Ten Questions you should ask before purchasing a Security System

1) Who monitors my security system, and are there any additional fees other than quoted in the estimate?

The monthly fee should be enumerated, and a contract should allow for increases.  Blue Knight subcontracts Rapid Response Monitoring in Syracuse, NY to monitor our systems.  They are UL listed.

2) What is the length of time of a monitoring agreement?

Most contracts are a “boiler plate” variety, and the standard time frame is 5 years.

3) What if I decide to move or lose my job before the end of the contract period?

Most reputable companies keep the contract term at 5 years. If a customer moves or loses his or her job, Blue Knight Security Systems will always release a customer from a contract.

4) Who is responsible for paying any fines associated with false alarms?

Generally speaking, the customer is responsible for paying any fines associated with false alarms.  According to statistics from the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police) over 85% of false alarms are caused by the business or home owner.  Training and maintenance are essential to keep any false alarms to a minimum.  Family members or employees should be instructed in the proper use of the system, AND they should know the procedures to follow if they do accidently cause a false alarm.

5) How does my alarm system communicate with the Central Monitoring Station, and what do I need to know about it?

Almost all existing security systems call the Central Station via the telephone lines.  In recent years, with the advent of being able to watch movies over the telephone lines and speak on the phone via the cable TV, things have changed drastically.  The ONLY reliable communication with the Central Station via telephone was when your home or business used a POTS line (Plain Old Telephone System.)  All of the newer technologies use VoIP, or Voice Over Internet Protocols.  If you use Comcast, Optimum or even FIOS for your telephones, they all employ VoIP.  When you pick up the handset, you are hearing an artificial dial tone that is created by the installed modem.  Here are just a few of the problems:  A)If you lose power, you have no telephone communications other than your cell phone.  The FIOS system does have a standby battery, but that will only supply you with up to eight hours of standby time, and something substantially less if you continue to use the telephone.  B) When communicating with the Central Station via VoIP, the analog signal that comes from the alarm panel, must be converted from analog to digital, and then when it reaches the Central Station it must be converted back from digital to analog.  This has proven to be reliable only about 85% of the time.  People who have VoIP periodically get a “comm failure” message displayed on their security consoles.  That means that the alarm attempted to contact the Central Station to send a test signal, but could not get the message through.  It’s not a big deal if a test signal doesn’t go through for a test, but it is a whole different story if you house is on fire.

These and other problems have prompted the alarm manufacturers to respond with a different technology.  They developed communicators that use the GSM radio system.  GSM radios use the data side of the cellular networks, and have proven to be virtually 100% reliable.  There is an additional fee for using the cellular network, but you wouldn’t expect to get a cell phone and have the service for  free.  If you have a POTS telephone line and are keeping it only for the alarm system, then switching to a GSM radio is much more cost effective.  The Central Station cost is the same, but the monthly cost for the GSM is far cheaper than the cost of keeping a POTS line just for the alarm.  PS: Sometime after February 2014, copper telephone lines are going away.  Verizon and AT&T successfully petitioned the federal government to allow them to abandon the copper phone lines.

6) What format does the alarm system use to communicate with the Central Monitoring Station?

Systems used by Blue Knight use Contact ID or the SIA (Security Industry Association) format.  Both are extremely fast and reliable.   In most cases, if something causes an alarm, the customer information is in front of an operator in about 10 seconds.  Systems using the GSM radios, have that information in front of an operator in less than 3 seconds. Many of the so called “FREE” alarm systems use a much slower communication format, called “Ademco Low Speed.”  It was state of the art in the early 1980’s, but not anymore.  It takes almost 50 seconds for an alarm signal to get through to the central station.  Customers who sign up for a “FREE” alarm system get stuck with an absolute bottom shelf quality alarm panel.  And if they decide to add more zones than the three free zones supplied, they pay a premium.  Most free systems give you coverage for two doors and one motion detector.  If you have a larger home, and need more protection, you pay a premium for the extra zones covered, but you still have the bottom shelf alarm panel that uses the slower communication format, and you pay an exorbitant amount in monthly fees for an antiquated monitoring format.

7) What type of equipment does your alarm company use, and how do I know what each zone does?

Blue Knight Security Systems uses equipment made by Honeywell, and by DSC.  We use security consoles that spell out in plain English what the zone number is and there is an alphanumeric description of the zone (for example: Zone 1, Front Door, or Zone 15 Rear Sliding Door.)  These consoles cost more, but if your alarm is activated by an intruder at 3AM, knowing exactly where an intruder gained entry to your home is not a luxury.  Seeing a blinking LED that has “Zone 6” printed under it is not giving you enough information, especially if that zone has never tripped before and you don’t remember what that LED represents.

8) Are wireless alarm systems reliable? Are they safe and why does the equipment cost more?

The current wireless systems have proven to be 100% reliable. That technology has been around for almost 20 years. Each device sends a “check-in” signal to the receiver about every 90 minutes. The devices have built in tamper switches that prevent someone from removing the cover and then taking out the battery. Removing the cover causes an immediate trouble signal to be sent and it sounds at the security console. That trouble signal can only be cleared by someone with a valid user code. If the receiver doesn’t get a check-in signal from each device during a pre-programmed period of time, it will also generate a trouble signal that is transmitted to the Central Monitoring Station. People ask if the wireless equipment is safe around people and pets. The answer is YES. We all use cordless phones and cell phones. You can only talk on either phone for a fairly short period of time before it needs to be re-charged. The batteries in these wireless devices last for years, and that is with doors and windows being opened and closed frequently. Yes, it is a radio transmitter, but the rf generated is extremely low. You get hit with more radio frequency emission talking on a cordless or cellular phone in 10 minutes, than you would be it with sitting next to a wireless alarm transmitter for ten years. Wireless systems do cost more for the equipment, but the labor costs for the installation are much lower. Most windows and doors can be protected in less than 15 minutes, compared to hardwiring a zone that could take several hours for each opening. Wireless is by far, more cost effective.

9) If I have a security system installed in my home, do I still need to use deadbolt locks on my doors?

We tell our customers to consider the security system to be like another lock on the door.  BUT practicing good crime prevention techniques is essential to any home security strategy.  All exterior doors should have a deadbolt lock, as well as an entrance lock.  The term coined back in the first Gulf War, called “Target Hardening” has been adopted by crime prevention practitioners.  Blue Knight Security Systems owner, John McClellan is a retired police officer.  For the last six years of his police career, he was assigned to the Crime Prevention Bureau of the Verona, NJ police department.  He was trained at the Bergen County Police and Fire Academy, and was certified as a “Crime Prevention Practitioner.”  John now lends that expertise to his customers as well.  All exterior doors should have a deadbolt lock, but you should match the quality of the lock with the construction of the door and frame.  Some deadbolt locks cost hundreds of dollars, but are best employed when installed in a steel door in a steel frame.  They are otherwise just overkill.  A more practical idea is to make sure that the strike plate in the door jamb is better secured to the frame.  A much less expensive deadbolt lock can be installed, but use screws in the strike plate that are at least 2 ½” to 3” long.  That will go through the door frame and into the studs inside the walls, making the lock about five times stronger.  Ask John about some other techniques to “Target Harden” your home.  This information is provided as a free service to our customers.

10) How long has your company been in business, and what can I do if Blue Knight is “bought out” by another company?

Blue Knight Security Systems has been in business since 1979.  All equipment used by Blue Knight is of an industry standard, and could be used by other companies.  The owner of Blue Knight Security Systems (John McClellan) is involved with every installation.  While he has helpers on some jobs, he does most of the work and programs all of the alarm panels.  No job is performed by sub-contractors.