November 9, 2012

Alarm Systems. What to Do When You Lose Power.

What is Your Alarm System’s Role After a Power Outage?

You may be thinking that it’s a bit late to write a blog on this topic—we just had a major weather event…

Hurricane season may be just about over, but winter storms with high winds, fallen branches onto power lines due to heavy snow and ice storms are here…such as the Nor’Easter we were just victim to this week.

When a storm is coming, you watch the weather reports for days and know exactly when the powerful storm is going to hit. So you in turn prepare. The news reporters are outside grocery and hardware stores showing people in line for batteries and spring water. Hopefully you’ve beaten those crowds or had your provisions on hand already.

But what about after the storm? What about your alarm system? Will it still protect you? Even if it is running on back-up power, can it still transmit to the monitoring company if there is an alarmed event? How long will the battery last? Will it report to you if your phone line is down and it can’t send out a signal to the central station?

Your Alarm System’s Battery Issues

First of all, know that your alarm system can run on its own battery power for some time. But this is measured in hours, not days. And it’s not an exact science. Due to many variations such as the age of one’s battery, for one, it’s hard to say exactly how many hours your alarm system’s battery will last. And it’s only going to be effective if the power outage hasn’t also taken out your phone service—unless of course you have cellular / radio back-up.

You will certainly know when your battery is getting low after you’ve lost power. Your keypad will beep with a not-so-pleasant cadence until you hit the reset button. Some people will go to their security panel (the metal box usually located in your basement) and unhook the wires that attach to the battery which rests inside the panel.

This will stop the beeping, but more importantly to some, it saves their battery from completely draining. People that choose to do this need to know that they are disabling their security system—it will not provide them protection once they do this. We do not recommend either way whether to do this or not. It is completely up to the individual if they wish to save the battery’s “juice”.

If they do in fact disconnect the battery, or even if they didn’t and the power comes back on in a matter of hours, know that your security panel battery is just like a car battery. It needs some time to charge in an “up and running” system with power before it is back to its normal levels—assuming it wasn’t drained beyond the point of no return. Typically, 24 hours is enough.

What if Your Phone Lines Go Down?

In terms of reporting, if the storm has taken down your phone line, the central station monitoring company will have no way of knowing this. Unless, of course, you have signed up for an extra service where the monitoring company supervises your line regularly and would in fact pick up this occurrence.

And remember, of course, if you plug your security power supply into a generator and the power outage has disabled your phone, it is going to have no way of transmitting to the central station, so it is in fact ineffective.

Regarding your system indicating to you (as opposed to the monitoring company) that your phone line has been disabled, it is possible to have this done. Please note that it can be quite a nuisance however. Phone and cable companies do frequent work on telephone lines, often late at night, and this will trigger your keypad to go into a trouble mode and beep if you take this step.

Time to Clear Your System

If you see a message on your keypad that reads something to the effect of "Com Fail", it' s time to clear your system and get it restored. This is the result of your system trying to send a signal to the central station when you did not have a phone line, for instance.

Call your monitoring company and have them put your system on "test". This will allow you to trip the alarm (after you arm it) by opening a door, walking past a motion detector, etc. When the siren sounds, simply disarm it. Because it is on test mode, no authorities will be notified or other call outs made.

Once this is done, simply reset your system and ask your monitoring company to take you off test.

So we hope this information helps now that winter storm season is on the horizon. Please have your 24-hour central station monitoring company’s phone number handy for questions. Remember, this is typically different than the security company who installed your system—they may not be 24 hours nor be the appropriate people to speak with regarding signal issues at a crucial time.

Thanks for spending some time with us today.


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