Author: Chris Robinson

How Much is a Burglar Alarm System?

How Much is a Burglar Alarm System?

We have all heard that old saying, “you get what you pay for”. Well, this rule definitely applies to burglar alarm systems. The truth is, some security systems are cheap and some are expensive.

Over my 25 plus year career in the security industry, I have researched, sold, installed, and because we have our own central station at American Alarm Systems, watched alarm signals for more hours than I would like to admit.

In this blog, I will tell you how much a burglar alarm system costs so that you will understand what you are about to purchase.

Burglar Alarm System Costing Basics

I have some good news for consumers, more security systems are being installed each month, which drives costs down as well as makes them more affordable.

Bar Graph Shoeing the Average Number of Residential Security Systems Installed Per Month

As you can see in this bar graph above, security system installations are on the rise and so is consumer awareness.

I hear this all the time in my daily operations management of American Alarm Systems.

  • How much does it cost?
  • I don’t think I can afford it.
  • This other company can do it cheaper.
  • Do you offer any discounts?
  • Wow, that much!

I have many other objections potential clients tell me, but I think you get my point.

Pie Graph: Reasons for Not Having a Burglar Alarm

People have reasons not buying an alarm system. Look at the data from this pie chart. 19.05% of the surveyed people indicate that they cannot afford it.

Of course, price is always a concern, but if I told you an alarm system is affordable, would you buy one?

6 Expenses That Determine How Much Burglar Alarm System Costs

Some security systems are really cheap. Word to the wise, be careful with these ones, you get what you pay for.

1. Equipment Cost

Quality security systems made by proven manufacturers in the security industry, have years of dependable products, are more technically advanced, and have numerous sensors that can be installed.

Here are some average costs of quality wireless security system panels and devices. Of course, this varies, but some are some basic guidelines for quality security system components:

  • Main control panel = $150.00
  • LCD Keypad = $90.00
  • Wireless Door/Window Contact = $25.00
  • Wireless Motion Detector = $60.00
  • Wireless Glass Break Sensor = $65.00
  • Wireless Smoke Detector – $75.00

OK, the equipment seems affordable, but what main security control panel should I install in my home?

If you want to install a system into your home, I would recommend at 2GIG Go! Control panel. This panel has outsold all other panels and is considered the, “Apple” of the security industry.  They are the leaders, other manufacturers are followers.

Here are some features of this main control panel:

  • Color touchscreen interface – This intuitive, user-friendly interface is found on the 2GIG GC2 System, and with your computer (internet) and web-enabled phone—you have access when and where you need it.
  • GSM (cellular) radio – It has the most reliable communication option available in the security industry. Homeowners do not have to be concerned with cut phone lines or rely on a standard phone line for communications.
  • Integrated two-way voice – The panel allows the central station to listen in when an alarm occurs and talk to the homeowner when a signal is received.
  • Built-in Z-Wave RF Protocol – Customers can now control lighting, HVAC, and other Z-Wave appliances in the home right from the panel, web-enabled phone, or the internet. No need for extra hardware—it’s all contained within the panel.

2. Installation Cost

This cost is different from company to company. If you purchase a security system on Amazon and cannot install it yourself, then you will have to hire an alarm company to install it for you.

Most alarm companies that will install a consumer security system usually charge a $99 installation fee plus monthly monitoring fees.

When buying a system online, be aware that most of the time professional alarm companies will not install consumer bought products! Why? Alarm companies do not know if the purchased products are used, do not work, or have compatibility issues.

Buying burglar security systems and devices from eBay really makes alarm companies run away from a sale. Most alarm companies would rather supply and install their own equipment rather than go through this hassle.

3. Monthly Monitoring Costs

This is where monthly costs can vary depending on what services you desire.  In today’s marketplace, you can have a professionally monitored or a self-monitored security system.

Some people would rather pay an alarm company the monthly monitoring rate instead of buying a self-monitored security system. Professionally monitored security systems require a monthly monitoring fee that can range from ($20 to $60) per month.  When determining how much a burglar alarm costs consumers need to realize that if they add more features, the price will increase.

Many people ask themselves, why do I need to pay for monitoring?

Professional burglar alarm companies provide 24/7 protection against not only break-ins, but also other dangers such as smoke, fire, carbon monoxide, glass breaks, flood, and monitor smart home devices.

If an alarm occurs, don’t you want that piece of mind knowing that you are protected by a highly specialized professional central station Most of the time the answer to this question is yes!

You could buy and install a system that you can monitor yourself, but what if something like this occurs.  Let’s say that you are away from your home, an alarm occurs, you receive a text message, and it is an actual burglar breaking in.  What do you do?

  • If you are close to home, you could enter the home? Scary!
  • Call a friend or neighbor and tell them to check it out? Risky!
  • Call the local police? Do you have the right number?
  • Do nothing and take your chances?

All of these options are not very smart ones.  They all have outcomes that are not certain and some place a high degree of danger on yourself or others.

Now you tell me if this sounds like a more intelligent solution.

The same scenario happens, but this time you are monitored by a professional central monitoring station like American Alarm Systems.

  • The call center receives an alarm signal and informs you that an alarm is occurring at your home.
  • Central station dispatches the local police department that they have on file.
  • The police department enters the home.
  • The police call the Central Station and updates discovery of what they found.

This seems like a safe and secure solution with little risk and a better outcome.

4. Additional Protection Cost

Most burglar alarm systems come with the basic components listed below:

  • Main control panel
  • Keypad
  • Wireless door/window sensors
  • Wireless motion detector
  • Siren
  • Back-Up Battery

Any devices over this basic package will cost more money.

One device I would highly recommend is a cellular communicator by alarm.com. This costs around $150 depending on the unit and provides some amazing features:

  • Arm/disarm online or with your smartphone
  • Receive email and text notifications on an event
  • Add video doorbell, thermostats, cameras, locks, and control lights
  • Automatic notifications your cell phone
  • Does not require a standard phone line.

Interact with your alarm from anywhere by looking at live video, or answering your front door while you’re at work. Smarter security solutions keep you in control when you are away.

5.Service Call Cost

Everyone should know that at some point electronics will fail, fall off, or just become outdated.  Maybe you have a contractor performing work at your home or business and want to add sensors.  This would require a service call.

You must keep in mind that at some point you will have to invest money to maintain a working system.

Most of the time, batteries are devices that need to be changed.  This could be in the main control panel, a back-up communicator, or a sensor.  Although sensor batteries have lithium long-life batteries, they do eventually go bad.  If you are handy, then you can install the battery yourself, if not then you need a professional to repair it.

Some companies charge for service calls, others may not.  Normally, a service call consists of a trip charge and an hourly labor fee.  Consumers have to talk to their alarm company to determine these prices because they vary from company to company.

6. Tech Support Cost

When you purchase an unmonitored or a do-it-yourself burglar alarm system, you’re 100% responsible for maintenance, repairs and replacement costs. This can be a pain for the consumer because the equipment is either outdated, not sold anymore, or too hard to install yourself.

With a monitored system, you can call your alarm company, get technical support 24/7, have them remotely connect with your system, or they can send a tech to your home if the problem cannot be fixed over the phone.

Final Thoughts on Buying Burglar Alarm Systems

There are many factors that determine how much a burglar alarm system costs. Equipment, installation, monthly monitoring, additional protection, service calls, and tech support, all determine your final cost. Although consumers can purchase and install their own security system, a professionally installed burglar alarm outperforms a do-it-yourself system any day of the week.

Professional alarm companies and monitoring stations that specialize in security systems provide cutting-edge services around the clock.  Although the do-it-yourself solution is available, it is an inferior security solution that is not as reliable as a local professional alarm company.

Ready to see what our experts would recommend for burglar alarm systems? Give American Alarm Systems a call at (800) 262-5276 to discuss our security solutions.  

3 Simple Ways to Keep Your Neighborhood Safe

3 Simple Ways to Keep Your Neighborhood Safe

Keeping your house secure is something over which you have a lot of control. However, one aspect of home security that can be overlooked is the overall safety of the neighborhood in which you live. When it comes to keeping your home and loved ones from harm, it’s just as important to contribute to the safety and security of your neighborhood as it is to protect your individual house.

Neighborhood safety can feel like an overwhelming task, but there are plenty of simple things you can do to help keep your neighborhood free from crime. At American Alarm Systems, we’re committed to helping you with all aspects of security, including neighborhood safety. Here are three easy actions we recommend to help you improve security in your neighborhood.

  1. Be Friendly

Not only does a friendly demeanor make your neighborhood a more pleasant place to live, it can also make it safer. Get to know your neighbors. And we mean more than just a wave as you pass one another on the way to school or work. Become the type of neighbors that watch out for one another’s property when someone goes on vacation. Learn routines and pay attention to which vehicles and people belong in your neighborhood so you can spot something (or someone) that doesn’t belong.

If you have a neighborhood association, create a directory so that you know how to reach homeowners if something happens when they are away. For those without a neighborhood association, look into throwing a block party or community rummage sale as a way to become more friendly and to suggest taking a more active role in neighborhood safety. It’s also smart to get to know local law enforcement. Invite them to participate at neighborhood meetings or parties and let them know you appreciate their work to protect your community.

  1. Combine Security Resources

Not all neighborhoods can afford to put in security cameras, but you can identify which homeowners already have cameras, and determine where the weak spots are on your street or block. Coordinate your security efforts with your neighbors to help look out for the whole community, as well as your individual home.

To deter potential burglaries, consider posting signs that the neighborhood is under surveillance. If a crime does happen in the neighborhood, video can make a big difference in tracking down the bad guys. In 2014, the FBI reported more than 1.5 million burglaries committed across the country, and only 13.6% of those resulted in an arrest. To keep your neighborhood from landing on the wrong side of those statistics, all those with cameras should offer any footage they have to help the police identify and track down the perpetrators.

  1. Take Pride in Your Neighborhood’s Appearance

Believe it or not, a well kept yard can help keep burglars away. Keep your home’s exterior neat and orderly, and encourage your neighbors to the same. Regularly mowed lawns, nice landscaping, and a clutter-free porch or yard are signals to burglars that these homes are cared for, and the homeowners are present and involved.

On the flip side, overgrown hedges and clutter can give criminals extra cover and even help them break into a home, especially if the homeowner left a ladder or stepstool outside. Keep your eye on any vacant homes or open lots and coordinate with neighbors to keep weeds under control and maintain a neat exterior. Work together to mow lawns or shovel snow when neighbors go on vacation, to help keep up the appearance that the home isn’t sitting empty.

Bonus Tip: Park in the Driveway

We just couldn’t resist throwing in this super-simple tidbit. A Portland, OR news team interviewed 86 people serving time for burglary in the Oregon Department of Corrections. Overwhelmingly, those burglars stated that they would skip a house with a car in the driveway. Pass this tip along to your neighbors and coordinate with one another to park in each other’s driveways when someone is out of town.

Neighborhood safety is important, but the great news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. If you haven’t already done so, why not start by getting out and meeting the neighbors? After all, it’s much easier for a group of you to create a safe, serene community than it is for you to take it on alone.

 

 

 

Don’t Let Your Business Fall Victim to Employee Theft

Don’t Let Your Business Fall Victim to Employee Theft

If you’re a business owner, employee theft is one of the most serious threats to your enterprise. Employee theft covers everything from swiping office supplies to embezzlement. No matter the size or scope of your business, you are at risk for loss due to employee theft.

Employee Theft by the Numbers

You may not think that your company could be a victim of employee theft, but recent statistics from private research and public studies indicate that this security threat is on the rise.

  • 75% of employees admit to stealing from their employer once and 38% admit to stealing from their employer at least twice
  • The FBI has named employee theft the fastest-growing crime in America
  • Employee theft costs businesses about 7% of their expected gross revenue
  • As much as 33% of businesses hit by employee theft have been driven to bankruptcy
  • More than 2 million shoplifters and employees were caught in the act in 2014
  • $175,000 is the median loss due to employee theft
  • Managers are responsible for more than 37% of all employee theft
  • Over 25% of all businesses struck by employee theft lost more than $1 million

What You Need to Look For

With employee theft so pervasive, it might seem impossible to run a business without falling victim to it in some form. If you’re concerned about employee theft, here’s a cheat sheet of warning signs to help you spot potential trouble.

Employees who live beyond their means: You don’t have to pry into the purchasing habits of your employees, but look out for those who seem to constantly complain about making ends meet, but still make big-ticket purchases like a luxury car or high-end vacation. This doesn’t automatically mean that they’re stealing from the company to fund their rock-and-roll lifestyle, but it can be a red flag—especially if this extravagant spending behavior comes on suddenly.

Employees who seek to work independently or unsupervised: If an employee always looks for ways to work on their own, it could be a tactic to remain out of sight and gain access to supplies or funds. Take this observation in context of what you already know about this employee. After all, if they’ve never thrived in the hubbub, this may not indicate anything shady. However, if a typical team player suddenly starts seeking out chances to work unsupervised, pay attention.

Employees who suddenly start coming in early or leaving late: We’d all like employees to give more to their jobs, but if that “extra” involves more time in the office without everyone else, it’s worth watching. If the change in hours isn’t due to a change outside of work (new babysitter, kids starting school, etc.) this might be an indicator of nefarious activity.

Payroll and expense report mistakes: Everyone makes a mistake from time to time, but if an employee starts racking up a number of accounting discrepancies, you need to monitor that activity. Whether it’s timesheet problems, lost receipts, or petty cash issues, mistakes related to payroll or expense reimbursements need to be stopped as soon as possible. The first time it happens, give your employee the benefit of the doubt, but repeated issues can mean they’re trying to skim a little extra.

Ways to Prevent Employee Theft

Whether you already suspect a problem with employee theft or not, it’s smart to protect your business with an anti-theft strategy. As you put together the plan that makes the most sense for you, here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Screen all employees pre-hire
  • Always have two employees open up and close down the business
  • If you use traditional keys, stamp them all with the words “Do Not Duplicate”
  • Use surveillance cameras
  • Establish clear accounting policies that hold employees accountable and include clear consequences for any violations
  • Make daily bank deposits
  • Keep track of inventory regularly and follow up on any discrepancies immediately
  • Review daily exception reports, noting any excessive voids, refunds, no sales, and other suspicious actions
  • Regularly inspect any dumpsters your business uses, especially prior to weekly pickup
  • Never let employees ring up sales for themselves, their friends, or their family

 

It may not be possible to avoid every instance of employee theft, but you can minimize the impact on your business’ bottom line by knowing what to look for and putting safeguards in place. If you’re ready to take the next step to secure your hard work and assets, contact American Alarm Systems for a free consultation with one of our commercial security experts.

Sources:

http://www.statisticbrain.com/employee-theft-statistics/

http://www.hirepowerassociates.com/pdfs/StepOneSurveyII.pdf

http://businessmagazinegainesville.com/employee-theft-corporate-americas-dirty-little-secret/

http://hayesinternational.com/news/annual-retail-theft-survey/

 

 

 

Keep Your Home Safe When You’re on Vacation: 4 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid

Keep Your Home Safe When You’re on Vacation: 4 Dumb Mistakes to Avoid

Summer is officially in full swing, and that means it’s vacation time for millions of Americans. In fact, 35% of Americans planned to take family vacations this summer. Leaving the rat race behind for a relaxing visit to the beach or an amusement park is a long-standing tradition; however, you don’t want to  come back to the aftermath of a break-in.

Along with planning the perfect itinerary, you also need to plan ahead to keep your home from being targeted by burglars while you’re out having fun in the sun. Make sure your rest and relaxation don’t get hijacked by a criminal, and avoid these four common mistakes that roll out the welcome mat for thieves.

Mistake #1: Telling Burglars You’re Out of Town

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it is for the bad guys to figure out that your home is currently vacant. The biggest culprit is social media. A recent survey by Eyewitness Surveillance found that 78% of burglars use social media to find their ideal target. With nearly one-third of all vacationers posting pictures of their adventure while they’re away, it’s easy to see why criminals rely on social media.

The Solution: Instead of posting vacation photos immediately, save them up and make a fun friends-only album for loved ones to enjoy once you get back. If you absolutely can’t wait to share your awesome vacation pics, create a private group and share info and photos about your vacation in that group only. Other signs that tell a thief your home is empty include piled up newspapers or mail, a neglected lawn, and a porch light that never goes off, so plan to avoid those as well.

Mistake #2: Leaving a Key Under the Mat

No matter how many times we hear what a bad idea this is, many of us continue to leave a spare key under a welcome mat or potted plant. Canary Home Security found that one in 10 people still leave an extra key hidden somewhere outside their door. The top places people hide keys include in an unattached garage or shed; under a mat, pot or garden ornament; and on the windowsill.

The Solution:. Before you hit the road or board that plane, make sure that any spare keys hidden around your property are removed. If you need someone to have access to your home while you’re away, give them a copy of the key in person, or better yet, upgrade to a smart lock that lets you control your locks remotely or uses a code instead of a traditional key.

Mistake #3: Not Talking to the Neighbors

You want to keep mum about your vacation on social media, but you can benefit from letting your neighbors know that you’re going to be out of town. This way they can keep an eye out for any suspicious activity at your home. It’s one of the most convenient, affordable, and effective home security strategies you can implement, and all it takes is a quick conversation.

The Solution: Be sure to give your neighbors ample notice that you’ll be out of town. If you’re on friendly terms, you might also ask them if they can pick up your mail, roll out your garbage can on trash pickup day, or even park their car in your driveway. This will help give the impression that your home is still occupied, and will encourage burglars to move on to a different target.

Mistake #4: Providing Easy Access

Almost 30% of all burglars walk right through the front door or gain access through an open window. They particularly like ground-floor windows that are easy to enter and are partially obscured by trees or hedges. Another way to make your home appealing to a thief is to leave a ladder out, leaning against the roof.

The Solution: Be sure to do a final inspection of all windows and doors before you load up the suitcases. Make sure everything is locked up tight, including the garage door. If you have a sliding glass door, insert a wooden or steel rod into the runner for added security. Remove any ladders or step stools that you regularly use and put them in a locked garage or shed. You can also achieve stronger peace of mind by investing in a security system. If you opt for a system with home automation, you can even double-check the locks while you’re on vacation right from your smartphone.

There’s a lot to remember to ensure that your family vacation goes off without a hitch. As you’re packing up swimsuits and extra sunscreen, don’t forget to make home security part of your vacation planning checklist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Protect Your Home While on Vacation

8 Ways to Protect Your Home While on Vacation

Many of us wait all year long for our vacation, and the last thing we want to think about is the safety of our home when we’re away. Stop those nagging worries before they start by taking the right measures to safeguard your home before you hit the road.

  1. Let someone else keep an eye on your house

One of the best ways to enjoy your vacation with complete peace of mind is to utilize a monitored security system. Monitored systems do more than set off an alarm to scare burglars away—they have someone watching the activity at your house 24/7. Whether your garden gets raided by local wildlife or someone tries to get in the front door, a monitored security system alerts the monitoring system right away so that they can call in the necessary backup to ensure that you return to your home the same way you left it.

  1. Disconnect the garage door

This is one vulnerability that many homeowners overlook, but it’s becoming a more common entry point for criminals. Make sure thieves can’t hack your garage door opener, and disconnect it while you’re away. Be sure you have a secure manual lock, and you won’t need to give your garage door another thought.

  1. Activate the neighborhood watch

Whether your neighborhood has a formal watch program or not, it’s smart to let neighbors and the local police know that you are going to be out of town. Ask them to keep an extra eye on your home and reward them with a little souvenir when you get back. Many police departments offer vacation security checks, so find out about the program in your neck of the woods and take advantage before you jet away.

  1. Make your spare key disappear

No matter how cleverly you think you’ve hidden your spare key, criminals are savvy to most homeowners’ tricks. The best way to ensure no one gains entry to your house via an extra key, is to get rid of them. If you usually keep a key hidden somewhere for your kids or a pet sitter, remove it. If you have someone stopping by to water plants or check on Fido while you’re away, give them their own key—and hand it to them personally. Even better, you can upgrade to smart locks that use a code or remote entry so that you never again have to worry about keys falling into the wrong hands.

  1. Use timers

Instead of leaving one light on that never changes the whole time you’re away (criminals are very familiar with this tactic to try and fool them), put lights on timers to mimic the normal movements in your home. You can also put a radio or TV on a timer, which gives the added bonus of sound, which helps deter would-be burglars. The addition of a motion-sensor light outside your home’s main entry points is another good idea—burglars hate being in the spotlight.

  1. Stop deliveries

This includes mail, newspaper, and any regular shipments you receive. Nothing tips off a burglar better than a growing pile of unclaimed mail. The post office will hold your mail and deliveries for you until you get back. Avoid random packages being dropped off, by letter friends and family know that you will be away, and ask them not to send anything during your absence. If they must send a package, have them send it to a nearby delivery site and ask if it can be held there until you return. Both FedEx and UPS can accommodate such a request.

  1. Don’t neglect the lawn

Another clue that no one is home can be a yard that is growing out of control. If you normally keep your lawn trimmed and neat, be sure to hire someone to keep up the maintenance when you’re away. If you leave town in the winter, the same goes for snow. Be sure to have someone on call to get out a shovel if a big winter storm hits.

  1. Stay off social media

It’s so tempting to post a bunch of pics celebrating your escape from the day-to-day grind, but this can be a signal to others that your home is just sitting there vacant and ready to be compromised. In our instant-gratification world it can feel frustrating to have to hold off on uploading your awesome vacation photos, but your patience can pay off when it comes to keeping your home secure. After you get home create a special album and share all the videos and pics your vacationing heart desires.

Getting out of Town is always fun, so make sure your next getaway isn’t ruined by a break-in. Use these tips to deter thieves and help keep your home safe and secure no matter where you are. If you have another vacation home safety tip that wasn’t on our list, let us know in the comments!