The Art of Proactive Security: Balancing Life and Protection

Most people struggle staying proactive with their security. As important as protecting your property is, it is still very difficult to find the time to do something about it. So in order to make the process of staying up to date on the safety of your property, you need to know how to keep this seemingly monumental task from overwhelming you.

Getting Started

Due to the multifaceted nature of property protection, getting started can seem overwhelming. But starting anything is always difficult. The trick is making a plan that breaks down the journey into steps. This plan can be conducted as a basic security risk assessment. In order to start this process, just think about the security you have and the threats that your property faces.

Your threats may be from natural disasters such as floods or fires, but they may also be centered around theft or vandalism. Once you know your threats, examine your existing security. When you are starting out, this may only include locks. Maybe you have a fire alarm or some form of video surveillance, but if not, this is not an issue. When you are assessing your security risks, all you need to know is what you have and what you are looking to protect against.

The next step is to look at your current security in terms of how it addresses the vulnerability to a threat you face. For example, if you are concerned about fires, consider what precautions you have taken to prevent a fire from occurring. From there, it is important to think about products such as alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, etc., which will help respond to the issue before severe damage is incurred.

Keeping Up to Date

Once you know what you are looking to protect against, and whether or not your security addresses those risks well enough, it is time to update. This is the research phase of staying active with your security. It is the most time-consuming part of the process, which can seem daunting to balance with everything else in your life. But there are certainly times where this type of assessment can make sense in a work schedule or even during your personal time.

If you are looking to protect a commercial space that influences the operation of your company, then this is a business decision. Think about this process as necessary strategic planning. And making investments in security can certainly help during tax season when the business is looking for "end of the year" expenditures. For personal property or property where those aforementioned balancing tactics don’t work, you can research security during renovation efforts, holidays, vacations, etc. Any point where you have free time and a bit of disposable income to potentially invest in your safety is a good time to research.

So now that you know how to balance the research with your life, you need to know what goes into keeping up to date. Mainly, it comes down to staying on top of the security market, regulations, and new threats. For example, you may want to determine if you should be using a wireless vs. a hardwired alarm. And even if you made the best decision at the moment, the electronics industry is always innovating, so your product choice may be outdated. Your local area may also have special considerations, that are specific to the local legislature, and these could change periodically.

Knowing When to Stop

Because the market is always changing, technology is improving, thieves are always finding new bypasses, laws are in flux, etc., it can be difficult to know when you are done with your security. The main reason why it is so difficult to know is because you are never really done. That is why it is so important to be proactive with balancing your focus on security.

You will have to look out for flaws with your equipment. For example, data loss for cameras will tell you that it is time to replace your device. If a door is hard to close or does not open properly, it may be time to consider getting a new lock, but it could also be time to consider a new door. Feel free to relax on these issues once you have new security measures that are working without a hitch. But any issue you have with your current safety measures should be taken as an indication that it is time to begin reconsidering your security.

Conclusion

It is true that life is hectic enough already without adding one more thing to worry about in a day. But when you get proactive with your security, you actually have less to worry about. Once you are as protected as you can be, the worries melt away. Take the necessary steps to balance your life and property protection. Take it slow and easy to start, and find out what your risks and vulnerabilities are. Do the research, when you can, and never stop learning about better options. Finally, it is alright to ease up on security concerns once you have all the necessary protections, but when things stop working like new, it is time to get proactive again.

Written by Special Guest Writer, Ralph Goodman

 

Videofied vs. Video Surveillance ( CCTV ) Cameras - What Application is Right for You?

 A Videofied wireless camera mounted in a CONCRETE filled bucket allows the video security coverage to be moved around a construction site as the needs evolve. 

A Videofied wireless camera mounted in a CONCRETE filled bucket allows the video security coverage to be moved around a construction site as the needs evolve. 

Videofied, also known as Video Verification, is wireless video surveillance technology which is used for “real time” video transmission which shows when someone is on public or private property.

In the units are motion sensors/viewers which transmit images wirelessly to a main unit located in the best spot for range. Videofied is 100% wireless so there is no need for power. There’s no need to drill and fish wire. This saves exponentially on labor to install such devices and makes it ideal for construction site security, outdoor intrusion detection, and temporary security systems.

Images will communicate directly to a central station to indicate if there is in fact an intruder on the property or if it’s just environmental. The system will communicate on a cell network preventing any phone lines to be ran or activated. With POTS lines becoming less of a trend and more of a financial burden to the end user, this is just another example of savings in the long run omitting the need for relying on an outside vendor/carrier to repair faulty lines. Videofied can also connect directly to an internet network.

Upon request you can receive a 10 second clip of an actual event to your smart device. While surveillance cameras record events, Videofied will catch the intruder in the act once it it is armed. With a surveillance system you would need to review the recording and spend time as to when the event occurred and then burn it to a drive. This occurs hours, days, or weeks later and clearly the intruder has already gotten away. Public resources become burdened to identify and investigate. Theft, depending on the loss will sometimes be placed on the back-burner if lack of evidence for a quick capture is not present.  

 A Videofied image sensors is a motion sensor first with video verification to confirm

A Videofied image sensors is a motion sensor first with video verification to confirm

Videofied allows a central station to view the event while it is taking place and unknown to the intruder who thinks they are just on film, ends up being dispatched on within seconds. The intruder will have no idea the police are on their way!

Surveillance cameras are beneficial in case where a hired guard or staff is looking at live views of a site or if a homeowner would like to look in on their homestead for various reasons. Additionally, the recording could render being very important for review if in fact “sqautters” are present, or a someone hired to look in on your property helps themselves to your items, or uses your property in an inappropriate manner. Additionally, with our “lawsuit happy” world these days, many people are looking to make a fast buck with a feigned injury. Falling on someone’s property, or claiming personal injury is often times a typical way of making a home or business owner’s insurance offer a payout. With cameras installed in places where injuries could be likely, people are less fortunate in winning a lawsuit if the injury ends up being staged.

Considerations Before Purchase of CCTV

This case study from Green Mountain Alarm's sister company illustrates how monitored video verification may be used on a construction environment.

  • For outside protection in rural areas such as Vermont, Videofied could play a big role to catching intruders. Cameras in this area are more likely to be reviewed after the fact.

  • Videofied requires a monthly fee. Video Surveillance which records locally only does may not.

  • Videofied would be best used in the following areas:

    • Rooftops

    • Construction Sites,

    • Salvage Yards

    • Vacant Properties

    • Vehicle Lots, Backyards

    • Indoors

    • Parks and Recreation

    • Remote Facilities

    • Agriculture (e.g., Maple Syrup Harvesting Operations)

    • Ski Resorts (Including at Summits on on Mountain), etc..

  • Video Surveillance best applications would be the following areas:

    • Monitoring your home from distance to check on your kids, pets, mail, etc..

    • Recording to a drive to provide images for governing authorities

    • analytics - i.e. “point of sale” transactions and/or integration with access control, etc.

  • CCTV/Surveillance has a much clearer picture vs. Videofied is used for verification of what triggered the motion not as evidence to identify intruders.

Fire Alarm System Code Considerations Unique to Vermont

The small rural state of Vermont, faces many challenges when it comes to the health and welfare of commercial fire alarm installation, service, and standard code enforcement. Lack of funding and a small staff contributes to the unfortunate reactive nature in which commercial fire alarms are standardized.

Many observations have been made where NFPA 72 and NEC 70 did not seem to be part of the installation. Many cite “grandfather clause” for the “whys” of the way things are, in which there is no written legality anywhere in NFPA.

Challenges of presenting options in bringing systems up to code with the money-conscious end-user typically is met with, “the prior fire inspector didn’t even mention there were violations!” As a newcomer to Vermont, I walk a fine line in my knowledge and duty as a state licensed inspector, but moreover the sheer risk many of these situations present to life and property. The stale air hangs above the conversation of times past, where clearly the client in front of me was previously sold a “bill of goods” and they eye my intentions with skepticism. The lack of enforcement and fines other states would attach does not prompt the customer to act right away. More often than not, they will seek out the same person who “passed them” the first time and we are back to where we started.

In Vermont, it is up to the fire inspector to decide what is a violation and what isn’t. This strange implementation of law leaves a big, ugly, gray area with liability weighing heavily on the fire inspector.

Coming from a city with current code adoptions, regular inspections, and follow up the remedy would be simple and clear-cut: everything that is not up to current code IS a violation. What this ends up meaning in Vermont, however, is simply a hasty checkmark next to a $50 Fire Alarm Control Panel sticker next to “YES” or “NO” by the word “VIOLATIONS?” Some inspectors must feel the burden of making that choice with a sharpie, as often times the sticker is blank.

Once the fire inspection is complete the inspecting entity is required to turn in the detailed inspection paperwork into the Division of Fire Safety’s regional office. I leave a copy with the client as well as at the panel if the location permits. It is an important tool to help create a history for consecutive inspectors. This information is vital when there are violations. If a fire incident were to happen and the fire alarm system didn't function properly it will be clear there were violations on the system. This would help the investigation in determining whether or not the violations were the cause of the system malfunction.

Vermont’s Division of Fire Safety has it’s own Fire & Building Safety Code updated last in 2015. Vermont, requires anyone that is to service, install, inspect, or design to hold a TQP License. This license is obtainable when the following conditions are met:

  • The licensee holds a Master Electrician License -or-
  • The licensee holds a Special Journeyman Electrician License -and-
  • The licensee sends in proof of attendance of an 8 hour fire alarm course

This license is designed to support the notion that anyone performing these tasks will have knowledge of the following code books:

  • NFPA 70 National Electrical Code - Current Vermont Adopted Edition
  • NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code - Current Vermont Adopted Edition
  • NFPA 720 Standard for the Installation of Carbon Monoxide Warning Equipment in Dwelling Units - Current Vermont Adopted Edition
  • NFPA 101 Life Safety Code - Current Vermont Adopted Edition

Commercial fire alarms are designed to follow the code of FIVE different books. The person or persons who design, install, inspect, and service a life saving system should always take special care in making sure they are following these guidelines.

Another important consideration found in the State of Vermont is the monitoring of freezing temperatures. All addressable devices, Fire Alarm Control Panels, & Power Supplies have a temp ratio of 32 degrees; plus or minus. Addressable devices will often need to be converted or spec’d as conventional devices, which can eliminate the need for point to point reporting. Smoke detector applications become heat detectors or protecto-wire. The Fire Alarm Control Panel will always need to be in a heated area, as well as the power supplies. If the customer is stating the room will be heated we typically add a temp sensor to the system to ensure the panel does not dip too low.

Rural Vermont, through collaboration of other concerned security and life safety professionals will hopefully begin to see a more proactive approach to protecting loss of life and property.

 

Wireless vs. Hardwired? Home Security Systems Revealed

 Wireless DMP XTL Security Alarm System; Image Courtesy of  Digital Monitoring Products (DMP)

Wireless DMP XTL Security Alarm System; Image Courtesy of Digital Monitoring Products (DMP)

An investment in a home security system is one of the most important purchases you can make immediately after the purchase of your home. With all of the different options in the 21st century it is important to consider your options carefully. Two options discussed here today are the basic “bones” of a security system: wireless? Or hard-wired? We will be discussing the pros and cons of both.

Wireless or Hard-wired Security Alarm Systems?

Security systems whether wireless or hardwired, are typically monitored by a Central Station, such as Green Mountain Alarm’s partnership with HSMC, out of Stowe, Vermont. Rural areas in Vermont, will sometimes drive decisions on keeping a system local or have it monitored. However, it is ALWAYS recommended to have your installed system monitored, regardless of response time by emergency responders. A “local only” system will only sound, not annunciating or alerting anyone. Unless you are located right next to someone who is home at the time, non-transmission is not a good choice.

Both means can be a #DIY project. However, in inexperienced hands the possibility of having false alarms goes up. Too many false alarms often end up being subject to police department fines. In the end, DIY may not be the least-expensive option (which often drives this method to begin with).

Wired security systems and wireless security systems can be equally effective, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Wireless home security systems use radio waves, rather than wires or cables, to communicate between the control panel, sensors and cameras.

The Pros of Hardwired Security Alarm Systems

  1. Wired systems are able to accommodate several areas/zones of protection.
  2. Wired systems when installed properly are virtually “hacker-free” and interference from other radio-waves are a non-issue.
  3. Aesthetically-speaking, hard-wired devices are typically less obtrusive and a solid means of transmission.

The Cons of Hardwire Security Alarm Systems

  1. Wired systems installed in a home that is already build, or with closed-in walls can add largely to the labor cost.
  2. It can be difficult to penetrate certain existing material, such as brick; making it difficult or impossible to hide all the wiring.
  3. If you move, taking a hard-wired system with you can cause damage and be difficult to remove. These applications aren’t typically used in rentals or short-term leases.

The Pros of Wireless Security Alarm Systems

  1. For a transportable system in a short-term rental, this option is an excellent alternative.
  2. Wireless systems negate the trouble of drilling into existing materials and cut down drastically on labor to install in existing spaces.
  3. Wireless and hard-wired can be integrated together!

The Cons of Wireless Security Alarm Systems

  1. When properly installed, batteries on sensors of wireless systems should last 3-6 years. However, they will have to be changed and if done by a professional company, there will be a fee.
  2. Unless repeaters are installed, wireless devices need to be installed within a certain range of the central processing unit (control panel). This sometimes limits where devices can be installed.
  3. Radio frequency signals sent to and from wireless sensors may be susceptible to incidental interference, including interference from other devices that communicate using radio waves.

Security Alarm System Installation

When it comes to installation, a wireless security system can be less time consuming when compared to hard-wired systems. In the hard-wired setup, wires must be run through the home to every device and sensor, which includes all door, window, motion and glass-break sensors. Wireless home security systems are less laborious.

In the End

Green Mountain Alarm is committed to finding the best solution for you and your family.  This is our specialty and communication on all your needs and concerns will be packaged into a custom-designed system to protect your greatest asset.

Commercial Fire Alarms: Manufacturers Matter!

Commercial fire alarm systems is a utility rarely considered in the mindset of, “what do we need to have and what is the most cost effective way to meet that requirement”. The good news is because of the industry standards and code requirements you are likely to get a system that works when you need it so long as you are contracting with a reputable and licensed company.

Knowing the pros and cons of the system you select, the installing company i to protect lives and property and who is installing it can significantly impact your operating costs and flexibility down the road. Many fire alarm systems are specifically designed to lock customers into a specific company. Not just for the hardware; you also may get locked into a limited number of installation and service companies which can limit your options, increasing costs and possibly compromising service.

A locked system is not all bad. Some manufacturers require the companies and technicians working on equipment they installed to meet minimum requirements for training and licensing. This is a benefit to the customer as well as the manufacturer as you can be assured that a “factory authorized” installer knows what they are doing and has a relationship with the manufacturer to get any issues resolved.

Green Mountain Alarm is committed to providing a level of service and support to keep our customer satisfied. We do not require long term contracts that lock customers in nor do we install proprietary hardware in order to lock customers into working only with us.

We do however select hardware and systems that we feel are appropriate for the project. More complex fire alarm projects, such as those requiring a voice evacuation system or high-rise functionality can be more demanding and require more robust systems than a project with straight forward requirements.

Many systems do require a USB key in order to make programming changes. This may be used to lock customer into a single vendor but should be used to limit who can change a panel’s programming. If you have a fire alarm vendor who is responsible for maintaining your fire alarm system you don’t want another, possibly unqualified vendor, making changes to the programming without your approval. Or worse, a nefarious party effectively crippling your system with malicious intent.

Informed customers who understand these tradeoffs can make the best decisions and can be the most effective when managing their property costs and service quality in the long term.

Commercial Fire Alarm Brands

Proprietary systems that significantly restrict number of vendors in each area

  • Siemens
  • SimplexGrinnell
  • Honeywell Notifier
  • Edwards EST
  • Honeywell Gamewell/FCI
  • Johnson Controls
  • Mircom
  • Fike/Cheetah
  • Nohmi Bosai/Integlex

Dealer installed systems the limit who can install and maintain systems but it liberal about numbers of companies in area

Open access systems that may be purchased and installed by any vendor

*Indicates a brand that Green Mountain Alarm recommends and installs while we can service many other brands.

Visit our website for more information on how Green Mountain Alarm can assist you with designing, installing, monitoring, and servicing a commercial fire alarm.