As cleanup begins in areas affected by Hurricane Isaac recently, home-made signs like this one in Louisiana, featuring phrases like, “You loot we shoot,” remind us that weathering and recovering from a storm can mean a great deal more than property repair.
Storms frequently cause power outages for residents, and power outages often impact residential services like: TV, internet, phone (often VoIP service), and – in some cases – home alarm systems. When faced with longer-term outages, residents without reliable wireless home security systems often become concerned about personal belongings and items their families have taken lifetimes to acquire, preserve, and pass-down through generations.
Whether or not a homeowner’s wireless home security system is impacted by a power outage can vary based on their alarm system and/or wireless home monitoring service. At My Alarm Center, we have long recommended that our customers operate on a cellular monitoring system. This is in line with a recent executive plan published by the FCC’s ERIC (Emergency Response and Interoperability Center) group which outlines recommendations and goals for increased public safety and homeland security, emphasizing that “first responders should have access to a nationwide, wireless, interoperable broadband public safety network.”
Operating on a dedicated cellular channel, cellular monitoring systems send wireless signals via a secure, encrypted transmission to central monitoring services in case of emergency. When a power outage occurs, customers are protected by a cellular transmitter with backup battery power, allowing the alarm system to continue to operate during temporary power outages.
Despite the fact that cellular monitoring remains the safest and most reliable option for home security service, many providers and customers still remain on older and less reliable systems. This means homeowners’ access to home security monitoring services typically depends on the availability of traditional phone service, or Internet service. For instance:
- Alarm systems that rely on a hard-wired connection to a POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) line are only as functional as the copper wire to which the system is connected; If the phone line is severed in a storm, alarm service is suspended until the phone line is physically repaired. In the aftermath of a storm the need for phone line repair services often exceed the resources available which leads to long periods of time without home security monitoring services.
- Alarm systems that operate on VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol – i.e. Vonage and phone service offered as part of many service providers’ “triple-play” packages) are even more vulnerable; Just as phone lines can be cut or severed, Internet service can be interrupted in a variety of ways, cutting-off access to the alarm system until internet service is restored.
For example, in Massachusetts recently, a fire damaged Verizon infrastructure, interrupting both phone and Internet service in 40 towns. Not only was public safety threatened, but the security systems for homes and businesses was impacted, as one local business-owner outlined when he discussed his alarm system outage with the Eagle Tribune:
“…The phone and Internet outage also disrupted business security system services. Julio Jansen, owner of Lawrence Staffing Services on Merrimack Street in Lawrence, said yesterday his office was broken into. The building’s local alarm went off, but because phone and Internet service was down, the alarm company, ADT, was not notified and did not contact Lawrence Police.
‘The panic alarm sounded because we tested it this morning, but ADT wasn’t contacted,” Jansen said…”
Had Mr.Jansen subscribed to an alarm system that was based on cellular monitoring with backup battery power, it’s likely his story would have been different.
BBB companies like My Alarm Center who are partnered with Alarm.com, leader in advancing technology and service for alarm service customers, frequently consider the impacts of unexpected events and emergencies on alarm service, as outlined in a recent article entitled, “Will Technology Stand Up to the Storm?” by Bridget Carey of Alarm.com.
The BBB business My Alarm Center strives to provide a system that’s at the forefront of reliability, interactive services that increase convenience for users, and customer service that encourages home security best practices for residents and their families. We’d love to hear from you, if you’ve experienced unexpected issues resulting from a storm or disaster event that impacted the security of your home. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your story, and help us continue to provide and improve home security and home automation services for residents like you.
-Your friends at My Alarm Center