Frequently Asked Questions on Home Security Systems

FAQs on Home Security

Do you have questions about home security systems?  We asked our staff to answer some of our customer’s frequently asked questions – check the answers below.  

How often should I test my home security system?  We recommend you test your system once a month.

How do I test my monitored home security system? I don’t want to bother the police. We are glad you asked that!  First, call the 800 number on your sticker and tell the monitoring company to put your system on test, then activate your alarm and call monitoring company back to verify alarm signals were received.   

Who do I call for service on my Secur-Tek system? To set up a service call, please call our office at  919.387.1800. Secur-Tek stands by our products and the same reliable technicians install and service our systems.

Can Secur-Tek upgrade my system?  Yes, but it does depend on the type of system you have. If you have a Honeywell home security system, we can upgrade your system by adding remote monitoring, cameras, and gas, smoke and motion detectors. If you have another type of system, we still may be able to help you, just call for a consultation or contact us.

How many cameras are needed to have a complete home security system?  The number of cameras you may need to safeguard your home depends on your home design. We can add cameras to most security systems and offer a complimentary consultation where we take a look around your home and recommend how many cameras are needed and the locations to install them.

Should I have my home security system monitored?  Having and monitoring a home security system can increase your peace of mind, especially if you travel or have valuable items in your home. For more information, see our blog on monitoring.

How much does monitoring cost?  We offer reliable, low-cost monthly monitoring. Our monitoring starts at $21.95 for standard monitoring and $31.95 for cellular.

Do you require a three-year contract?  No.

How long is the monitoring agreement?  Our monitoring contracts are just for 1 year. We don’t require long-term contracts.

Can I monitor my security system myself?  We don’t recommend it. Our monitoring goes to a company that provides monitoring 24/7 and will contact the police, fire and medical emergency agencies. They are always there to call the authorities.

What type of remote services work with your home security systems?  You can view and run your system from your smartphone or iPad with Honeywell Total Connect Services.  

What types of systems are compatible with Secur-Tek’s low-cost monitoring?  We can monitor many types of systems. To determine if your specific system can be monitored, please call your office.

We hope you found this helpful. If you live in our service area and have further questions, would like an estimate on upgrading or monitoring your security system, please give us a call at  919.387.1800

Secur-Tek, Inc. serves all of Central NC, including the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, Apex, Cary, Holly Springs, Fuquay-Varina, Pittsboro, Wake County, Chatham County, Durham County, Orange County, Harnett County.

Security Reminders for New Home Buyers

This is the time of year when families look into options for new homes and neighborhoods. This is a life-changingdecision – you and your family want to live somewhere comfortable, convenient and safe. With all the things to think about when considering a move, safety and security arenear the top of the priority list. Below we have outlined a few items to consider when assessing whether a neighborhood and home is the right fit for you and your family.

Thoroughly check out the neighborhood:

The feel and safety of the neighborhood is a key consideration when buying a home. You can always change and adjust the security features of the home itself, but you can’t control or change the neighborhood environment. Take the time to find out local area crime rates – info on the most recent crime activity and break-insisassessable online. Sex offender registry and public/police records are also easily accessed. Noting the proximity to Fire, Police and Rescue stations helps in figuring response times.

It can often be interesting and enlightening to stop by or call the local Police station to get additional information on the particular area you are considering.

In addition, an area with friendly neighbors who get to know each other and take pride in their neighborhood offers a sense of security. If you are seriously considering a home, knock on a potential neighbor’s door, introduce yourself and get their perspective on the safety, friendliness and police presence in the area. Neighbors can have a strong influence on the happiness and well-being of your family.

Take special note of the lighting and landscaping:

Often times we look at a property during the day or early evening. Take time to check outthe streets and the home you are considering late at night or early morning and notice if there isadequate street and sidewalk lighting. Check to see how well the entry, walkways and window areas are lit. Some of these things you can fix quite easily (like adding motion sensor lighting) but some are much more of a challenge.

Landscaping can really enhance the image of your home; it also affects the safety of the home. Overgrown or poorly placed bushes can block out lighting and give potential burglars a perfect cover from being noticed, especially when located near doors or windows.

Check doors and windows:

This may seem obvious, but the doors to the exterior need to be carefully inspected. They should be built out of metal or with solid wood cores and have deadbolts. Sometimes the most aestheticallypleasing decorator doors offer the least amount of safety from intrusion. Glass panels in or next to the doors offer burglar’s easy access.  Replacing the external doors is doable but take the cost of replacement into consideration when thinking through your offer as this is a fairly expensive item. Note, replacing security sub-par doors should be done before occupancy for ease of mind and convenience.

Mechanical systems and appliances:

These items directly impact the safety of the home and should be thoroughly inspected before deciding on purchasing a home. A faulty electrical system puts your home at risk for fires. Gas appliances or fireplaces that don’t function properly increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Get a home inspection to verify that all mechanical systems meet current building codes and function properly.

Home and property security system:

Having a home and property security system can help give you peace of mind when moving to a new area and home. If a system is already installed, you can have it upgraded and activated as soon as you move in. Make sure to check out the window and door sensors for proper functioning. Test the location of the motion sensors to ensurethey are properly aimed and positioned for maximum benefit. Security systems are an economical and effective method for ensuring your new residence will offer you the safety and security your family deserves.

 

If you have moved into a new home or will be moving into one soon, give us a call at 919-387-1800 to evaluate your home security and give you a quote on installing, upgrading or monitoring.

 

 

Cellular Communicator – What Is It and Do I Need One?

Monitored alarm systems need to communicate alarm signals to a monitoring response center 24/7. Traditionally this was done with a standard wire line home phone. However, over the past several years, cellular technology has progressed to the point where it is more secure than that of the traditional wire line. Additionally, it is more reliable than a digital Internet phone service that requires constant power and is susceptible to network outages and router rests.

Cellular monitoring works by installing a “cellular chip” or “module” into the Control Panel of the alarm system. This cellular device acts as the communicator between your alarm system and the monitoring station – that is why it is called a cellular communicator.

Cellular communicators function much like a cell phone that is specifically dedicated to your security system by communicating via cellular network data channels. In essence, the cellular communicator installed into the Control Panel of your alarm system acts as a connection to the Internet or “outside world”. Because of this, anytime you send a signal or command from your phone or other devices, it uses the cellular service to communicate to your alarm system, prompting it to do something like arm or disarm.

Interactive monitoring allows you to communicate commands to your alarm system no matter where you are. Cellular communicators are dedicated solely to the security system, so they are not shared with any other service.

Some advantages of installing a Cellular Communicator are:

  •                 They are not affected by storms or network/power outages
  •                 Burglars cutting your phone line will NOT disable your alarm system
  •                 Enables remote access/interactive monitoring

For phone line monitored security systems:

  •                 If you get rid of your landline, you will need a cellular communicator.
  •                 If you decide to change digital phone carriers, you will need to reset and reconnect your security system, which requires a service visit and charge from Secur-Tek, Inc.

So if you are interested in higher security reliability and the ease of controlling parts of your security system from your smartphone, a cellular communicator may be the right solution for you.

Give us a call and we can recommend your best security options.

To Monitor or Not Monitor – That is the Question

 

People often ask: If I have a security system with an alarm, why should I pay to have it monitored? There are many things to consider when determining if you need a security system and if it should be monitored. Taking the time to clarify your security situation and needs is essential for making an informed decision.

These variables should be considered when determining your security needs:

  • Do you have valuables such as jewelry, paintings, or irreplaceable family heirlooms in your home?
  • How about children, seniors or pets that are left alone during the day?
  • Do you travel frequently – for how long – is your workplace more than a 30 minute commute?
  • What are the physical properties of your home – do you have lots of bushes and trees or high visibility?
  • Are you near high traffic areas; do you have police patrolling?
  • Do you have a pool, fireplace or fire pit?

What monitoring does – While keeping burglars or prowlers out of your house and off your property is critical, minimizing loss through quick response time, fire detection, heat sensors, air quality and other features is also a great benefit.

How monitoring actually works – Basically, when your alarm is triggered, it sends a coded signal to the monitoring center. The security company will call your agreed upon pre-set number and ask for the password you have set – if they get no answer or the person doesn’t know the password, the police are immediately contacted. If a fire, flooding or air poisoning is detected the same routine is followed.

So why monitor your home if you have an alarm already installed?

The typical system will have a siren go off for approximately five minutes after it is tripped. If monitored and there is no emergency in progress, the alarm can be cancelled by giving the monitoring station your password. If a burglar or prowler trips the alarm, they usually leave the premise quickly. In many cases, the intruder will then hide and watch to see if there is any activity in the home, or if police/people arrive. If so, they typically will leave quickly to focus their efforts on an easier target — a non-monitored home

Low-voltage smoke detectors connected to your monitored alarm system give quicker response to smoke in your home than a neighbor seeing the flames shooting thru your roof — when it is too late to save your property or maybe someone’s life.

Tip: If you are away and unable to respond to an alarm, it is a good idea to have a relative, trusted neighbor, or friend know the code and meet the emergency responders if the alarm is tripped. They can let the police in and check to make sure nothing is missing; but are not to enter before the authorities arrive for their safety.

While there is a monthly cost to monitor your home or business, only monitored systems have professionals to help respond to emergencies 24/7. Once you assess your lifestyle, property parameters and situation, you may see that monitoring is the right choice for you.

If you have questions or would like to discuss your security system needs, please don’t hesitate to call us!

Beware of Porch Pirates!

This is the time of year that can be lots of fun — bringing joy and opportunities to visit with family and friends. Unfortunately, it is also a time when there is an increase in burglaries, break-ins and property damage. This could be because the nights are longer and people are out at holiday parties, visiting family or shopping, leaving their homes unattended. Highly visible deliveries such as Fed Ex, UPS and other packages. compound the opportunity for theft.

Here are our suggestions to help you and your families have a safe, secure and worry-free holiday season. If you would like a free consultation and discussion with one of our experts, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 919-387-1800.

Get lit! One of the best ways to make your home look active is lights. When you set up holiday lights outside it makes your home look festive and eliminates shadows a burglar could hide in. Lights inside also make it look like someone is home. Timers on your lights are a great idea; set them on random schedules in different rooms to resemble activity in your home. Another highly effective strategy is to invest in a smart automated system that allows you to control your lights remotely with your phone or tablet.

Keep it Clean! A home will look unoccupied if leaves, snow or newspapers have accumulated. If you’re going to be gone, hire a neighborhood kid to take care of your yard — they will appreciate the holiday cash and your place will look lived in and much nicer when you arrive home.

Hold it! UPS, FedEx, and USPS all will hold your mail while you’re away. Keeping packages and mail from piling up is critical, so register with them to hold all your deliveries. Not only are these items valuable targets, they also let everyone know your not home!

Track it! Major carriers offer online tracking of your orders and give you a close approximation of when your packages are to be delivered. That way you can arrange to ask someone to pick them up and off your porch until you get home.

Inform us! Let your alarm company know your going out of town and provide a phone number where you can be contacted.

Conceal your valuables. Keep valuable items out of sight. Don’t keep spare keys in obvious places such as under a flower pot or fake rock. Remove valuable items from  your car, if parked outside.

Keep it on the down low until after you get back! Resist the urge to update your status on social media annoucing you’re away from home. Share when you get back! 

Do some heavy duty “Jam’n”! If you have a wood doorjamb, the lock strike plate is the weakest point in your door. Upgrade to a heavy-duty strike plate and use four 3-inch screws to secure it to the doorframe.

Get a smart doorbell. Swap your current doorbell for a Skybell and enjoy a higher level of safety and security with remote monitoring and cloud recording features. Data suggests that burglars ring your doorbell to find out if you’re home. When the delivery person rings the doorbell, you can see how and when packages are delivered. No more interruptions during family dinner; missing important packages while you’re gone; or unwanted visitors at your doorstep.

Monitored home security A home security system can do a great deal. If there are visible security features like cameras or alarms, potential thieves will be more likely to move along to a less protected house rather than risk getting caught by a security system.

 

If you are going out of town, check out our Security Checklist before you leave: https://www.secur-tek.com/leaving-on-vacation-heres-your-handy-home-security-checklist/

Please contact us for information on Skybell or the Security System that is right for you!

Happy Holidays to You and Your Family!!

 
 
 
 
 

DARK, COLD DAYS OF WINTER – BRIGHTENED BY HONEYWELL’S TOTAL CONNECT

When the days get shorter, do you dread pulling into the driveway of a dark, cold home? Have you ever thought about how nice it would be if your cheery, warm bright home welcomed you instead?
It’s possible – you can experience increased convenience and safety without wasting energy — with a Honeywell Total Connect “smart home”.
As we move into fall and push our clocks back, it seems that getting home in the dark is the norm. Wouldn’t it be nice to turn select indoor and outdoor lights on or off automatically every time you arm or disarm your security system? You can do that with Honeywell Total Connect! Even better, you can tell your system to turn a set of lights on 30 minutes before you get home from work and another off an hour after you’ve gone to bed. You can program schedules for ambience, or security, and control your lights from any remote location.
If you are on the go, a “smart home” enables you to stay connected to your family, pets and property 24/7. You can receive real-time alerts (e-mails, text messages or video alerts) of important events such as a child arriving home from school, a pet leaving the house, a parent taking their medications or any recent system or sensor activity. It’s like having mobile control of your home in the palm of your hand!
And your system can help avoid some of life’s hassles and mishaps. Like when you’re at work and your kids or parents forget their house keys, or maybe you need a neighbor to pick up an important package and take it inside so it’s not on your porch for hours? Imaging unlocking the door from the comfort of your office with your smartphone or PC. As an enhanced security option, you can view camera feeds from your Skybell Video Doorbell on touchscreens, televisions, tablets, smartphones or PCs and keep an eye on your kids, pets, screen visitors at your entranceway and view activity occurring around the interior or exterior of your home whenever and wherever you want.
Finally, when your home enjoying a movie and you notice your child is out with the car and it is getting late, calm your worries with Honeywell Total Connect Tracking Services. This puts you in the driver’s seat – letting you know where your vehicles are and where they’ve been 24/7 – anytime, anywhere, from any web-enabled smart device! You’ll have real-time GPS location information at your fingertips – a great way to keep tabs on teenage drivers, elderly loved ones, or even assist in recovering missing vehicles and monitor or recover lost or stolen valuables. You can even get email or text alerts when vehicles exceed speed limits or predetermined geographic boundaries.
When your life is demanding, our Honeywell Total Connect system can help ease your mind and reduce the stress and worry of everyday life!
Call or contact the experts at Secur-Tek for more information or an estimate on a Honeywell Total Connect system for your home.

 

 
 
 

12 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe After School

School is starting up  –  is your child arriving home alone? If so, check out our home safety checklist!

Many kids stay by themselves after school; it’s important for parents to feel that their child is safe and secure when they are home alone. To help you and your child prepare so you can both feel better about it, we have compiled the following checklist. This comprehensive checklist has been compiled from many sources, including The Red Cross, Parent & Child Magazine, and Scholastic.com.

Being prepared is key to safety and feeling secure. Take the time to review and implement this plan with your child for a safer, happier school year!

Have an emergency plan. Practice an emergency plan with your child so they know what to do in case of fire, injury, or other emergencies. Write the plan down and make sure they know where it is. Even if you believe it to be common sense, review the sound of the alarm and what to do if it goes off. S/he should get out of the house immediately and then call 911 from a neighbor’s house. Review the emergency exits by drawing a map that outlines the best pathways to safety from each room in the house.

Post relevant phone numbers. Have numbers for a trusted neighbor, your cell and work number and other emergency numbers in a prominent location. If children have approved access to smart phones or tablets, download the free Red Cross First Aid App so they’ll have instant access to expert advice for everyday emergencies. 

Place flashlights in assessable locations. Let children know where the flashlights are. Make sure that the batteries are fresh, and that the child knows how to use them. 

Inspect your home thoroughly for any safety risks.

    • Make sure that all of the smoke detectors are functioning properly.
    • Remove or safely store in locked areas dangerous items like guns, knives, hand tools, power tools, razor blades, scissors, ammunition and other objects that can cause injury. 
    • Make sure potential poisons like detergents, polishes, pesticides, lighter fluid and lamp oils are stored in locked cabinets or out of the reach of children.
    • Make sure medicine is kept in a locked storage place or out of reach.
    • Install safety covers on all unused electrical outlets.

Always check in. Make it a rule that your child calls a parent (or another adult that you designate) or leaves you a message as soon as s/he gets home. This can be the first step in a daily routine that includes homework, a snack, and some downtime.
 

Make the phone (almost) off-limits. Your child shouldn’t answer the phone for just anyone, so set up guidelines. If you have a land line with caller ID, tell her not to answer the phone if she doesn’t recognize the name or number. If you don’t have caller ID, tell him that she should let every call go to voice mail. If you child is old enough to have her own cell phone, use the same guidelines.

Don’t leave the house. Your child should not leave the house unattended unless cleared with you first or there is an emergency such as a fire. Make sure that he is aware of the risks of leaving home.

Take the same way home. Have them take the same route to and from school every day. If your child walks, review each street that she uses. If she takes a school bus, make sure that she takes it every day, even if she is offered a ride from a friend. Knowing her route allows you to predict how long it will take her to arrive home, and to trace her steps if there is ever a problem.
 

Caution children:

    • Not to talk about being home alone in public or on social media.
    • Never tell someone on the telephone that the parents are not at home. Say something like “He or she is busy right now. Can I take a message?”
    • Lock the doors; if the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection.
    • Never open the door to delivery people or service representatives. Ask delivery people to leave the package at the door or tell them to come back at another time. Service representatives, such as a TV cable installer, should have an appointment when an adult is at home.

Lock the doors. If the home has an electronic security system, children should learn how to turn it on and have it on when home alone for extra protection. Security systems with remote access, like Honeywell Total Connect, allow parents to be notified and view activity in the interior or exterior of their home for extra peace of mind.

Keep them busy. Although a child needs some downtime to rest and rejuvenate, your child will be less likely to get into­ trouble if he’s occupied with homework, practicing music, and chores. Review what they have accomplished and give them feedback when you get home. Reinforcement is key to getting things done!

Practice first aid. Keep a first aid kit handy and review it with your child. Help her distinguish between a true emergency and a minor one that she can handle herself.

Consider enrolling older children in an online Red Cross babysitting course so they can learn first aid skills and how to care for younger family members. Babysitting Basics is geared towards children aged 11-15 while Advanced Child Care Training is well-suited for those aged 16 and up. 

 

We at Secur-Tek, Inc hope this checklist is helpful and wish you and your family a safe and productive school year. If you have any questions or needs concerning your home security or automation needs please give us a call!

 

Can Your Devices Spy on You? Tips for Stronger Security and Privacy

Smartphones, apps, and devices such as Amazon’s Alexa/Echo and Google’s Home are all making our lives easier (or at least more fun). After all, you can play games, check the weather, see what your friends are up to, and go shopping, track packages, and set reminders — all with the click of a button or a voice command.

But the more devices we allow into our lives, the more we increase our security risk. Many of our home security customers are asking about security and privacy. Here are some ways to protect yourself:

Smartphones
Some people don’t mind digital eavesdropping. Others would prefer Facebook not to listen in all the time, which it does. If this bothers you, the best thing to do is uninstall the app completely. However, you can also disable any app’s use of your microphone using the following steps:

iPhones/Apple:
● Go to “settings”
● Choose the app you want to change
● Turn off the microphone

Android
● Go to “settings” and select “personal”
● Choose “privacy”
● Then choose “permissions”
● Finally, choose “microphone” and turn it off

Home Devices
Home devices such as Google’s Home or Amazon’s Alexa/Echo record conversations after you activate them with the code words, “Ok Google” or “Hey Alexa.” They listen for your voice query, then upload it to servers, where it is analyzed so the appropriate response can be delivered. While the data passed between the device and the servers is encrypted, there are some other security concerns, including:

● The microphones are always listening unless you mute them.
● The devices don’t differentiate between people, meaning someone else can use your voice device to make changes to your security system if you have that set up.
● The recorded voice queries are stored on cloud servers. That data is used to create more targeted advertising.
● Your device’s location is shared.
● Data may be shared with third parties.

Using these devices means sharing your information. But you can make some small adjustments to make them slightly more private:

● Mute them when not in use. On the Echo, a physical mute button is located at the top of the device. On Google Home, use the touch panel on top to mute.
● Delete old recordings. For Echo, you do this through your Amazon account. Click “Manage my device” to delete your history. Note: Amazon warns this will result in a lower-quality experience. For Google, go to the My Activity dashboard to manage everything.
● Don’t connect sensitive accounts to home devices.

Home security questions? Contact us to learn how we can make your home more secure.

VOIP AND DIGITAL PHONE SERVICE MAY INTERFERE WITH YOUR SECURITY/LIFE SAFETY SYSTEM

13767649_sWe would like to inform you about the potential impact that new types of phone services may have on your security/life safety system.  Commonly referred to as “VoIP” (Voice over Internet Protocol) and “digital telephone service,” these new phone options are rapidly growing in popularity.  These technologies allow you to make telephone calls via a broadband connection instead of using a traditional, “landline” phone service.  The benefits include enhanced features and lower costs compared to the traditional service. Typically, these new types of phone services replace your landline service.

It is important that you are aware that these new services can adversely affect your electronic security/life safety system.

In almost all cases, your security/life safety system relies on proper operation of the telephone line, and its associated special security wiring, to reliably communicate alarm signals to the central station. There are several important things to consider before making the decision to use VoIP or digital telephone service:

  • With a self-installed VoIP service, such as Vonage or AT&T’s CallVantage, your alarm system may lose its connection to the telephone service, rendering the system unable to send alarm signals to the central station.  VoIP technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • With digital telephone phone services offered by your cable provider, your system may be unable to consistently and reliably send alarm signals to the central station.  This technology may also cause your alarm signals to get scrambled as they are sent to the central station.
  • In addition to the security system’s battery back-up equipment, VoIP and digital phone services may need additional battery back-up equipment to maintain communications in the event of a power failure.

Either way, there is significant risk that your security/life safety system will not be able to communicate an emergency signal to the central station.

We encourage you to check with Secur-Tek, Inc. before making any changes to your existing telephone service. If you have already made the decision to switch to VoIP or digital phone service, it is extremely important that you contact us after you have the new phone service installed and Secur-Tek, Inc. will arrange a service call to properly test your system and check the wiring.

For the utmost reliability, there are new security communications solutions available that use digital wireless transmission or the Internet to reliably send alarm signals to the central station. These services allow you to take maximum advantage of cost savings from VoIP or digital telephone services while maintaining, and even improving, the reliability of your security/life safety system.  We would be happy to discuss these options with you.

If you have any questions, we encourage you to contact Secur-Tek, Inc. at 919-387-1800.

 

4 Amazing Security System Features You Should be Using

Home security systems are getting better all the time, and not just in keeping your home safe from burglars. Today’s security systems can also monitor many more things about your house, from water leaks to who’s at home.

Here are four features you’ll want to try:

Water Sensors – Remember that time you came home from vacation to find your laundry room flooded? What a mess. Avoid that situation from now on by installing environmental sensors in your kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and basement. These detectors notify you when floods, leaks and extreme temperatures occur so you can take action and prevent serious wall or floor damage. Leaks also account for 10,000 gallons of water wasted annually — in one household.

Pet Friendly Sensors – People with pets at home often worry about their alarm system going off when Fido jumps onto the couch. While that used to be a problem, today’s motion sensors can be set to detect the difference between an intruder and your furry family member. Animals up to 100 pounds can move around your home without tripping the alarm. Plus, home security systems can help you keep an eye on our four-legged friends, alerting you to smoke, carbon monoxide, or other problems. Systems can even tell you if outdoor gates or kitchen cabinets are open.

Video – Video is becoming very popular and it’s easy to see why: you have eyes on your home 24/7. You can see who is at the door, when your kids get home, and keep an eye on babysitters or other in-home employees. For pet owners, a live video feed gives you the chance to check on Fluffy from your desk or phone. You can even get a text message, email or video alert when your dog walker or pet sitter arrives or if they didn’t show up.

Light Controls – Your home security system offers a way to program lights for different situations, including an off-and-on scenario while you’re away to make the home appear lived in. Forgot to turn off a light when you left? No problem. What’s also fun about this control is the ability to instantly turn off or on indoor and outdoor lights from your office computer or smartphone. You’ll never have to arrive at a dark house again.

Check out many more fantastic features of our home security systems or contact us to learn more about setting up your home automation.