Friday, August 16, 2013

Control Your Home From Your Smartphone!

Alarm Center now offers total home security AND home automation that you can control from your smartphone!

Watch these demo videos to learn more, call us at (225) 292-5276 for a free security consult:

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[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Friday, July 26, 2013

Door-to-Door Security Salesmen - An Ongoing Concern for Baton Rouge

As this is still going on and seems to be more prevalent lately, we are posting this reminder:

We urge our customers, and all Baton Rouge residents, to be aware that unlicensed security system salesmen are going door-to-door in & around the Baton Rouge area scamming residents into "switching" to them. These salesmen, and the companies they work for, are not licensed or authorized by the Louisiana State Fire Marshal and have not passed criminal background checks. They often install shoddy or even non-functioning systems in people's homes and often move out of state after the summer months where they solicit door-to-door selling "security systems".

Please read our informative blog post about these scams to better protect you, your home, and your loved ones. If you have any questions or concerns about this or have had them knock on your door, please don't hesitate to contact us at (225) 292-5276.

To learn more about these types of solicitors and scammers, please read last month's blog post, Security Sales Scams - Who's Knocking?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Security Sales Scams - Who's Knocking?

It's time to start being on the lookout for seasonal salesmen, in particular those going door-to-door attempting to sell alarm systems for your home.

These salesmen often utilize dishonest or shady methods, and, most importantly, are unauthorized to sell security systems. In fact, many of these seasonal companies are unlicensed or are temporarily employing unlicensed alarm salesmen and installers.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calls these "Security System Scams"  and warns:
"During the spring and summer months, home security or alarm companies hire traveling sales agents to go door-to-door, making unsolicited "cold calls" on homeowners. In some cases, the salespeople use high-pressure or deceptive sales tactics to get potential customers to buy expensive, and sometimes substandard, systems or equipment they don't need."
In Louisiana, alarm companies and their employees are licensed and regulated through the Office of State Fire Marshal's Licensing Section. If someone knocks on your door wanting to sell you an alarm system, always ask to see their credentials. If they do not have a valid license issued through the Louisiana State Fire Marshal's Office (SFM), they are not licensed or authorized to sell alarm systems. This means they haven't been required to pass a criminal background check.

Unfortunately, unsuspecting Louisiana residents are hit with these scams every year. Already this year, residents in Covington and Tallulah have dealt with these door-to-door salesmen. In light of this, Louisiana State Fire Marshal, Butch Browning, recently sent out a warning through local news outlets concerning these scams. As Fire Marshal Browning says:
"An extremely important part of the licensing process includes criminal background checks on those who sell and install these systems as well as requiring these individuals to have the proper training to ensure competency … It's all about protecting the lives and property of our citizens and ensuring that convicted felons are not in homes and businesses.  Everyone we license will have a photo identification card issued by my office.  Just ask to see it to ensure they are licensed."
Always remember that the Fire Marshal's office licenses all alarm companies and their employees in Louisiana. If a person is not licensed and cannot show you proof of a license from the SFM, do not do business with them.

Alarm Center wants to keep our customers and neighbors safe by telling them what to look out for when a security salesman knocks on their door. These are actual tactics that our customers have observed and reported to us as being employed by these so-called "sales representatives":
  • They will often say that they work for a security system manufacturer.
  • They may state that they work for Alarm Center Security and knock on your door with no appointment.
  • They may say they are there to "upgrade" your existing system.
  • They may say they are only offering a certain number of "free" systems in your neighborhood.
  • They may misrepresent that ACS is "going out of business".
You should always exercise caution when entrusting your family's security. ACS reminds not only our customers, but everyone, to ensure they are always dealing with a reputable alarm professional by taking the following steps:
  • Ask for an ID badge, business card or literature with their company name.
  • Ask for their State Alarm License Number. All ACS Security representatives have required state licenses.
Please remember, that Alarm Center Security will NEVER solicit or go door-to-door!

If you believe you have been a victim of these door-to-door scam sales, or are aware of them going on in your neighborhood, please contact us immediately at (225) 292-5276, or, if you are outside the Baton Rouge area, 1-800-972-5276. You can also email us at info@alarm.net today.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is Your Smoke Detector Making Your Family Vulnerable?

Fire. In the home, it is a danger more probable and destructive than any criminal burglarizing your residence. And, often, far more lethal.

According to the latest statistics by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), in 2011, there were 1,389,500 fires in the U.S. causing 3,005 civilian deaths, 17,500 civilian injuries, and $11.7 billion in property damage.

To break it down even further, the 2011 NFPA Fire Loss Clock calculates:

A fire department responded to a fire every 23 seconds.
One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds.
One civilian fire injury was reported every 30 minutes.
One civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 55 minutes.

We all know that smoke detectors save lives – and they do -  but what if your smoke alarm isn't working? Do you know the last time you checked yours or changed its batteries?

The NFPA says that "almost all U.S. homes have at least one smoke alarm" but "62% of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes without working smoke alarms".

Even more frightening, what if the old adage - that "smoke detectors save lives" - isn't quite as true as we've always been told?

Time to Upgrade That Smoke Detector

There are 2 types of smoke detectors, each utilizing a different technology (ionization and photoelectric detection), on the market right now. Manufacturers insist that both are safe and work equally well when it comes to saving lives.

However, NBC's Jeff Rossen recently investigated the findings of Texas A&M's Dr. Don Russell, an electrical engineering professor, and his research group, which found that the ionization smoke detectors, the most common smoke alarm used in 9 out of 10 homes, do not sense smoke as quickly or effectively as the photoelectric detectors.

On the Friday, March 22, 2013 episode of the Today show, Rossen presented Dr. Russell's research and provided evidence to back up his claims.

You can watch the video here, but the takeaway was this: the common ionization smoke detectors took 30 minutes to sound after smoke had begun filling the room and only after the fire had already started. The photoelectric smoke detector went off much sooner – at 17 minutes – when less smoke had filled the test room and the fire had yet to even ignite.

All evidence suggests it is safer to get a photoelectric smoke detector, or – as experts suggest – a dual detector, which includes both technologies, though these are more expensive and more difficult to find.

Your Children May Still Not Be Safe

So that covers it, right? Your family will be better protected by upgrading your smoke detector(s)? Well…maybe not.

A more detailed reporting of the issues with smoke alarms – continued on Sunday night's Dateline – found that, in addition to the average home smoke alarm not performing as effectively as once perceived, children, more often than not, do not hear smoke alarms when they are sleeping. Watch this video clip from Dateline's Sunday, March 24th segment:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

According to sleep researcher, Dr. Gary Smith, who was interviewed immediately after this clip:
Children spend more time in deep sleep than adults do and that's why it's harder for them to awaken in the case of an emergency.
It's frightening enough to know that your smoke alarm likely won't sound in enough time for you to safely get out of a burning house, but to know that – in addition – even if and when the alarm does sound, your children most likely will sleep right through it is terrifying.

Don't rely on just your smoke detectors. Have an escape plan that everyone is aware of and abide by - as Dr. Smith advises - the three P's:  Preparation – Planning – Practice. Your escape and fire drills should include time to get to and rouse sleeping children to safely evacuate them.

For more on creating an escape plan and practicing fire drills at home with your children, watch About.com's Plan a Home Fire Drill.

A Monitored Smoke Alarm Is the Answer

If even getting a photoelectric or dual smoke alarm possibly won't wake your children in enough time to get out of a burning house, what other alternatives are there to ensure the safety of your family if your house were to catch fire?

Having a smoke detector tied into your monitored alarm security system is probably the safest thing you can do for your home and your loved ones. To combat the danger of a house fire, heat detectors and carbon monoxide detectors can also be wired into your home security system. Here are just a few reasons that monitored smoke, heat and CO alarms are safer alternatives to a standard smoke detector:
  • A standard home security system siren can be up to 100x as loud as a standard battery-operated smoke detector.
  • Unlike stand-alone, battery-operated smoke detectors, a monitored alarm system's smoke detectors are wired together so that if smoke or fire is detected in one part of the house, the alarm will sound throughout the house. 
  • The alarm company's monitoring station will phone you in the event an alarm sounds – another way to let you know something is amiss if you do not hear the smoke alarm and even if you're not at home.
  • The fire department will be dispatched for you, whether or not you are home. If you are in the house at the time of the fire, you can focus all of your precious time and energy on getting your family and pets safely out of harm's way.
  • With a monitored smoke alarm, you don't have to remember to check your device periodically and put fresh batteries in it yearly. If there is a problem with any part of your alarm system, you will be called and notified of the problem so it can be fixed before an emergency occurs.
Often, if a smoke alarm does not sound, for whatever reason, or the occupants do not hear it, emergency calls are not made until neighbors or passers-by see the smoke and flames billowing from your house. At that point, it is almost always too late to save those still inside.

Having a smoke/heat detector as part of your monitored home security system is the safest and most reliable fire protection you can have in your home. Though this will cost more than just grabbing a smoke detector off the shelf at your local store, such comprehensive protection is priceless; after all, you can't put a price on protecting those you love the most.

Alarm Center offers both smoke and heat detectors, as well as carbon monoxide detectors, for our customers to add onto their home security systems or purchase along with a monitored alarm system for their home or business. Contact us today to learn more about giving your loved ones their best protection against one of the most dangerous of home invaders – fire.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Friday, March 22, 2013

False Alarms: Are You in the 97%?


False alarms have been a hot topic in local discussions lately, and much debate has gone into how to prevent them. According to local reports, as many as 97% of alarms that police responded to in 2011 were false.

In an effort to aid the community in this on-going struggle, while also saving our customers valuable time and money, the folks here at Alarm Center would like to share some information about false alarms, and tips about how to prevent them.

False alarms are often triggered when someone enters a location not realizing the alarm is set, or does so and forgets their access code. Yet, most people do not realize that other – seemingly simple – things can set an alarm off such as bugs, dirty motion sensors, and even pets.

According to the excellent brochure, Residential False Alarm Prevention, by FARA (False Alarm Reduction Association), the "Common Causes of False Alarms" are:
  • Inadequate training of people allowed access to your security system (children, neighbors, cleaning personnel, real estate agents, guests, relatives, babysitters, service and delivery personnel, etc.).
  • Weak system batteries.
  • Open, unlocked or loose fitting doors and windows.
  • Drafts from heaters and air conditioning systems that move plants, curtains, balloons, etc.
  • Wandering pets.
A monitored security and alarm system is an investment in the safety of your home or business. By keeping some simple things in mind, you can increase the efficiency and efficacy of your security system and avoid costly false alarms.

First, make sure everyone in the home knows how to arm and disarm the alarm system. If you are a pet owner, motion sensors should be installed that will not detect the movement of pets up to a certain weight. If your pets joined your family after your alarm was originally installed, be sure to upgrade your motion sensors to a more pet-friendly model.

Remember, anything hanging from the ceiling or on the walls that can move or drift in an air draft can trigger your motion sensors and set off a false alarm.

Alarm Center does periodic testing of our customers' alarms, which helps prevent false alarms due to faulty equipment, low batteries, etc. Customers can, however, take preventative measures to stop false alarms due to non-equipment issues.

Businesses have more to worry about with false alarms, as they can be charged a fee (based on how many false alarms they have), as was discussed in a recent article in Baton Rouge's The Advocate, "Plan targets false alarms".

From the article:
[Baton Rouge Police Chief Dewayne] White is proposing a drastic hike in fines for those whose systems repeatedly send out false alarms over a 12-month period ... Currently, there is no fine until the sixth false alarm is reported and that fine is $10. 
White's proposal would allow for three free false alarms before imposing fines for each subsequent one, ranging from $25 for the fourth to $200 for the eleventh false alarm.
For this reason, it is imperative that business owners know and practice the best methods available to prevent false alarms. Another excellent brochure by FARA, False Alarm Prevention for Businesses states, under "Tips for Businesses":
Be sure all employees are thoroughly trained before attempting to use the alarm system. Hold monthly training sessions to ensure alarm users are aware of: any changes to the system; the importance of careful pre-arming checks; designated entry/exit doors; proper opening/closing procedures; correct pass codes and arming codes; and rehearse how to cancel accidental activations.
Read all 14 of these great tips here.

Learning how to prevent false alarms is not only essential for home and business owners for their own peace of mind, but helps the community at large by not wasting police resources on false alarms. According to The Advocate article:
Baton Rouge police responded to 22,347 burglar alarms at businesses and homes in 2011 — but only 670 them were real calls.
That's less than 3% of all alarm calls -- 97% of 2011's alarm calls were false alarms. As FARA wisely states:
Alarm companies and alarm users must be responsible for the use and maintenance of alarm systems to help ensure prompt police response when an emergency really does exist.
False alarms can be a nuisance for a homeowner and an actual financial burden for a business owner. Being proactive about preventing false alarms benefits everyone, and helps local police departments focus more of their attention on responding to crime in the area.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Monday, February 25, 2013

How to Increase the Stability of a Deadbolt

A deadbolt strengthens a door because it bolts deep into a vertical post that forms the side of the door. Strengthen the lock with the following method:
[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Friday, February 15, 2013

Alarm Link Allows You To Cut the Cord on Your Home Phone

Alarm Center is dedicated to offering a diverse set of services to accommodate all of our customers' unique needs. While you may be familiar with iAlarm – a recently-added service that provides internet monitoring with smartphone access – you may not be as familiar with our Alarm Link service, which is a cellular transmitter that allows you to be fully monitored without having to maintain a phone line.

Yet, portraying Alarm Link as merely a home phone alternative for our monitored customers is really selling it short. This high-powered cellular communicator is part of a valuable service we are proud to offer that provides a highly reliable monitoring experience, and offers new alternatives to customers that want a little bit more than the standard monitoring setup.

What Is Alarm Link?

Alarm Link Wireless Monitoring is a communications link for our customers who do not have, or would like to get rid of, their home phone service/landline.

The Alarm Link module is wired directly to your alarm panel and allows the alarm system to transmit activity, via the cellular network, to the Central Station. The unit, pictured here, has a back-up battery, so that even in the event of power loss at your home or business - either by intentional (criminal) or accidental (natural) means - your signals will still be received by Central Station.

Alarm Link is also perfect for monitoring locations where phone line access is unavailable, such as warehouses, boathouses, cabins or camps, garages, etc.

But Aren't Cellular Networks Too Flaky To Be Reliable?

We all know our cellular networks can be unreliable even in the best of circumstances. Dropped calls are simply a part of our mobile lives, and we all remember how impossible it was to make a call on our cell phones after the Saints won the Super Bowl or in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It's only natural to wonder if Alarm Link, utilizing a cellular network, would be prone to the same troubles.

It isn't! Alarm Link utilizes a high-powered transmitter making it communicate with a significantly stronger signal than a regular cellular phone signal. In fact, Alarm Link's signal strength is 16 times stronger than that of your typical hand-held cell phone!

Cost Savings!

Many people are disconnecting their home phone services simply to cut down on their monthly expenses. Standard landlines today with features like Caller ID and Call Waiting can cost around $50/month. Even the most stripped-down of home phone service can cost over $20/month. Now that the use of cellular phones and mobile devices are so common in today's society with often every member of a household having at least one, many would agree there is no need to keep a separate landline in the home.

While, in the past, a home phone line was required for a home's alarm system to be monitored, Alarm Link now gives our customers who are trying to save money by "cutting the cord" on their home telephone the ability to still be safe, secure, and fully monitored.

Alarm Link Is Reliable, Stable, & Cost Effective

If you are one of the many households who choose not to maintain a home phone or are considering eliminating your landline, and are interested in learning more about Alarm Link Wireless Monitoring for your home or business, give us a call today at (225) 292-5276 or contact us directly with any Alarm Link queries at CutTheCord@alarm.net.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Home Invasions on the Rise

Knowledge is both power and prevention, and the best way to protect yourself from the threat of home invasion is to know everything there is to know about it.

This post aims to educate you on home invasions – when, why, and how they happen – and inform you of the preventative measures you can take to keep your home safe.

Home invasions are different than your usual break-and-enter burglary. Per Wikipedia :
Home invasion differs from burglary in having a violent intent, specific or general, much the same way as aggravated robbery - personally taking from someone by force - is differentiated from mere larceny (theft alone).
Some states, Louisiana included, have addressed the epidemic by defining home invasion as a specific kind of crime, differentiating it from some types of burglary or robbery; per Louisiana RS 14:62.8 Home Invasion:
Home invasion is the unauthorized entering of any inhabited dwelling, or other structure belonging to another and used in whole or in part as a home or place of abode by a person, where a person is present, with the intent to use force or violence upon the person of another or to vandalize, deface, or damage the property of another.
In other words, a home invasion happens when a person is in the house that is being broken into. For this reason – the direct contact with a perpetrator – home invasions are one of the most terrifying and dangerous types of property crimes.

On The Rise

According to Sentinel Security Group, who compiled statistics from the FBI per the NCVS (National Victimization Data Survey) and UCS (Uniform Crime Reports):

  • 38% of all assaults occur during a home invasion
  • 60% of all rapes occur during a home invasion

Security expert, Jordan Frankel – also known as The Security Sensei  – of Global Security Experts says  that 1 out of every 5 homes will encounter a violent home intrusion or burglary. He believes a rise in home invasions are a result of increased security measures – such as security cameras and monitored alarm systems – becoming the norm rather than the exception in previous commercial targets. Per Frankel:
Due to the increased security of commercial businesses, houses and apartments are considered much easier targets by criminals. Home invaders also know that many homeowners and renters still don't have alarm systems. In fact, it's the home without security devices that they look for when deciding on their next target.
Don't Think It Can't Happen to You

Doing a quick Google News search for "home invasion" will turn up dozens of recent reports, some just a couple of hours old, about home invasions that have happened all over the country.

Home invasions can happen anywhere and to anyone – from a father of five, killed in a Rock Hill, NC home invasion to a Hollywood actor in Los Angeles, CA, who confronted an intruder in his home after returning from the SAG awards. Here locally and just three days ago, a man in Ponchatoula shot a man he found burglarizing his home after the burglar pulled a gun on him.

No one is immune to a home invasion. In fact, the FBI states 13% of all homes are burglarized every year, and 85% of those are through the front door.

An intruder doesn't just have to force his way in. There are far too many horror stories of victims who were overtaken in their homes by the simple act of opening the door to a stranger – one who needs to supposedly use the phone or is dressed as maintenance or delivery person or even a police officer. In their article on home invasions, the Professor's House blog gives these tips for what to do when you hear a knock on the door:
  • Always check to see who is there before you answer the door.
  • Always respond so the person knows someone is home.
  • Do not open the door to anyone you do not know. Remember, you do not have to open the door to anyone.
  • Ask for identification. Once you have seen it, ask for secondary identification such as a telephone number that you can call to verify the person's status.
  • Pretend there are other people in the house by calling out someone's name. Keep your radio or television on.
  • If you see any suspicious persons, activities, or vehicles in your area, do not be afraid to call 911.
The Security Sensei notes that "it's the home without security devices that they look for when deciding on their next target", so naturally the best protection you can have is a security system  - especially one installed and monitored by a professional company. Even if the intruder does get inside and tells you to disarm the alarm, you can – instead – type in a duress code that will immediately notify the authorities that you are in danger.

It's What We've Been Doing for 35 Years

Consider Alarm Center for protecting your home and business. We have been keeping local residents safe since 1978, are locally owned and operated, and take great pride in continuing to offer protection and security to thousands of satisfied customers. We offer flexible solutions for all your security needs, whether you're a home or business owner. We work with each client individually to build a protection plan tailored to your specific needs. In addition to no up-front costs (with approved credit), you can fill out our online form for a Free Estimate on our Comprehensive Homeowner's Package.

[Call Alarm Center Security today for a FREE quote on a security system for your home or business - 1-800-97-ALARM - or visit our website to see if you qualify for a $0 down installation - alarm.net]