surveillance equipment originally purchased and installed to prevent as well as to help after-the-fact with theft and vandalism, actually serves a greater good for the public.

This situation proves that video surveillance works, especially when it’s broadcast via the media.  Although this dissemination of footage was unprecedented, it still shows how powerful a combination that video surveillance and news outlets are.

You may wonder why the footage was sort of blurred and choppy.  This could be from either motion blur or an issue with the frames per second rate.

Frames per second is just as it sounds.  Each frame is an image and when the frames are shown in succession, it of course creates a simulation of motion.  And if you see smooth footage, the frames per second rate is high.  If it is choppy, it is lower.

Security cameras can have frames per second rates of anywhere from about 5 to 30.  IP cameras are able to process images at the high end of this range.

Why wouldn’t all businesses install security cameras with high frames per second rates?  It has to do with storage and cost.  It costs more to store higher frames per second footage because it takes up more room on the hard drive.

Often times, a decision maker will find a happy medium between cost and still being able to recognize a suspect on video, even if he isn’t shown in a perfectly clear string.

Clearly, the frames per second of the particular security camera that was used to identify the bombing suspects was sufficient, because it led (as of the time of this writing) to the death of one of the suspects and a massive manhunt for the second.

You may wonder if biometrics could have been used to identify the suspects based on their facial images.

Using the still shots from the video footage, facial characteristics can be matched against a database to isolate a suspect.

Due to the fact that the images weren’t clear enough, biometrics could not be used in this case for identification.

And even if biometrics were able to be employed, the suspects may not have been in the database against which the Boylston Street footage would have been matched.

If you’re on the fence about whether or not to install video surveillance at your business, know that it works.  It works because it captures images of everyone who walks by or into your business, and it works when it is broadcast to via the media.

It doesn’t always have to be an international tragedy that qualifies the footage for broadcast by news outlets.  This also happens when robberies and other crimes are committed on businesses.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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So you’ve decided to upgrade from a lock and key system and have your security systems integrator install an electronic access control system. 

Or maybe you already have keyless entry on one or some doors and are looking to expand your access control system.

What are some decisions you need to make at the outset?  There are many items to address, actually. 

These include whether to use biometrics or credential readers, to use cards or fobs, to choose the proper panel which will accommodate the correct amount of future expansion, and more. 

But there’s something that needs to be taken care of before all else and it doesn’t even involve electronics, credentials or future expansion.

It has to do with your locksmith.

Having a survey done of your doors and door hardware before you have any electronic equipment installed just makes sense.  And most locksmiths will conduct a survey for free.

It also makes sense that you ensure that the integrity of the very doors you’re looking to secure is in tact. 

So what is done during a locksmith survey of your doors and door hardware?  Quite a bit, actually.  It can be conducted on commercial as well as residential properties.

It not only leads to more secure doors but it also stops energy loss and it could avert lawsuits due to the prevention of faulty equipment from hurting someone.

Also it can ensure ADA requirements are being met and that fire exit safety is at a premium.

Here are some examples of checks that are done during a typical survey:

        ¨      Are door closers leaking oil and closing properly? (…could cause injury)

¨      Are doors plum, closing tightly?  Are they swollen?

¨      Do thresholds need repair, weatherstripping, etc?

¨      Are leversets sagging?  Do latches retract?

¨      Do cylinders stick and have rust?

¨      Are hinges secure and are all screws intact?

¨      Does panic hardware (crash bars) latch properly after the door closes?

If you are meeting with a security integrator about access control, ask if they have a locksmith division—some do.

If they don’t, simply make a few calls to locksmiths and ask if they do free surveys.  Be sure to find one that doesn’t charge for the survey.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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I’m not a grizzled security veteran, but I’ve been in the industry long enough to have heard an unfortunate message on a consistent basis.

We are often contacted after a family or business experiences a break in.  There’s no way you can know when you’re going to be broken into, so I understand that of course people call us to install a system after the break occurs.  It’s a natural reaction and a smart move.  Repeat burglaries do happen.

They feel that they need to take action right away to prevent this from happening again.  But preventing a first break in is better than preventing a second.  And aren’t you doing the same thing?  Having a security company install an alarm system to prevent a future burglary?  Might as well not have been broken into yet.

If you’re reading this and you don’t have a security system, and you haven’t been broken into yet, now is the time to have a system installed, not after you’ve been burglarized.

This is not a sales pitch.  Really.  I realize that this blog post could potentially be read (and has been) on the other side of the world, so I know that person won’t be calling since they’re out of our territory to say the least.

The purpose of this post is to truly get you to think about prevention versus reaction.  Yes, in security sometimes reaction is used as well—such as when video footage is recorded of a burglar or vandal and subsequently used to apprehend him.

But to prevent the break altogether, make it known that you have a security system.  Apply your security company’s stickers to your windows and its sign out front.  Burglars would much rather deal with a house that does not have a system.

If you do this, chances are you’ve just thwarted a break in and forced the thieves to move on without ever knowing it.  And think of the reverse.  If other houses or businesses in the area have alarm systems and yours doesn’t, then the odds are greater that they’ll move on to your property instead of to those with alarms.

On the subject of stickers and signs being visible…just one quick piece of advice about the placement of your keypad.  You may think that it makes sense to have that visible also from a window or glass portion of the door.  But the thief would be able to tell if it were armed in some cases, so it’s better to keep it out of the view from the potential burglars.

The unique angle about the dilemma of whether or not to get a security system installed is that so many people end up doing it anyway.  However they do it after they’ve already lost precious property and been violated, suffering emotionally much more than financially.

So if the end result is to ultimately get an alarm installed by a security company either way, wouldn’t you rather do it before you got broken into…actually, to do it in order to prevent a break in altogether?

Think of the peace of mind you’ll have at night knowing your family is protected.  Think of that loud siren sounding when you’re away and the back door is broken into, subsequently making the thieves scatter like rats.  Your valuables will be retained.

In the paragraph above, family and material items were referred to.  But it’s this blogger’s opinion that knowing your family is safe is more important than if your wide screen TV will be there when you get home.

Just think about the fact that if you get broken into, you’ll most likely be like the many folks who call security companies after the fact.  You’ll most likely invest in a security system then.  Why not beat the burglars to the punch?

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With baby boomers aging before our eyes, the need for quality services from estate planning to healthcare will be essential in coming years.  Security for seniors is no different.

Pictured above is a pendant from LifeSentry for seniors to use to alert the central station.

Security products exist which are specially designed for our senior population and others have specific benefits for seniors although they were designed for people of all ages.

1. One product which is designed, for the most part, with seniors specifically in mind is the Personal Emergency Response Pendant—often referred to as PERS.

These pendants are often worn around the neck, but can be secured to the wrist, a wheelchair or a belt.

They are often water resistant so they can be brought into the shower (where slips are apt to happen).  The pendants can also be brought outside in many cases depending on the range of your particular model.

The pendant “checks in” with the base unit which is kept in a stationary place inside the house on a regular basis to ensure that there is constant communication between the two.  If the pendants stops communicating with the base, due to battery issues for instance, the base will alert the central station and those on the call list will be notified.

Speaking of the central station, many models will allow you to have one-button activation so that two-way voice communication can occur in case of slips, medical emergencies and more.

2. A service that wasn’t designed solely for seniors, but offers them and their families tremendous benefits is remote video monitoring.

With the use of a smart phone, tablet or PC (and an internet connection with a router), families can check in on their elderly relatives from anywhere.

No invasive wiring is needed.  The security cameras are inexpensive.  And you do not need a to purchase a DVR for recording purposes with most services—the storage is on their server.

You can even receive email alerts if motion occurs within a certain area or timeframe.  This is beneficial with dementia patients.

3. Speaking of dementia, another product that wasn’t specifically designed for seniors but helps them and their families safe in a few ways is a keypad.

Keypads aren’t just for arming and disarming your security system.  They have many other safety features.

If you’re concerned that a senior with dementia is liable to walk out of the house and potentially get lost, the keypad can help.

It has a “chime” function.  You can set it so that if certain doors are opened, then a beeping will occur from the keypad.  It is less harsh than the siren, yet is still alerts you that your loved one has wandered or is about to do so.

4. Speaking of wandering, wander alarms work wonders in managed care settings. 

Wireless wander alarms can include a device that is installed on the door itself.  It will transmit a signal to a receiver at the nurse station, for instance, so that a chime sounds to alert staff that someone is about to leave.

Bracelets and ankle tags can also be worn.  They work in conjunction with a device near the door which emits a field.  When the bracelet enters the field, staff is notified.  Some products even identify who the individual is after the signal is transmitted.

5. On the subject of transmitting, our last product today that is handy for seniors is the wireless transmitter (for fob) that comes with their home alarm system.

With this, they are able to disarm the alarm system from the driveway and do not have to rush to the keypad within a fixed amount of time to disarm it.

These are just some of the products and services available on the market to help with security for seniors.  They help both the seniors themselves as well as their families.  Securing those closest to us in life certainly takes precedence over material objects.

 

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Tagged in: Security of Seniors
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Do people act differently in public if they see a security camera on a streetlight above?  Do they not jaywalk?  Do they think twice about dropping that sandwich wrapper on the ground?  These are relatively minor offenses, of course.

Pictured above is a bullet style infrared security camera

We already know security cameras affect the way we drive.   This is because the cameras on the highways and roads lead right to our wallets—citations are being issued, fines are being paid and insurance surcharges follow.

But what about the serious stuff?  A brief article in Security Systems News magazine discussed a study that was done by the Urban Institute regarding the impact of security cameras on neighborhood crime in city settings.  The following details were taken from that November 2011 article.

We’ll jump right to the conclusion: the success depends on how they’re set up and monitored, says SSN’s article.  But for the most part, the cameras helped put a damper on crime.

Three cities were part of the study which was released in the fall of 2011:  Baltimore, Chicago and Washington.  The study indicated that there were “significant declines in total crime, violent crime and larceny downtown from January 2003 through April 2008” after Baltimore deployed over 500 security cameras in 2005.

It was found that for every dollar the city spent on video surveillance, it saved $1.50.

The report indicated that the investment in video was worth it in Chicago as well.  In fact, Chicago saved much more per dollar spent—over four dollars.

The results weren’t as successful in Washington as the “cameras alone did not appear to have an effect on crime,” stated the report.  There are local city council restrictions on surveillance that were cited as a possible cause for this.

So overall, security cameras work.  Think about.  If you know you’re being recorded, it affects how you act.  The lack of success in Washington makes sense, there were restrictions.

And think of this, if you’re a business near other businesses, you may want to consider installing security cameras outside.  Thieves will see video surveillance at your location, look around, and see the lack of it elsewhere.  Most likely they'll move on.

We thank Security Systems News magazine for this story and the Urban Institute for the study.

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Pictured above is an HID access control card with Photo ID Badge feature.

With an increased emphasis on access control for businesses in recent times, any measure that makes the duties of screeners such as those at reception desks and security guards easier is a welcomed trend.

Photo ID Badges for businesses present many benefits.  These simple and inexpensive tools offer tremendous versatility when dealing with your company’s access control efforts.

We’ve listed six benefits that your company will often experience when using Photo ID badging services.  While not every security company who offers these services provides each one of these benefits, most do.

At the very least, you can use these six items as a blueprint to ask questions when you’re researching various companies who provide photo ID badging services.

1. No Minimum Employee Base Required.  You may think that your company is too small to order photo ID badges.  Actually, many security integrators do not have a minimum number of employees for whom you must place an order. 

In fact, having a small number of employees who require badges is a reason a company wouldn’t want to take on the expense of badging equipment.  This underscores the reason to use a security company instead.

2. No Expensive Equipment Needed.  The only equipment your company truly needs is an inexpensive digital camera and an email account (access to the internet).

Simply take pictures of your employees with the digital camera, upload them onto a computer, then email the images to your contact at the security company that is creating your badges.

3. Easy to Create a Decorative Design.  With most security integrators, all you need to do is simply email your logo to your contact.  Typically, there is a one-time set up fee, and after that, your custom design will be in place—complete with your logo. 

4. Combine Photo ID Badges with Access Control.  Having your employees’ photos imprinted on their access control cards solves a few problems.

First, the photos can be imprinted directly onto a more durable (often “clambshell”) access card.  This will eliminate peeling and fraying that can happen often at the corners of laminated cards.

Other cards on which the photos can be printed are the magnetic stripe variety and those used with bar code readers.           

Also, combining photo ID badges with access control cards offers the obvious benefit of not having to carry two separate pieces of identification.

5. Color Coding for Simplified Identification.  Allow the personnel at reception desks as well as security guards to easily identify employees.  This saves time when lines begin to form and/or when screening employees are multi-tasking.

6 .One-Stop Shopping for Badging Needs.  Many security companies that offer photo ID badges also offer additional services that can make your life (as it relates to badging) easier.

Ask if the company offers lanyards, coils, badge clips, retractable reels, card overlays, slot punchers and other ancillary items needed to make your experience complete.

We hope these six items will arm you with ample information to help when it’s time to make your photo ID badging decisions.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

Tagged in: Photo ID Badges
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We’d like to underscore the effectiveness when video surveillance is installed in retail locations, and how the public can help “get the bad guys” when the resulting video is broadcast on the news.

 

Pictured above is an IP / megapixel security camera by Arecont Vision.

According to a report by WBZ out of Boston, earlier this week, a 21-year-old woman and a 25-year-old man were arrested for allegedly attacking a shopper in a Market Basket supermarket in Portsmouth, NH. 

The woman grabbed an innocent shopper’s purse while the man scooped up her wallet which fell on the floor.

Store video surveillance was the key to the arrest.  According to WBZ, the couple was ultimately apprehended due to police receiving tips.  A video clip of the two alleged robbers appeared on local news.

The report also refers to the fact that this was a little unusual as far as purse-snatchings go—it occurred inside the store instead of out in the parking lot.

The video surveillance shows how long the couple was inside the store and the specific actions of the alleged thieves.  This is valuable information in terms of evidence and will go a long way towards the potential prosecution of these people in the court system.

Enough can’t be said about the effectiveness of video surveillance in retail locations where people carry purses and wallets, money is exchanged and where valuable goods are stocked.

In fact, just having the cameras visible is going to prevent theft and vandalism in in many cases.  Security cameras act a tremendous deterrent.

But make sure not to fall into the trap of having security cameras for only this purpose—a deterrent.  You will need to have quality images as well, when and if the time comes. 

Some might even want to invest in high quality footage such as that which comes from megapixel security cameras.  Compared to their analog counterparts, a much more clear image is produced.  If you need to zoom in a great deal on an object such as a person’s face, a “grainy” result is less likely to occur.

(Check out this video clip of a an IP / megapixel security camera in a retail setting on One Source Security’s video surveillance website page.)

This is not to say that analog security cameras are inherently low quality.  They can also produce quality images—they’re simply not as clear as megapixel security cameras.

Whichever technology you decide to install, take solace in the fact that your video surveillance system will not only prevent crime by simply being in place, it could also produce video that you and the public can use to identify and prosecute true criminals.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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A temporary reprieve can be felt in southern New Hampshire towns, as well as in Dracut and Tyngsborough, MA.

According to a report by WMUR News in New Hampshire, two males (29 and 26) were arrested and charged with multiple daytime burglaries in Pelham, Windham, Hudson, Danville and Sandown, as well as the above-listed towns.

Pictured above are components of a burglar alarm system with ancillary equipment included.

As the title of this blog post indicates however, even though the alleged criminals have been apprehended, burglar alarms are still needed in the affected communities, as well as where you may live.

That’s because many homes are left unattended during the day, and a majority of burglaries occur during the day as well.  Burglars simply don’t want to be confronted by homeowners, so they take the easy way out and commit their crime when folks aren’t home.

They can simply walk up to a house and knock on the door, if no one answers, they can break in.  If someone does answer, they may just ask for directions, for instance.

If the house that they burglarize has an alarm system installed and armed, the siren will sound immediately either scaring them off or putting tremendous pressure on them due to the fact that the police are on their way.

Bottom Line?  Burglar alarms work.  Not only if an actual break occurs, but as a deterrent also.  If a thief sees security signs on the lawn and stickers in the window, he’s likely to move on to the next house.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Check out these statistics that were posted on a previous blog article of ours and which are also listed on our website:

  • According to the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, approximately 17% of homeowners have an alarm system. So if you have one installed, a thief is likely to ignore your house and move on to the next one where there may not be a system, as mentioned above.
  • According to the Greenwich Study of Residential Security, homes without systems are 2.7 to 3.5 times more likely to be burglarized.
  • Another study by the National Burglar and Fire Association indicated that 9 of 10 convicted burglars claimed they would not steal from a house with a monitored alarm system.

And it’s not just burglar alarm systems that do the trick…

Thieves have even been apprehended using remote video monitoring as part of home security systems.  Homeowners can receive an email alert on their smart phone, tablet or PC if any motion occurs in a camera’s field of view. 

After they view the email video clip and determine it’s a burglar, they can notify the police immediately.  Remote video monitoring is also a great way to monitor pets, nannies, elderly relatives and more.

Let’s take solace in the fact that our streets are little safer today, but let’s not lose our vigilance either.  Protect your valuables and family, whether you’re home or not, with a security system.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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You can’t escape it: security companies extolling the benefits of their alarm monitoring services.  You see yard signs of various companies as you drive down the road as well as banners on the internet pages you visit.  But most prevalent lately, now that cable providers have entered the market, are the commercials on your television set.

But please take notice when they are running—there’s usually small print at the bottom of the screen.  It contains issues such as contract length and much more.


Tentralarm is a third-party alarm monitoring services provider.

Since you don’t have time to read all of that print, and since we’re all bombarded with marketing messages on a daily basis, we thought we’d break down five areas on which you can concentrate when choosing an alarm monitoring company.

1. Contract Length.  This is a subjective category, but there certainly are general parameters that we can discuss.  Not all security integrators institute a contract, but a majority does.  A common timeframe is one or two years.  When you start approaching the three-year mark and beyond, you may want to seriously consider your decision.

After all, when you factor in price, as we’ll discuss next, three to five years of being locked in at high rates can really put the pinch on—especially when you could end up being unhappy with the alarm monitoring service.

2. Price.  Price can be a tricky issue, so we’d like to explain the different layers that make up the total amount of your monitoring fee.

Always ask what your provider’s base monitoring rate is, so you know you’ll be comparing “apples to apples” when making your inquires to different companies.

In other words, one security integrator may have a base rate of $17 per month for residential monitoring services, but it will most likely increase when you add a service such as cellular back up.  This service protects you if your telephone lines, upon which the security system is typically primarily based, become disabled.  Your security panel will still be able to communicate with the monitoring company via cellular (also referred to as radio) methods.

As for businesses, their base rates can be increased for features such as supervised or unsupervised open and close reports.  These indicate if a store was opened on time or even if it was opened at all in the morning.  If an employee works alone for the closing shift and you’re concerned about safety as the business owner, a closing report will indicate that the system was armed at the correct time as scheduled.

3. Equipment.  Obviously, there can’t be alarm monitoring services without security equipment.  One important question to ask your potential provider is if the equipment it installs is proprietary or non-proprietary.

Non-proprietary security equipment is most beneficial to the customer.  This means that when you decide to part ways with your security provider for any given reason, another company will be able to service the currently installed equipment seamlessly and at no extra labor expense to you. 

Some security companies use proprietary equipment, especially in terms of their security panel, and the next integrator that you choose to take over would not be able to service their equipment.  A new security panel would have to be purchased and installed in this case, and possibly several other components as well.

A conclusion could be drawn that some security companies simply don’t “play nice” and may try and make their customers feel locked-in to their service due to proprietary equipment and the aforementioned long-term contracts.

Quite often, the customer does not even own the equipment—it is leased by the company.  It could actually be required to be surrendered at the end of the contract (although this is often not the case). 

4. The Security Company.  When it comes to burglar, fire and environmental monitoring, there are typically two entities.  There’s a security integrator who installs and services your equipment, and there’s a monitoring company that receives the alarm signal from your security panel and subsequently dispatches authorities and notifies your call list.

When choosing your security company (integrator), besides taking into consideration the above-mentioned issues, there are other things to consider.

Ask if the company uses subcontractors to install and service equipment.  You may not want to use a company that doesn’t even employ its own people to come into your home or business.  They are likely not trained as well on the equipment, for example.

Also, be sure the business has a main office that you can visit in person if necessary.  Make sure it doesn’t operate out of a home or even the trunk of a car!

Check for memberships with security and fire-related associations and with the chamber of commerce as well.

5. The Monitoring Company.  Ask your security provider if the monitoring company (often referred to as a central station) is UL-listed.  Also ask if it has a redundant location in case severe weather and/or widespread power outages cause a break in service at one location.

We hope you are now better prepared to approach security companies and ask about their alarm monitoring services.  As you can now see, there’s a lot more that goes into making a decision than watching a 30-second commercial or driving by some lawn signs.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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Most of the articles in our security blog are centered on the topic of keeping criminals out of your home or business with the use of burglar alarms, access control, video surveillance, and more.

Today, we’d like to reverse that process and talk about keeping people in—but these folks are precious assets instead of unwanted guests.

Pictured above is one type of wander alarm--affixed to a door.

With shrinking budgets leading to lower staffing corps in many managed care facilities, it has never been more important to consider wander alarms.

And even with adequate staffing, human error can sometimes come into play.  Staff can become distracted by a phone call, for instance, and a patient could start to exit the supervised area.

Wander alarms help contain many types of patients to designated areas in various facilities, but very often they are used with elderly residents of nursing homes and related facilities who may suffer from dementia.

It is very important that these people remain in a certain area where they can be safely monitored by the many different types of wander alarms, as well as staff of course, and we’ll talk about a few in this piece today.

A wireless wander alarm allows you to be notified when a targeted door is opened.  A device is actually installed on the door and a chime sounds at a receiver which can be located a significant distance away.

Some manufacturers provide features such as identification of the actual patient who has breached the boundary.  This is made possible due to a bracelet or ankle tag that they wear. 

These bracelets and ankle tags can also work in conjunction with door devices that emit a field.  When the patient who is wearing one enters the field, two actions can take place.  If the door is open, an alarm will sound which in turn alerts staff.

If the door is shut at the time the patient approaches, the door will automatically lock and also alarm in some cases.

Motion detectors, which are commonly used with burglar alarm systems, can also be used as a part of your wander alarm system.

So as you can see, there are many ways to keep our revered seniors safe in nursing home settings.

Talk to your security integrator about installing a wander alarm at your facility today.

Thanks for spending some time with us.

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Most of the articles in our security blog are centered on the topic of keeping criminals out of your home or business with the use of burglar alarms, access control, video surveillance, and more.

Today, we’d like to reverse that process and talk about keeping people in—but these folks are precious assets instead of unwanted guests.

Pictured above is one type of wander alarm--affixed to a door.

With shrinking budgets leading to lower staffing corps in many managed care facilities, it has never been more important to consider wander alarms.

And even with adequate staffing, human error can sometimes come into play.  Staff can become distracted by a phone call, for instance, and a patient could start to exit the supervised area.

Wander alarms help contain many types of patients to designated areas in various facilities, but very often they are used with elderly residents of nursing homes and related facilities who may suffer from dementia.

It is very important that these people remain in a certain area where they can be safely monitored by the many different types of wander alarms, as well as staff of course, and we’ll talk about a few in this piece today.

A wireless wander alarm allows you to be notified when a targeted door is opened.  A device is actually installed on the door and a chime sounds at a receiver which can be located a significant distance away.

Some manufacturers provide features such as identification of the actual patient who has breached the boundary.  This is made possible due to a bracelet or ankle tag that they wear. 

These bracelets and ankle tags can also work in conjunction with door devices that emit a field.  When the patient who is wearing one enters the field, two actions can take place.  If the door is open, an alarm will sound which in turn alerts staff.

If the door is shut at the time the patient approaches, the door will automatically lock and also alarm in some cases.

Motion detectors, which are commonly used with burglar alarm systems, can also be used as a part of your wander alarm system.

So as you can see, there are many ways to keep our revered seniors safe in nursing home settings.

Talk to your security integrator about installing a wander alarm at your facility today.

Thanks for spending some time with us.

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In a previous blog post on commercial security, we broke down the various equipment involved in business security systems.  We’ve also written about the several features that businesses can add from an alarm monitoring standpoint.


Pictured above is a intercom substation with a built in camera, speaker and a call button.

Today, we’d like to discuss a specific tenant of business security systems—intercom systems—that can truly bolster a company’s perimeter.

Intercom systems are often overlooked when businesses either build their security systems from the ground up, or when they upgrade.  In many cases, many entrances to buildings are left open during business hours because the property is manned.  It doesn’t have to be this way.

Think about the layer of security an intercom system could add—especially when video is combined with the audio aspect.  And security is not the only added benefit.  Convenience and efficiency also come with the package since employees don’t have to leave their desks to let visitors in.

The basic components of an intercom system at a business are a master station and a sub-station or door station.

The master station is typically located at the reception desk or in the office manager’s office.  It is capable of transmitting to any of the sub-stations, as well as receiving from them.

The substation, in a business situation, can be located at the entrance door.  It is only capable of transmitting back to the master station (and of course receiving transmission from the master).  It contains a call button that communicates with the master station.

Since it is often outside when it is at a door, the sub-station is usually both weatherproof and vandalproof, and is typically hands-free instead of being equipped with a handset into which people would speak.

Video vastly improves the functionality of an intercom system.  Sub-stations can come equipped with a built-in camera.  The employee at the master station can then use a monitor to further identify the potential entrant.

Some prefer the security camera to be detached and located above the entrance.  Although sub-station units can contain wide-angle pan, tilt and zoom cameras, a separate pan, tilt and zoom camera in an elevated location is sometimes preferred to capture an even greater field of view and to make sure no one is hiding.

Not only does video help with identification, but it also helps prevent “piggy backing”.  This occurs when someone gets buzzed in and another person enters behind him without permission.

Due to IP video, images of potential entrants can be placed on the network and access can be granted or denied by employees at remote locations of the building or of the country for that matter.

If running wires is an issue for some businesses, wireless intercom systems can be the way to go.  Some things to consider with wireless systems however are interference from wireless networks and the fact that conversations may be able to be picked up by another device outside the company.

Be sure to speak with a security integrator about adding intercom to your company’s overall security plan.  Businesses can invest thousands of dollars in access control systems and burglar alarms for off-hours protection, but thieves and wrongdoers still need to be prevented from entering freely during business hours.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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You’ve probably heard the term “Environmental Monitoring” and may be curious about how it applies to your own home.


Pictured above is a carbon monoxide detector used in environmental monitoring

We’ve compiled a list of five environmental monitoring devices below and how they apply to homeowners.  Be sure to consult with a security integrator to determine the best fit for your situation.

1. Carbon Monoxide detection is probably the most common form of environmental monitoring in home applications.

It is actually required in many jurisdictions for residential dwellings—no longer can smoke detectors be the only environmental alarm installed in these locations, they must be accompanied by carbon monoxide detectors.

Many school systems are also requiring carbon monoxide detectors in the light of recent incidents where students had to be evacuated due to illness caused by carbon monoxide.

But back to the home … These devices are vital there due many mechanisms that cause the deadly gas to be emitted.  It is an odorless, invisible and tasteless gas and often referred to as “The Silent Killer”. 

Furnaces, gas grills, vehicles and lawn mowers are just some of the culprits around the home that can spew carbon monoxide.

2. Another important aspect of environmental monitoring is water or flood detection.  Water sensors, often referred to as “Water Bugs” will detect the smallest amount of moisture before flooding occurs.

These devices are often used in basements of houses to warn homeowners before important documents are destroyed, furniture is ruined and other family heirlooms such as photographs are compromised.  And no one wants the after-effects of mold resulting from unwelcome water.

3. Temperature sensors play an important role, especially here in the northeast.  Harsh winters cause homeowners to be concerned about pipes becoming frozen and subsequently bursting.

Be notified once the temperature in a given room drops below a certain temperature so you can take action before it’s too late.

4. You are also able to monitor for AC power loss in your home in case you have any vital electronic equipment that needs to be running at all times. 

5.  Last and certainly not least are smoke and heat detectors.  These devices will often be categorized under fire alarm systems, but they by nature perform environmental monitoring as well.

Be sure to have a mix of both smoke and heat detectors, as they perform different functions.  For instance, you wouldn’t locate a smoke detector in or near a kitchen due to the inherent smoke from cooking—this is an ideal spot for a heat detector.  They are great for attics also since dust particles would disrupt the operation of a smoke detector.

Just like with burglar alarm monitoring, when environmental monitoring devices trip into alarm mode, they notify your security panel, which in turn alerts the central station.  Your contact list is then called.  You are able to customize each call list so that a certain set of individuals is called according to which device tripped.

For instance, you may not want the fire department contacted if moisture is detected in your basement, but they are certainly going to be on the list if a smoke or heat detector trips.

So the next time you hear the term “environmental monitoring”, think of all the ways it can protect you in your home.  Think of the many ways you can secure your home beyond the traditional burglar alarm.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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They’re everywhere.  The sports news anchor is in front of one conducting an interview outside the arena.  Employees have them on their shoulders as they record fans doing silly things that are worthy of being posted on the jumbo-tron for everyone to see.  How about the cameras that are actually capturing what we all came to see…the game?

Cameras of all types are all around us at sporting events.  But we don’t always see the ones that are designed to keep us safe during that game and help plan for the safety of future events.

And it’s not just security cameras that are a key component to video surveillance at sporting events, it’s the digital recording software as well, and the network infrastructure that is in place.  Not to mention the equipment in the control rooms such as multiple monitors that display feeds from several cameras on each screen at once.

So what are the reasons the sporting venues invest so much capital in video surveillance for their sporting events? 

This can be partially answered when you examine who is attending these games.  They are “fans”, which is short for “fanatic”.  When 75,000 fanatics are tightly squeezed into one space for three hours for an important game, emotions can run high.  Fights can happen.

Video surveillance is needed to detect disturbances in the crowd and for security to dispatch necessary personnel to handle these eruptions.

Unfortunately, due to the times we live in, terrorism is a concern at sporting events.  Groups with ill intent see these large groups of people in one place at one time as an opportunity to do evil.

Video surveillance is also needed in special areas such as at turnstiles and at entrances and exits—crowd control can be a challenge in these spots and being able to provide proper staffing with the use of security cameras is essential.

Other areas of need include money-handling locations to monitor both employees (in an effort to guard against employee theft) and patrons who also may be intent on robbery.  Parking lots are another hot spot where parties need to be kept under control and drug activity has to be eliminated, for instance.

We’ve mentioned some of the equipment used by sporting arenas—from cameras to monitors, but let’s get a little more specific.

With large crowds, high definition and clarity is important.  The ability to zoom in on a section or even on an individual is crucial.  When zooming occurs, often a grainy appearance can be the result if the proper equipment is not being utilized.

Megapixel security cameras allow for the operator to zoom in on objects and people with a great degree of clarity as the result. 

This is essential for benefits such as facial recognition.  Facial recognition is an important function at sporting events with large attendance since it can be used to locate known criminals or those that have been banned from the facility and have found their way back.

Although megapixel cameras allow for the operator to achieve better facial recognition than analog security cameras provide, it is actually the digital video recording software that is behind the technology, not the cameras.

Speaking of software functionality, another feature that it provides that is beneficial in sporting arenas is “people counting”.  This is helpful for the aforementioned crowd control  and subsequent staffing needs, to gauge the effectiveness of sales outlets such as pro shops by counting how many patrons are entering and exiting, and more.

And what about protection of the facility itself?  Video surveillance helps prevent vandalism as well as apprehend those that commit it.  Patrons feigning slips and falls are also a problem.   Having video evidence of the incident can help prove that it was a bogus act if it was in fact done in jest. 

Finally…are we forgetting someone?  How about the players?  Video surveillance protects them as well.  If a fan in the stands hurls an object onto the playing surface, security cameras can identify that individual and apprehend him or her.  Players are also at risk as they leave or enter the playing surface and are in proximity to the spectators.

The next time you’re watching your favorite team dominate the competition, and the game is a little out of hand, take a moment to spot a few cameras, think of all the needs that those cameras serve, and wonder where those covert cameras that may be watching your are hidden!

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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In answer to the title to this piece: Don't count on it yet.

But if you ever have the chance to use a landline (a “traditional” phone that is plugged into a jack in the wall, or a cordless phone with a housing that is attached to a jack), make sure to use it instead of a cell phone when calling 9-1-1.

Why?  Because with all landlines, the 9-1-1 operator will be able to confirm your location each time.  And just as importantly, if a connection is lost, he or she can still send the authorities to the address associated with your phone number—no matter how much was said before your conversation was terminated.

Using a landline can be a challenge since more and more 9-1-1 calls are being placed by people using cell phones each year.  Some homes don’t even use landlines anymore—cell phones are the primary communication method.

And if an emergency occurs at a park, for instance, and there are people present as witnesses, it is highly likely that many of them have will cell phones.  It is reasons such as this that the use of cell phones for emergency calls is rapidly increasing.  No one is running to pay phones anymore. 

Since 9-1-1 calls made on cell phones do not always reveal the location of the caller as do calls made form landlines,make sure to give the operator your cell phone number immediately when you use your cell phone to make the call.  Also, report the exact location of where you are and/or where the incident that you’re reporting is occurring.

Since many 9-1-1 calls from cell phones go to a regional center that may not be quite so close to you, be sure not to leave out the actual town or city that you’re calling from (as opposed to only saying the street and address).

As written in a report on ABC’s Good Morning America website, in order for 9-1-1 systems to be able to locate a cell phone caller, they need have something called “enhanced 911”.  Cell phone companies, local carriers and 911 centers all have to install special equipment to achieve this.

ABC also reports that some cell phone companies are collecting a tax to install the necessary equipment that allows 911 systems to be able to locate cell phone callers.

According to About.com, the Federal Trade Commission is requiring that cell phone carriers do in fact make it possible to determine the longitude and latitude of 9-1-1 cell phone callers over time—it is being done in phases.

Be sure to contact your cell phone company and ask if your state has the technology installed to make it possible to determine location.  It’s beneficial to know ahead of time if it’s sufficient to use your cell phone when you call 9-1-1.  But as was mentioned at the outset of this piece, if you have the choice and all else is equal, it is recommended to use a landline.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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In recent years, many new police stations have been constructed as part of municipal safety complexes, complete with fire stations, for instance.

Although budgets have been slim in the current financial atmosphere, some law enforcement jurisdictions have been able to secure necessary federal and local grants that have been available for this construction.

Pictured above is a combination biometric and card access system, ideal for police stations.

But there are many police stations, especially in smaller jurisdictions, that haven’t had the opportunity to undergo these transformations for a variety of reasons, most common of which is funding.

Due to this, in many cases, facilities in these stations are severely outdated—facilities such as evidence rooms and armories.

Along with outdated evidence rooms and armories comes the fact that keys for the doors to these rooms may be floating around due to employees having left, misplacement of the keys, etc.  After all, it just makes sense that the older the room, the higher the chances there are extra keys out there unaccounted for.

So what’s the answer?  In two words:  Access Control.  Electronic access control systems actually.

The good news is that there are a variety of options for police stations.  We’ll talk about a few below.

Card or fob access.  Three principle components are needed to achieve this form of access control:  a credential (a card or fob), a card reader and an electric strike (lock) that releases when the credential is presented to the card reader. 

The credentials can be presented in proximity to the card reader to complete the transaction.  In this case they are commonly referred to as “prox” cards and readers.  Or another type allows them to be swiped and a magnetic stripe is read instead.

Biometrics.  This form of access control can be ideal for evidence rooms and armories.  It’s most effective because it is not possible for anyone else to use your credential if you lose it to gain access—your body’s characteristics are the credentials.  These include the iris, finger and palm prints, and more.

A positive aspect to having these two options available is that police don’t have to choose all of one type. 

There can be card readers set up throughout the facility in places such as at the entrance from the lobby into the control and dispatch rooms, in the holding area as well as at the back entrance.  And biometrics can then be used in the evidence room and the armory for a higher level of security and more accountability.

Please note that biometrics is not the only answer for evidence rooms and armories.  Card readers are quite appropriate as well.

Each one of these types of access control systems establishes the all-important audit trail.  This is a tremendous advantage over locks and keys.  Audit trails provide a story of who went where, and when.

If evidence turns up missing, and a card access system was in place, a report can be produced immediately.

So if your station is of a certain age where not only evidence and weapons may be compromised, but access may be insufficient to other areas of the facility, please consider an upgrade to an electronic access control system from traditional lock and keys.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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This is certainly an appropriate time of year to talk about freeze alarms since freezing pipes are a chief concern for many homeowners, facility managers and the like this time of year.

These vital devices can save your home or business from tens of thousands of dollars in damage due to flooding, spoiled food and more.

Pictured above is an EnviroAlert by Windland, with features beyond just a freeze alarm.

When it’s time to talk to your security integrator about a freeze alarm, you may see that there are many choices—many versions that perform different functions.  Today we’ll attempt to explain some of these so that you’ll be better informed.

First of all, what is a freeze alarm?  Well, the most basic version of a freeze alarm alerts you that the temperature in a given area has dropped below a pre-determined level.

This alert can come in the form of automated phone calls to a string of people (sometimes with a recorded message describing the problem).  It can trigger your security panel to dial the monitoring company and a live operator can begin contacting the call list as well.  It could even cause an alarm to sound.

One type of freeze alarm is referred to as a fixed temperature alert.  If this were to be used in a residential setting to prevent pipes from freezing, a common temperature for the alarm to be set at would be 41 degrees.

Another type of freeze alarm is referred to as mechanical, or digital.  This version can be set for both low and high temperature thresholds.  So it’s not only “freezing” that is being guarded against. 

Others have remote programming capabilities and allow the user to set alerts for not only temperature, but for humidity and water sensing.  They too protect against more than just freezing, but also provide a higher level of programming functionality. 

This last type would be used in situations where there is a walk-in freezer at a restaurant or school, for instance.  A monitor unit would be affixed at a central location for reading purposes, and often up to four probes can be run off of this unit into varying locations (to more than one freezer, for instance).

The programming flexibility allows for such design as to be able to create windows of time where no alert would be triggered.  For instance, if employees were loading and unloading items into and out of the cooler for a period of time, the temperature is naturally going to rise inside. 

So instead of instantly setting off an alert due to this rising temperature (past the pre-determined limit), a two-hour window would have been created beforehand so that only if the temperature is above that level for over two hours will alarm sound.

These are not the only types of freeze alarms available to choose from, as we mentioned, there are many more combinations.  We simply wanted you to be better armed with a little information when it’s time to tackle your environmental monitoring needs this winter.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.

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