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How do I Insure my Annual Commercial Fire Alarm is Being Inspected Correctly?

Robin All - Monday, May 13, 2013

With economic downturn more and more fire alarm companies are competing to keep rates low by cutting corners on required NFPA Annual Inspections. 

Here are the Requirements for your annual inspection:
Test & visual inspection of panel functionality, LED's, fuses, etc…
Test panel battery charger
Battery discharge test
Test & visual inspection of:
-horns, strobes, chimes, & bells etc...
-smoke detectors
-heat detectors
-duct smoke detectors
-electromechanical releasing devices (door holders/release)
-sprinkler system flows and tampers
-voice evacuation system 

Here are some things to look for from your Fire Alarm Provider: 
- provide you with a copy of the NFPA Inspection form
- NFPA form filled out correctly with appropriate device counts
Note: “device count unknown” is not appropriate! 
- log the inspection with proper paperwork at the fire alarm control panel
- make a noise, inspecting all the audible and visual appliances
- provide you with documentation that all zones tested at the central station
Note: this is a HUGE help as many fire alarm companies will only test one device. You should see a signal sent for every devices tested. 
- test batteries
Note: it should be a very rare situation that you have a service call on a low battery. Batteries should be replaced during the inspection to avoid costs of an additional service call. 



Why are Commercial Fire Alarms Inspected Annually?

Robin All - Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Here are 7 reasons that you should not only have your system inspected, but inspected correctly:

1. Lives are at stake! Your fire alarm system will only operate properly if it is maintained as some impairments will not be obvious without testing!
2. To meet the requirements of your local building department, fire inspectors, and even your insurance carrier.
3. Your insurance carrier may reject your claim if you do not have proof of complete annual inspections.
4. To limit your liability for any potential injuries suffered by tenants, employees, or guests to your business or building.
5. To assure that the system does not create nuisance alarms that waste Fire Department resources. This could put others' lives in jeopardy and many jurisdictions will charge the building owner for nuisance alarms. Hilton Head Island is in process of charging for such false alarms.
6. It is required by the National Fire Alarm Code! NFPA72 – IT'S THE LAW!
7. Proper inspections will reduce maintenance costs of your system by catching and correcting little issues before they become big issues. Want proof?  Click here to see what a leading Hilton Head Property Manager has to say about inspections.  


Benefits of a Gated Community

Robin All - Monday, April 22, 2013

Traffic and speeding cars are reduced behind the gates, making it quieter and safer for children to play and ride bicycles within these neighborhoods. The gates are likely to cut down on pass-through traffic, making the streets a bit quieter. Many gated communities limit the time contractors can come work at your home, and may block them altogether on holidays and after hours. Solicitors will have a more difficult (if not impossible) time bothering residents. In fact, the only solicitors you’ll probably get will be neighborhood kids trying to sell you magazines and girl scout cookies.

Gated communities are also able to invest more into neighborhood amenities like pools, clubhouses and walking trails. A non-gated community is often limited to providing amenities that can be cheaply maintained and secured, since it is harder to limit access to non-residents. You will often find state-of-the-art community centers with gorgeous pool-scapes in gated communities. With access to such amenities these communities commonly organize events and socials that foster togetherness not found in other non-gated communities. 

Most real estate appraisers and agents agree that an automated gate system increases property values as much as 20% or more. In addition to the prestige and sense of security behind a gated community, homeowners in these neighborhoods also generally have a higher pride of ownership, and keep their homes in good condition. Along with that, gated communities create a scarcity effect, with few homes within these neighborhoods typically available for sale at the same time, adding more bite to the value.

Crime is most often crime of convenience. Communities which have a gate are not as convenient to the common thief. Gates also with a camera system are a threat to intruders because a suspect can be placed in the community at the time of the crime. Gates also limit access to the intruder's ability to case out a community for easy targets. Many criminals will bypass a gated community for one that is not gated simply because of the restricted access. However, there is risk of the community having a false sense of security from a gated community which may put your home a risk. Click here to find out more about crime in Gated Communities. 


Do Guarded Communities Have Less Crime?

Robin All - Monday, April 08, 2013

A lot of people believe that living inside a guarded community brings added benefits of protection and security. These communities are meant to keep crime out, but do gated communities actually have less crime like we believe? Is it actually safer for them to live there?

The answer is yes, there is less crime rate. But crime is not absent, and is not as little as you might think.

Most data out there indicates that the long-term crime rate of gated communities is only a little lower than the crime rate outside. The basic trend with gated communities is that the crime rate is very low for the first year its established, but then it rises to just a little less than the rest of the community after that. They feel this is caused because burglars don’t like going to areas that are unfamiliar but they slowly make their way into these communities and crime rate goes higher. Unfortunately, patrol officers cannot be everywhere at once and security codes can be given out to workers and visitors of the community. 

Where guarded and gated communities have great potential to be a very safe neighborhood, it is also inhibited by a major false sense of security. Homeowners do not take necessary precautions to reduce crime, such as locking doors, installing a home security system, or organizing a community crime watch. Imagine the possibilities if homeowners were to take such precautions. Locked doors would cause burglars to invest more time breaking into a home. Security systems and neighborhood watch programs would give on site patrol officers the opportunity to stop a crime in progress. Homeowner awareness to the limitations of a guarded community is the first step in reducing crime.


How to Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim of a Residential Crime

Robin All - Monday, March 25, 2013

One of the easiest ways to reduce your risk of being targeted is to survey your property as if you were a burglar. With the information you learned about how burglars target homes in “Knowing the Mind of a Burglar,” you should now take the time to evaluate your home inside and out, both during the day and at night. Ask yourself: How would I break into my home? Walk around and assess your windows and doors. Push and pull on them to check for loose locks, frames, knobs, hinges, etc. In addition, pay attention to the lighting around your home. Too much light can potentially help a burglar see areas of your home that may allow easy access. Not enough light can perhaps create areas in which he can take cover while breaking in. Motion detection lighting can also be a great deterrent. 
After determining which areas of the ground floor of your home need to be better fortified, walk around again and look for ladders, stacks of boxes or wood, trellises, trees, tall shrubs, walls, or anything else along the perimeter of your home that a burglar may use to gain access through an open window or door on the second floor of your home.
It’s also important to take into consideration that the majority of residential crimes occur through forcible entry. This means that although criminals look for unlocked doors and windows, they have no problem breaking down doors or shattering windowpanes to enter residences. This is why it’s important to reinforce the main entry points that burglars target and make it as difficult as possible for them to gain entry.
Remember, most burglars will spend only a minute or two trying to break in. If they aren’t successful within that time frame, they will likely give up, as the extra time and effort increases the likelihood of apprehension. Here are some things to consider: 

-Install a home security system, advertise it, and use it!
-Replace all hollow-core entry doors with doors made of solid wood or metal.
- Ensure your entry doors are equipped with high quality deadbolt locks
- Insert solid-wood dowels or metal rods into the tracks of all windows and patio doors that slide horizontally.
- Reinforce ground-level windows and any other high-risk windows with a quality glass protection film. This will make the glass much more difficult to break, slowing down an intruder.
- Install motion detection lighting in areas an intruder is likely to approach your home.

Knowing the Mind of a Burglar

Robin All - Monday, March 04, 2013

Knowing the mind of a burglar can help you protect your home or business. Below are great tips on how to think like a burglar and use this information to protect your family and assets. 

-The majority of burglars look for easy targets—a house or an apartment that they can easily break into, steal from, and then leave without being seen or caught. Although “professional” burglars do exist, most criminals are opportunists who look for vacant homes with an unlocked door or an open window. Evaluate the vulnerabilities of your home or business using a risk versus reward analysis. 
- Most break-ins occur on the ground floor of the residence.
- Most criminals gain entry through a rear or side door of the residence (both locked and unlocked), with the garage or service yard door the second most common access.
- Once a residence is targeted, most burglars will spend no more than a minute or two attempting to break in; less than five minutes once inside.
-When "casing" a prospective target, burglars try to "fit in" with the neighborhood. They may look like a repair person, a lawn guy or gardener, a city worker, or a new neighbor when examining the next target.
- They look out for loud dogs and/or inquisitive neighbors to avoid being identified.
- They try to determine if the home or business has an active intrusion alarm or home security system. If it does, move on to another target. Unless, of course, the burglar learns that the homeowner has a sophisticated system, but neglects to use it properly. Even the best alarm systems are useless if not activated.
-Look for homeowners who advertise they are taking an extended vacation in the next few days. Learn from the obituaries when a home will be vacant, following graduation dates, or weddings. Disguising when your home is unoccupied, is a good idea to avoid burglary.
- Check for easy entry from unlocked doors or open windows. Why break glass and cause nosy neighbors to become interested in unfamiliar noises if there is no need? When seeking a new target, evil- doers look for the easiest mark to commit profitable crimes with the lowest risk of capture.
- In many of our Gated Communities, high target homes are located near the edge of the neighborhood, on a golf course, or waterfront.
- Many burglars use their or their friends’ daytime job to scope out their next target.  Take extra caution when you’ve had work done in your home or see work being done in your neighborhood.
- More sophisticated burglars targeting commercial businesses understand the phone line is a major weakness to the alarm system. Cellular backup can eliminate the risk of burglars cutting phone lines.

Crime Statistics – Is your home or business at Risk?

Robin All - Monday, February 11, 2013

Many reporters say crime is on the decrease. But is your home or business really safe from burglary? The following F.B.I and other law enforcement agency statistics can provide some surprising answers. 

  • Residential properties accounted for over 73% of the burglaries
  • 85% of all residential burglaries usually occur when the home is unoccupied and 65% of these were forced entries.
  • There is a burglary every 14.6 seconds resulting in over 4.6 billion dollars in property and personal loss annually.
  • Crime Statistics per region: the South had 5223 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants; the West had 4,879, the Midwest had 4,379; the Northeast had 3,474.
  • 60% of all residential burglaries occur during daylight hours.
  • High risk items: Money, jewelry, furs - appliances such as televisions, stereo systems and high-end radios - guns - electronic equipment such as computers, typewriters and calculators - automotive parts, expensive clothing and power tools.
  • 38% of all robberies are committed with guns.
  • Most commercial burglaries occur when the firm is not open for regular business - nights, weekends and holidays.
  • The F.B.I reports that 90% of all intrusions occur through doors; 6% occur through windows; 3% occur through the roof and 1% occur through the walls.
  • 50% of all burglaries occur through unlocked doors. Please LOCK YOUR DOORS!
  • Businesses most vulnerable to hold-up are banks, grocery stores, convenience stores, jewelry stores, liquor stores, gun shops and furriers.
  • The F. B. I. indicates that burglars are 2.7 times more likely to target homes without alarm systems.
  • Burglars will spend less than 2 minutes to break into a home.
  • The monetary value of property damaged due to arson averaged $12,561.00 per incident.
  • One in six homes will be burglarized.


North vs South Home Security Systems

Robin All - Monday, January 21, 2013

Many times I'm asked why we don't install a certain device on security systems in the south. Many newcomers to the Beaufort, Bluffton, Hilton Head area are relocating from the north, retiring from cold weather or urban life. As one should expect, there are major differences between “back home” and the low country. It is important to ask these questions so that you may choose what security devices are important to have on your new home. The major two differences that affect these decisions are 1. the lack of need for heating in warmer climate and 2. less educated crime in the low-country compared to a metropolis or higher crime areas. 


Window contacts are highly recommended for protection when you are home. Many owners in our area are second homeowners and are more concerned about security when they are away. For this reason, many opt out of the expense to install window contacts on every window. Motion detectors are strategically placed to protect a home when you are away.
Overhead door contacts are a must for commercial applications, but rarely used in the low-country as they infringe on our laid back way of life. Overhead or Garage door contacts make it a little less convenient to operate the system. As soon as you press the garage door opener to drive into your garage, the time starts ticking down, making owners feel rushed to disarm their security system. There are ways to overcome this inconvenience such as extending the delay time, using keyfobs, and so on. However, many owners do not find the risk worth the inconvenience as garage door are difficult to break into. 
Carbon Monoxide is an odorless and deadly gas.  Owners should consider this protection for any home. In colder climates, where gas heat is highly used to heat homes, carbon monoxide detectors are required by code to be installed. And for a good reason: gas appliances, especially when used as much as they are up north, make a home high risk for carbon monoxide. Our warmer climate does not create as high a risk and therefore some homeowners opt out of installing CO detectors as they are not required.
Temperature monitors are installed for exactly opposite reasons from north to south. Northern homes run the risk of pipes freezing in the cold when heating units fail, and southern homes run the risk of mold and mildew when cooling fails.
Water sensors in the north are most commonly installed in areas with concentrated plumbing to help detect a flood from pipes bursting. HVAC handlers and hot water tanks are normally located in the basement, out of harm’s way. In the low-country we do not have basements because we are so close to the water line, so we install these units in the attic where we risk water damage from pipes clogging and overflowing. Therefore, we install water sensors on drip pans of HVAC and hot water tank drip pans.


How long will my 2G cellular communicator work with my Alarm System?

Robin All - Monday, December 31, 2012

As technology changes and improves, old technology becomes antiquated and in some cases is no longer supported. The same is true for cellular communicators for your home and business security system. The first sunset date for cellular communications was February 18, 2008 when analog units became obsolete and were hopefully proactively swapped for digital communicators. As you would expect, Custom Security, was right on top of this change, notifying our customers of the need to upgrade old analogue to digital communicators. 

A new sunset date approaches as AT&T announced they will no longer support 2G as of January 1, 2017. As of today, Custom Security installs 4g communicators, the latest technology offered by Honeywell. Where we expect that this technology will be supported for many more years to come, it too will eventually be replaced with an even better communicator. It is important NOT to wait until December of 2016 to replace your 2G cellular communicators as you may be risking down time due to high demand at that time. On the same token, 3 years from now may offer completely different communication solutions that are not available today. Custom Security will keep you up to date and informed through this process to make sure your system stays current with ever changing technologies.

Does “Smash and Grab Technology” Really Work?

Robin All - Monday, December 10, 2012

“Smash and Grab Technology” is a relatively new term in the home security system industry. Traditional alarm panels were originally designed to be installed in a closet or hidden from view under lock and key. Keypads are then installed at entry points such as your front door and garage door for ease of operation. In addition, sirens are installed in duct work so that, in alarm, volume is maximized.

Newer and cheaper all-in-one wireless systems do not separate these devices. Your panel (the brain of the system), keypad, and siren are all one device, usually installed near an entry door for ease of use. This puts your security system at risk of being vandalized and no longer able to communicate an alarm. When an intruder breaks in, he/she is immediately drawn to the noise of the keypad, giving ample opportunity to disarm they system by ripping it off the wall or smashing it. Especially if they have entered through an entry door that has a delay giving the homeowner time to disarm the system.

“Smash and Grab Technology” was designed to eliminate the threat of the delay by sending a signal to the monitoring station when the entry door was opened and then waiting to receive a signal that the owner has disarmed the system. This is fantastic if the intruder came in through a door! But what if the intruder entered through a window? 90% plus alarm systems in our area do not have window contacts on every window. What if the intruder smashed out the glass in your sliding door and came through the opening? Where “Smash and Grab Technology” puts a band aid on a serious design issue, it may not protect a business or home in every situation.

The concern of an intruder’s ability to “Smash and Grab” is one of many reasons to consider installing a control panel that is hidden away with separate keypad(s) and siren(s) installed in their appropriate locations. Click here to learn more reasons to consider a hardwired system.