Things Your Alarm Company Won't Tell You (But Burglars Already Know)

Updated on April 12, 2019

Alarm systems can be a great addition to any home or business, and they bring peace of mind to those who live, work, and own the building. Knowing your alarm system will make it that much more effective of a deterrent to burglary; however, if the burglar knows more about your system than you do, they can take advantage of small flaws that could end up costing thousands of dollars due to damage and theft (or worse).

After working at the largest alarm company in the nation, I saw that people who ended up unsatisfied with their protection, or ended up having to recover from a major loss due to break in, made some of these very simple, easy-to-miss mistakes.

6 Things You Should Know About Your Alarm System

  1. Prolonged power outages can disable the system.
  2. If there's no phone line, there's no signal.
  3. Police response time varies.
  4. Police investigation is sometimes a drive-by look-see.
  5. Your alarm system has automatic codes.
  6. Remote arming and disarming is convenient (for burglars).

1. Prolonged Power Outages Can Disable the System

Almost every alarm system owner is aware that their system runs off of the electricity of the house; it is either plugged into a wall or it is hard-wired into the building. There is a problem with that, however: If the electricity goes out, a breaker flips, or the plug comes loose, the alarm system loses its main source of power!

"But wait!" you say, "I have a backup battery!"

Backup batteries are what your alarm system absolutely depends on during a power outage. These are usually located in the panel, or, in the case of enclosed systems, in the keypad itself. What most owners are not aware of is that these batteries do not have a very long life, and they need to be maintained periodically to work at all. An old, worn out battery, or one that just is not hooked up right, will not power the system.

A burglar may take advantage of this, especially in the case of a prolonged power outage caused by a blizzard, flood, hurricane, tornado, or construction. After 12 hours for most residential and small business systems, the battery is dead. Useless.

How to Combat:

  • Maintain your alarm system backup battery properly. Test and change them as needed. For sealed lead acid (SLA) batteries, which look like mini car batteries, change them every five to seven years. For enclosed systems that use regular AA or D batteries, change them yearly and after a power outage. SLA batteries will recharge once the power comes back on, but enclosed systems do not have that luxury.
  • If the building is in an area that is prone to power outages, consider a backup generator to provide electricity during outages.
  • If the building is uninhabited, check on it periodically to make sure that the power is on and that the alarm system is functioning.


2. No Phone Line, No Signal

This is one almost everyone knows about, whether they have an alarm system or not. We have all seen the movies where the burglar sneaks around outside the house until he comes across the phone line entering the house. He pulls out his snippers, and cuts the line. Then, when he busts open the window or front door, the alarm goes off, but no one can get the signal.

Unlike most things in the movies, this is one that Hollywood got right. Normal alarm systems use the phone line to send out any signals at all, including fire, burglary, and carbon monoxide signals. Without the phone line, nothing is received by the alarm company, and no call goes out to the authorities. Even multiple phone line systems are pretty easy to disable from the outside of the building!

How to Combat:

  • Consider a cellular or radio backup, which sends signals wirelessly. These are sometimes not as dependable as a solid phone line for relaying signals (we've all dealt with our phones suddenly losing signal for no apparent reason) but they can be utilized as a back-up plan. Some systems can even be programmed to send a signal when the main phone line is tampered with, so that you will know when it happened.
  • Since the siren in the building will still sound even though no signal is being sent, everyone inside should know that something is wrong. Make sure that a neighbor or someone else that can hear the alarm system knows to check on it.
  • Test your system's communication monthly. Your alarm company can walk you through putting your system on a disregard status (to prevent police from being the ones confirming your alarm went through. They don't like doing that much.) and testing to make sure that your system is sending out signals like it is supposed to. Some systems will send a test signal automatically, however, especially in the case of residential systems, the alarm company may not call if the test signal is missed.
  • Note any changes with your phone lines and test your system after they are completed. Be especially wary when switching to VOIP phone lines, as these can sometimes not be compatible with your alarm system, and will not allow alarms to be relayed in a timely manner—if at all.

3. Police Response Time

While the alarm company will usually respond to an alarm very quickly, the response time of the authorities can be a whole different ball game. Especially in large cities, busy areas, or if the police department has a lot of calls to respond to, they might not get to the building for a while. Average response times can vary anywhere from a few minutes to several hours!

A burglar is usually aware of the response time. They have staked out the area, perhaps even broken into some houses there already. He probably knows exactly how long he has to haul out everything you own and cherish into that cargo van and still get away without passing a single cop.

How to Combat:

  • Reduce false alarms as much as possible! Getting a bunch of false alarms from the same house tends to create a "Boy Who Cried Wolf" situation. Not to mention that false alarms account for a lot of the reason that some police departments are swamped with calls.
  • Make sure that at least one person on your call list can check on the house. If they spot anything out of the ordinary, they should call the police or alarm company and let them know that there has been a confirmed break-in. Typically, police will respond much faster when someone has physically seen a problem. As a side note, if someone is responding to the alarm, make sure that the authorities or the alarm company knows who is going and what they are driving or wearing, to prevent your friend, neighbor, or loved one from getting shoved into the back of a police car while your robber gets away.
  • Some communities have a security guard who can check on the house as well. Make sure that this guard is on the call list if one is available!

Looks fine, right?
Looks fine, right? | Source

4. Police Investigation Is Sometimes a Drive-By Look-See

As mentioned above, some towns have very busy police. To save time so that they can move on to the next call, they may not check as thoroughly as you would like when responding to an unconfirmed alarm. Sometimes, all they do is drive by the house and look at it from their car. Not so good if the break-in point is not visible from the street! Other times, police may not see the damage because of a gate, dogs, or inaccessibility to the house.

How to Combat:

  • If you have a gate code to your backyard or house, make sure that the alarm company has this. They will give it to the authorities so that they can access the property. This is just a good idea in general, especially in the case of a fire or medical emergency, where seconds can make the difference.
  • Make sure that the person who is responding to the house to meet the police has a key and knows how to get into the house. If they unlock the door for the police, oftentimes they will check around to make sure that everything is okay, which is a lot better than just sending in your neighbor all by himself.
  • Make sure that your alarm company has descriptions for each zone. Sometimes, especially if the technician gets in a hurry, he will not program the alarm to show anything except a zone number. "Alarm Zone 3" does not tell police very much! Of course, neither does "Alarm Billy's Window." Set up your zones so that anyone would be able to find which zone is causing the alarm.

5. Your Alarm System Has Automatic Codes

When alarm systems are installed, they have a set code out of the box so that the technician and the new owner can arm and disarm it easily while installing and learning how to operate the system. What most owners do not realize is that this code is the same for almost every alarm system, regardless of brand.

If your code is 1-2-3-4, I'm talking to you.

Burglars know this, and why would they pass up the opportunity to give it a try?

How to Combat:

  • This one seems pretty simple doesn't it? Change your code after it is installed! Preferably while the technician is on site. Make it something that is meaningful to you, but not easily guessed (last 4 digits of the phone number, house number, birthdays, and other special dates are often easy to guess just by looking at your mail).
  • After changing your code, make sure that the old one no longer works. Some systems allow for dozens of codes to work at the same time, and one wrong button can leave the old code available.

6. Remote Arming and Disarming Is Convenient (For Burglars)

Nowadays, everything we could ever want is available at the touch of a button. Music, TV, coffee(!), a warm car, and even your alarm system. It might seem like a technological advancement comparable only to the invention of memory-foam slippers, but that convenience comes at a cost. That keyfob remote that is dangling oh-so-pretty on your keychain can fall into the wrong hands very easily, allowing a burglar to simply turn off your alarm system and walk right in.

While the alarm company can replace your remote and reprogram your system if the the keyfob is stolen, this is almost never covered under any warranty or maintenance plan. A technician may not be able to come out to the building for several weeks, and over-time (on-call) hours can end up costing you more than you would think possible.

How to Combat:

  • When possible, avoid using your keyfob remote. Arming and disarming your system is fairly easy, and if you cannot remember your code, your alarm company will walk you through changing it within minutes in most cases.
  • Keep your remote someplace safe. Keychains are great, except that they are small, portable, and easy targets for pickpockets and thieves. Putting the remote in an old jewelry box (the kind a watch or ring comes in) and keeping it inside your purse, briefcase, or car will keep it safe and prevent you from butt-pressing the hold-up alarm.

Other Thoughts

  • Always keep your alarm system and the information that the alarm company has up to date. Delete codes that are no longer being used, and change your own code periodically.
  • Be proactive about testing your alarm system. Unless your system is programmed to do so automatically and the alarm company is watching for the signals, your system will go untested for a long time.
  • Be proactive at responding to alarms, and make sure that at least someone on your contact list will respond if you cannot. The alarm system is there to let you know that something is wrong, and the police are there to respond in the case that no one else on the earth possibly could.
  • If you have any questions about how your alarm operates, different features, back-ups, or anything else, call your alarm company and ask them! It might take a few hold times to get to someone that has all of the answers, but it is better to know than to just hope.
  • Ultimately, how well your alarm system works depends solely on you!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Night Owl Security System 

      19 months ago

      AN ALARM SYSTEM WILL NOT STOP SOMEONE FROM COMING INTO YOUR HOME!!! Many instances that the perpetrator knows there is an alarm, breaks in, goes to master bedroom for jewelry, dining room for silver, is out in 2 minutes. DON'T KEEP VALUABLES OR SAFES IN THESE ROOMS. Hide them somewhere else. If you doubt this, call the police and ask them.

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      We have an alarm system that's hooked up with our police station since 1970 when we built this house. Also a back-up called a gun.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I would like to point out that I have come up with an easy and successful method of compromising

      the wired input zone circuits in all burglary alarms commonly used to date, and I have described this

      method as described in 2017, in the Hacker Quarterly 2600 Vol. 34, No1.

      Instead of physically changing the input circuit, or changing the switch, it is enough to measure the

      voltage of the input loop at a normal state, when the barrier is closed, and then connect another

      voltage supply of the same value in parallel to the input loop. This would prevent the system from

      recognizing any physical changes to the input loop and will make the alarm perfectly useless.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I Have a alarm system and a video surveillance system on my property. (I got tired of being ripped off) A month after installing my a camera to watch my truck, it was broke into and the battery was stollen. I could not believe it took this guy just under 2 minutes to be on his way with my stuff. 2 MINUTES!

      My best alarm system still to this day is my 4 legged friend. :-)

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Make sure you have a private security company responding to every alarm signal that requires answer. In less then 5 minutes would be better. Also make sure than any values including yourself and the one's you love are also protected at least for the necessary time to arrive that private security guard. Most times police will just pass by and not waste time on checking things properly, especially if they have lots of calls to answer. So private security guards are better in that regard... sometimes they will be their until someone can bring the keys to inspect the interior. Armed private security guards are illegal in most country's so if the thief(s) are armed they will likely be just one more victim!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      dybow, probably is true, especially with some smaller alarm companies that may have only a few monitoring stations. The delay with the police is also true, I work in alarm monitoring and have seen police take hours to respond to an alarm call.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I was told that my connection with the police here in my city is not alerted from here. Was told my signal goes to another State, long ways from here and they call police here, which is precious time wasted. IS THIS TRUE?

    • Deborah-Diane profile image


      8 years ago from Orange County, California

      I have had several alarm systems over the years, and never thought about many of the issues you brought up. Well done!

    • nikki_m profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      Thanks for reading and rating. These are the kinds of things that the salespeople and technicians will used-car-smile their way out of actually answering.

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie Marie 

      8 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      This is an extremely useful hub. I don't have an alarm system, but if I did, I would want to know all of this. I always thought the cops showed up immediately when the alarm went off. Guess I was wrong! Thanks for the info. Voted up and useful!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)