Frequently Asked Questions about Security Systems

Below are common questions our clients have about security systems. If you don’t find the answer to your question, please call us or use our convenient online question and comment form.

How do security systems work?
The most common security systems combine perimeter protection and interior protection. The perimeter is protected by sensors to detect opening of doors and windows and attempts to penetrate through these points; sensors that detect movement by an intruder within the protected areas provide interior protection. Typically, when the premises are occupied, only the perimeter sensors are active so occupants can move freely; when the premises are vacant, both sets of sensors are active.

If the sensors detect an intruder, they send a signal to a control unit that activates a siren to provide a local warning of the alarm. At the same time, the control unit notifies the security monitoring station that the alarm has occurred. The operator at the monitoring station that receives the alarm signal initiates the procedure for alarm response that you have designated. The procedure includes actions such as dispatching police or a security guard, or calling the owner or others on what we refer to as a call list to advise them of the alarm. The protocol has rigorous measures for false-alarm avoidance.

To activate protection of the premises, a secret code or a mechanical or electronic key is used to arm the system. The same code or key deactivates the system.

If required, life and property protection by means of sensors to detect fire, freezing, flood, or other abnormal conditions of concern may be added to the system, and the monitoring station operators initiate the prescribed response when an alarm occurs. View how a security system works.

Will the system be easy to use?
Modern security systems are very easy to use. Before arming the system, make sure all your doors and windows are secure. To arm or activate the system, you enter a secret code at the keypad or press the arm button on a wireless key; to disarm or deactivate the system, you enter the same code at the keypad or press the disarm button on the key. Electronic keys are handy, but be sure to protect them. If such a key is lost along with the door lock keys and these can be traced back to the protected location, it is no longer protected.

When you arm the system and stay home, the system knows you have not left the premises and it knows to activate the perimeter sensors and not to activate the motion sensors where you will be moving. When you arm the system and go out, the system knows to activate both the perimeter sensors and the motion sensors. The system will warn you if a door or window has not been closed.

The system knows what to do and what signals to send to the monitoring station, depending upon which sensor is reporting an alarm condition.

Why Cellular Communication?
Most security systems send signals to the alarm monitoring station over plain-old telephone service (POTS). Before attempting to break into the premises, intruders could cut the telephone line, if accessible, to prevent the security system from warning the monitoring station of an alarm.

The way to correct this vulnerability is to use a cellular communication back-up module. This device will carry the signals from the alarm system if the telephone line is unavailable for any reason.

When there is no phone line at the location, cellular communications can provide the normal means of communication. The Internet offers a third channel for sending signals to the monitoring station. By choosing any two of these three communications channels – POTS, cellular and Internet – for a system, we are able to avoid communications failure.

What will the equipment look like?
State-of-the-art technology has miniaturized security equipment, so sensors for doors and windows are small and inconspicuous and may be entirely concealed. Motion sensors and other devices are designed to blend into the décor and in a few days you will probably barely notice them. Wiring is almost always concealed. If you are concerned about appearance, a careful installation will be satisfactory to most everyone. Be sure to confirm with your service provider prior to installation that wiring will be concealed.

Wired or a wireless system?
Major advances in radio technology make it possible to install security systems that are partly or entirely wireless. Signals can be sent between sensors and the control unit and other devices, such as the keypad and siren, without connecting wires.

The choice of a wired or wireless alarm system is now largely influenced by the cost of the alternatives. Wireless equipment is more costly but quick to install, while wired systems take longer, resulting in higher labour cost. On average, wired systems still tend to be less expensive and they do not require batteries. However, this is less significant now that newer sensor designs use state-of-the-art battery types that last a half-dozen years.

Will pets set off the motion sensors?
Motion sensors are designed to detect movement within the area that they view. State-of-the-art motion sensors are designed to ignore incidental disturbances that are not related to the presence of an intruder; pet-friendly sensors are able to differentiate between a human and a pet. They are available in different models and are adjustable depending upon the size, type, and number of pets at the location.

What obligations does a client have?
You should ensure that your call list is current so that our monitoring station operators are able to deal with any alarms that might occur in the manner that you intended when the list was initially set up. This means advising us promptly when the names and telephone numbers change. It also means protecting the confidentiality of arm/disarm codes and passwords that contribute to your security. Have your password handy when you contact the station. Notify us before any changes to your telephone service.

How can I go about having a system installed?
Contact us to make an appointment so we can assess your requirements and present our recommendations and an estimate of the cost of your investment. Once you have authorized us to proceed, we will schedule installation when it is most convenient for you.

How soon could a system be installed?
We are normally able to proceed with installation of a security system within a week of receiving an order from a client. We have, on occasion, provided same-day service where there was an urgent need to secure a property.

Do we need a licence or permit from police to have a security system?
Some cities and municipalities require a security system to be registered with police or for residents to have an alarm system license or a security system license to permit you to have it even if it is not being monitored. The regulations vary between communities; we should be able to advise you on your local requirements.

Is installing the system messy?
Installing wireless sensors does not normally require use of tools other than a screw driver and only if adhesive is not effective. Experienced installers run concealed wires inside walls without damaging the premises and leave a tidy work area that shows little if any sign of the work that was done.

How much repair or maintenance does a system require?
Security devices from reliable manufacturers are durable and usually operate problem-free for many years; they do not normally require a lot of repair or maintenance. Most types of sensors last a long time. Gas sensors and microwave components of motion sensors have a limited life and will eventually need to be replaced as their sensing elements become ineffective. Smoke detectors, depending upon particulate matter in the environment, may benefit from cleaning and eventually may need to be replaced. Manufacturers’ instructions for individual products should be followed.

Batteries supplying backup power for wired systems will need to be replaced within 3 to 5 years, depending upon the frequency and duration of power outages. Wireless devices, depending upon make and model, will usually provide advance warning that batteries are approaching the end of their useful life and should be replaced.

If I already have a system, can you monitor it for me?
We service and monitor most systems that have been installed in Canada, and we maintain an inventory of spare parts. If you are an interested client, please do not hesitate to contact us to confirm that we are able to service you.

Can I design and install my own security system?
If you have access to a reliable connection to the GSM cellular network, we can supply you a fully programmed wireless security system reporting to one of our monitoring stations. If you have the basic skills to mount devices using a screwdriver and supplied adhesive strips according to supplied instructions, you can install your own system. As an added bonus, your investment can go with you if you move, unlike wired systems that may be less expensive at the outset but cost you some or all of your investment because the wires and labour to install them are left behind.

Once you decide your personal tolerance of risk versus what you are willing to pay for the peace of mind you seek, you should have a good idea of what you will need to configure your security system. Basic security system design involves common sense, knowledge of the premises to be protected, and some knowledge of how the components and sensors operate. This section is not intended to make someone an expert, but to provide enough information to understand the basic concepts and assess the overall appropriateness of a proposal you may be asked to consider by a service provider. The expertise comes into the selection of specific sensors, how to use devices to avoid false alarms, and the installation challenges that the specific location presents.

Let's take the most frequently chosen scenario that fits the risk profile, lifestyle, and budget of the average home or business owner. Later we'll discuss the so-called "free" security system.

Each entrance from the exterior requires a sensor. Window sensors have largely been supplanted by motion sensors in the configuration of a typical security system, although they are often used on basement windows.

State-of-the-art motion sensors strategically located on basement and ground levels provide interior detection. Ideally, you want a motion sensor to activate before an intruder has fully entered the premises. If this is not practical, you have to assess the path an intruder would have to take from the point of entry and intercept his movement before he can reach the persons and assets you are trying to protect. The number of motion sensors you require will depend on the floor plan of the premises. If you are concerned about home invasion or having an intruder sneak up on you, you will require more than this to have the peace of mind you seek. A full-perimeter security system may address some of these concerns, but such decisions require more than can be briefly covered here.

A keypad to enter arm/disarm codes must be placed close to the principal entrance. Since you want to delay the triggering of the alarm just long enough to enter the premises and disarm the system, the keypad must be close at hand. More than one keypad may be required if a second frequently used entrance is some distance from the first.

Determine what other conditions such as fire, toxic gases, loss of heating or refrigeration, plumbing failure, etc. are a concern.

What is a Full-Perimeter Security System?
Perimeter security systems were state of the art – before the advent of motion sensors – when security systems were the domain of the wealthy and beyond the reach of just about everyone. The design was simple: Place a sensor at every door and window that would activate when it was opened, thus triggering the alarm. Of course, if the intruder cuts through the glass without being heard, the security is defeated.

Today, a glass break sensor – essentially a sensitive microphone that listens for specific sound frequencies of breaking glass or splintering wood – is placed within earshot of the window. Alternatively, one can place a shock sensor or "bug" on the window frame or glass that will activate if the window is broken or entry is attempted. This type of sensor can be susceptible to triggering from innocent sources of vibration, so it is important to select one that has acceptable immunity to false alarm, and alarm-response protocol should be designed to avert unnecessary dispatches.

If there is concern that a perimeter sensor may be susceptible to false alarms, the use of additional motion sensors can provide some measure of confirmation that an alarm condition exists. The number of sensors required to cover all vulnerable openings will determine how costly a system will be. Sometimes a middle ground can be found between a full-perimeter system and the common variety using motion sensors.
"Free" Security System?
This system, usually consisting of sensors for two doors and a motion sensor, is ideal for a strip mall outlet that has front and back doors, no interior partition walls, and windows only across the front. Since few homes have this type of layout, you will find it difficult to achieve the peace of mind you seek without spending some money for additional coverage. It could be like getting a free suit that comes without pants.

Some companies may offer additional devices and increase the monitoring fee accordingly.