False Alarm?

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It’s 2am and the police just left my house. What better time could there be to write?

1:29am: My wife and I were asleep upstairs in our house when the intrusion alarm went off. It’s indicating the patio door was opened. Within a few seconds, our monitoring company is calling asking if we want them to send the police. I don’t hear anything or see anything downstairs, so I make the walk down. Sure enough, our patio door is open a few inches. Send the police.

1:43am: The officer arrives. We walk around and decide everything is fine. She leaves.

After this happened, my mind started racing. How did the door get opened? Did I leave the deadbolt unlocked? Was there an intruder? Why didn’t my dog bark? Why did it take so long for the police to show up?

Shortly after that, I prioritized this list:

1. Was there an intruder?
2. Why did it take so long for the police to show up?
3. Everything else

I have convinced myself that there was nobody involved in this but myself. I must have locked the handle, but not the deadbolt, and not quite latched the door. One thing that led me to this is lack of evidence that anyone walked on the patio. It’s rainy, and we have a light tile floor. Surely something would have showed up. However, the main thing that put my mind at rest was watching the video from my camera system. There was no activity at all around the house. 

I know that there was no activity because I record continuously at my house. I get in to this conversation all the time in my line of work. How do you know that nothing happened if you employ motion based recording? I get about 12 days of retention at my house recording continuously. That’s more than I need, so why record on motion?  I am very happy that I have the video to go back to. Without it, I would have a much harder time calming my nerves. 

The big problem I have is the response time. 14 minutes is a long time. I live in a fairly small city that gets really quiet after dark. Getting here from anywhere in the city doesn’t take long. Chances are a real intrusion would be over in 14 minutes. I believe this is the biggest variable that people ignore when thinking about protecting their homes. If you think the police are going to be at your house right after your alarm goes off, you’re dreaming. 

The last thing to address is the dog. I don’t know how she would react if there was an intruder. For now, I’m going to assume she didn’t react because there was nothing to react to. 

My point in writing this is to share a real experience as a consumer of our industry. I know that I’ve done what I can to make my home an unlikely target. I have visible cameras, multiple bright yard signs, window and door stickers, a monitored alarm, and a dog. Statistically, I’m a very low probability target for intrusion. 

I guess the real test of my confidence will be to see if I can actually go back to sleep tonight. 

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4 thoughts on “False Alarm?

  1. One other thing is that if your intruder had cut your telephone/broadband line then you might never have had a response to the alarm. If you have a monitored alarm system make sure that you fully understand how long it will be before your alarm receiving centre will know about the fault and what the response will be (key holder/police). In the UK you need 2 alarms before you get police response – if they cut the line first thats only one alarm and some systems won’t report that cut for up to 24 HOURS. Many systems say they are monitored 24 hours a day – this doesn’t mean your LINE is monitored every second of every day unless you have purchased that solution.Be careful.

  2. Re: response time

    I live in a similar situation as Jesse. Suburban/rural environment. Even when response is devoted from Police/Fire/Medical, it often is more than 10 minutes away. In the face of budget restrictions, this experience is likely only going to lengthen.

    I have a good relationship with law enforcement in my area, so I’m not saying this as a dig: You simply cannot rely on Police to intervene in bad situations. When seconds count, they will be minutes behind. At best, they fill out a report. At worst, they stretch out the crime scene tape and draw chalk outlines.

    I’m not a ‘home security’ expert, but I take the onus for securing my own house seriously. I have good security lighting, great door locks, and a dog with a generally bad attitude towards strangers. The alarm system also has a rather obnoxiously loud siren and turns on every light inside/outside the house. If the situation gets more drastic, my family has ‘more drastic’ defense mechanisms in place.

    Is it enough? I don’t know, because vulnerability is directly relational to devotion. If someone wants in my house, they will find a way. However, I am not waiting on the authorities for defense.

    Thanks for the blog!

    • Great comment Brian. Thanks for sharing.

      I hope people read this and realize there are professionals out there you can talk to about security. Like you, I’m not a residential security expert. The key is people who are willing to admit they aren’t experts, right?

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