Just how many Americans encounter property-related crimes? We don’t have an exact headcount, but the Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 10.4 million households experienced one or more property victimizations, such as burglary or property crime, in 2014.

Given these statistics, it isn’t surprising that affluent families – and all homeowners, for that matter – still place so much trust in their alarm panel. As well they should. They expect the panel to alert them when someone has broken into their house and where they entered as well as provide a method of automatically reporting the intrusion to law enforcement authorities.

These are reasonable expectations – but don’t make the dangerous assumption that any given residential security alarm panel is designed and configured to do this.

Emergencies create chaos and confusion and not having the correct information can lead to incorrect, costly and dangerous decisions. Based on the more than 27 years I have spent with the U.S. Secret Service, assessing, validating and implementing physical security, access control and video requirements for Secret Service facilities around the world, I strongly recommend that anyone responsible for the security of a residence, assess the central alarm panel by taking the following four steps.

I’ll even make a prediction: for every reader of this blog that uses this list to check a home residence system, four of five (80%) will not be in compliance with all of them. Curious about whether the home you’re responsible for would “pass?” Keep reading to learn the top 4 family office security tips.

1.  Ensure all alarm contacts report as independent zones.

Many alarm companies program multiple alarm points to report at the same detection point. So if you enter your house through the garage door or front door they both show up as the same zone on the alarm keypad. Many residents also choose to combine areas into the same zone to keep costs lower by purchasing less equipment. Think of the confusion this can cause during an emergency. I recently completed a residential assessment of a senior executive’s primary residence where one alarm zone was listed as “side windows.” While it may have seemed satisfactorily descriptive to the vendor’s technicians on the day they installed the system, this could have actually been referring to any one of twelve windows in five different rooms. In an alarm situation you need specific information from the alarm keypad to assist in determining the best course of action for your family.

2.  Install a battery back-up power supply on the cable modem and networking equipment.

Many alarm panels now use internet protocol (IP) communications as the primary method of reporting alarm conditions to a central station. However, in the case of a power outage or when your cable or internet goes out, you also lose your alarm panel’s main source of communication to the central station. Instead, I suggest plugging your cable modem and all IP network equipment into an Uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) to provide back-up power for equipment and communications for the alarm panel, to keep power and communication going even in the worst situations.

3.  Provide an alternative method of communications to the central station.

Even if you have battery back-up power installed on your IP communications equipment to provide reporting during power outages, an intruder could cut the cable providing internet service to your residence and disable alarm panel communications. Installing a cellular reporting system as an alternative communications method will allow reporting when internet service is out. These systems require an additional monthly fee for the cellular service. The cellular equipment is integrated into the alarm panel and uses the alarm panel battery during power outages. Pay the extra cost for this service. It could save someone’s life.

4.  Make sure fire and life safety monitoring devices report to your alarm panel.

Most homes have one smoke detector on each floor or in each bedroom installed by the builder and wired together so that when one detects smoke they all alert. These devices are usually not wired into the alarm panel and do not report to a central monitoring company. Plug-in carbon monoxide detectors are primarily installed by the homeowner and provide only local annunciation as well. Installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors that report to the alarm panel provides notification to a central monitoring station, which can notify emergency responders if no one is home or are unable to notify them.

Additional Resources

The fact is, we never know when an emergency is going to occur, but it’s critical you implement family office security tips so you are prepared if the situation presents itself. You can learn more emergency preparedness tips in these blogs:

Emergency Preparedness: 10 Things You Need in Your Go Bag

Emergency Planning: What to Do If the Walking Dead Arrive at Your Door

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