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The issue of alarms came up in chapter 33 of Circumnavigation (the quoted text is from that thread), and I may have it depicted wrongly in the story. Any advice or input would be very welcome!

 

Its been my experience that alarm companies call the location if the alarm is disarmed outside a specific time frame. Even if they don't they keep records of alarm arms and disarms and who does it so wouldn't they have called the precinct when a master alarm code was used?

 

Thank you for raising this issue. I'll be honest, I was operating on assumptions, which is never a good idea. This story is part mystery, and as such things HAVE to work in the story as they would in the real world, otherwise it is very unfair to the readers who are trying to figure out what is going on. :read:

 

Alarm openings and closings are sent to the central alarm station and logged. I owned a small alarm company and never gave the police a master code as it was their policy to never enter a property until the owner or caretaker was on site. A central station has the ability to arm, disarm and reset alarms remotely. Since this was a precinct code I would think they would of been called but in any case there is a record of this at the central station and in the alarm box memory should anyone care to check at a future date.

 

My only experience with alarms is very limited, and as a user, not a pro. Therefor, I may be wrong, and please let me know if I am.

 

All I can say for sure is that some alarms don't work that way. This may, however, be rare, and thus inappropriate to use in the story.

 

There are different types of alarms, such as monitored (when an alarm is transmitted to a monitoring company) or a system that just sets of the audio alarms. It doesn't say that Dirk's store is on a monitored system, though it could be, and IMHO would likely be. Also, not all monitored systems do time windowing. My home one (At a home I had at the time) didn't, nor did the the one at a business (a small storefront) that I used to have. I dimly recall there was a way to set the one at my business to do that, though. I assumed that Dirk, as the owner, would often go there outside of business hours (I did for mine) so wouldn't bother with a time-limited setting. I went in many times at weird hours, and that never triggered a call. What did trigger a call was power failures (this was true for my home system as well) even though it has battery backup. My current system is unmonitored, and just triggers internal and external flashing lights and alarms.

 

The disarm codes are a bit more complex than I portrayed, and I might have bungled it. There is not just one code that works for ever model of a specific alarm. I think you'd need to know the serial number, or at least a date of manufacture, and the master code would differ, probably by production batches. The way the police do it, or so I've been told, is they check with the installation company to get the specs and serial number. What you mention, a "precinct code", makes far more sense than what I was assuming.

 

I honestly don't know if the use of a master code (Or a precinct code) would trigger a call if it was on a monitored system. I've only had very limited experience with that; seeing an alarm installer disarm my system that way, without knowing my security code. In other words, he had a code other than mine that disarmed my system. I was standing behind him when he did it, and offered my code, be he said he'd just use his. Was this a master code from the manufacturer? Or one programed in by the original installer that this guy had access to? I don't know. This would have been in 2005 0r 2006, so it fits in with the story (currently August, 2006) but I have no clue if this is a normal occurrence or not. (and that's something that I need to know).

 

Are code entry times and the code recorded somewhere? I'm sure it varies from system to system, but I think (as you mention) in most cases they would be recorded. They were in both of mine, sort of. The alarm system would log them, and then, once a week, it did a systems check call to the alarm company, and transmitted status data and also a log. I do know that the alarm monitoring company knew when, and which codes, were used, at least on a few occasions. (In both cases, I could set up multiple codes so I can assign them to different people, such as employees, plus Duress Codes, which would turn off the alarm but notify the monitoring company)

 

Would it trigger a call to the monitoring company if the master bypass code was used? I wish I knew definitively, but I don't (other than that it didn't when the installer used one, though I'm not sure if his company was the original installer or not). My best guess is that it might for some systems, but not for others. (when the installer used such a code on mine, it didn't call anyone, because he was on my line at the time, and had the system wanted to report it would have grabbed the line and cut him off. As an aside, I don't know if his company was the original installer or not, but I am certain that his company set me up with that monitoring service).

 

One thing I have been told by an alarm installer (a different one, quite a few years ago), though, is that the most common use police have for master bypass codes is to turn off a ringing alarm (the overwhelming majority of alarms calls are false alarms). If it's a monitored system, the monitoring station can do it for them, but on a non monitored system, they have to do it themselves. I did see them do this once (around the year 2000) in person, while visiting a friend whose neighbor's alarm went off. The neighbor was away on vacation, according to my friend. The police asked around for someone with access, and upon finding no one entered and shut off the alarm (which was apparently not monitored). I assume they picked the door lock, but couldn't see from where I was. This was in a small city (population around 10k) in a rural area, so maybe in an urban area they operate differently. I don't know.

 

I also don't know if the police would normally have access to ways to disarm alarms. I assumed they must do, for legal searches, shutting off false alarms, etc, but I'm not sure.

 

Here's the scene from 33 that mentions the alarm;

 

The chandlery was equipped with an alarm system, and George knew he had just twenty seconds to disarm it. The Ft. Pierce Police Department, like most, worked closely with alarm companies. They had to; most alarms were false alarms, and the police needed to know how to disarm them. In most cases, the alarm companies would give the police master override codes. All George had needed to do was check the Carlson case file to see the make and model of the chandlery
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Nearly everything is in the programing now a days. A code can be given 4 or 6 digits. The less digits the easier it is to figure out how to bypass it (look at the dirty keys). You can program to monitor or leave local, entry & exit delays can be set to anything, sounder (siren) turned off after a time (local siren after an hour). I always let a keypad have it's beeper sounder beep during entry to remind the owner he had x amount of time to disarm. It does give someone a heads up to where the keypad is but trashing a keypad does nothing to disable the alarm. But the sounder can be turned off.

 

Alarm manufactures have master codes for different model panels but monitoring central stations replace that code with their own master code. Some panels you can program over 100 entry/exit codes so it's possible that a precinct could be given a master code unique to them. It would depend on the cities policy with police and monitoring companies. The customer file would contain which doors have delays or are immediate alarms.

 

I would personally have any master code call the central station immediately since it is not a normal operation. Any time a technician worked on a alarm the central station would know about it a head of time so they knew about alarms being sent. A system can be programed to send openings/closing once a week, daily or immediately depending on the business and how critical an alarm is. We questioned every bank keypad entry no matter what. Openings/closing were sent immediately in that case. I sent low battery warnings at midnight when the monitoring was quiet.

 

Whether it's monitored or not every keypad press is recorded in memory along with time & date.

 

I hope this helps you but I think what you wrote was possible. I had no experience with big police departments.

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I can't comment on what C James wants, apart from to say that there would be a lot of options, so anything is possible. What's realistic is the question, and I have no experience at all regarding that.

 

The less digits the easier it is to figure out how to bypass it (look at the dirty keys).

That doesn't always work. I remember over ten years ago one computer manufacturer whose office security system used a touch pad where the numbers were displayed when it was activated. That is, it didn't have a permanent set of 0-9 digits, but had blank buttons that would only show the digits when the keypad was activated... and the digits would appear in random locations. That way, the actual keys used would vary each time the keypad was used.

 

I believe the idea was to stop someone from observing the buttons pushed, and the coming along later and trying those same buttons.

 

Of course, that's getting exotic and over-the-top for most applications, but it shows how there is a lot of variations possible. Security companies are always on the look out for how people can bypass/fool/break their systems, and then come up with ways to plug those holes.

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Nearly everything is in the programing now a days. A code can be given 4 or 6 digits. The less digits the easier it is to figure out how to bypass it (look at the dirty keys). You can program to monitor or leave local, entry & exit delays can be set to anything, sounder (siren) turned off after a time (local siren after an hour). I always let a keypad have it's beeper sounder beep during entry to remind the owner he had x amount of time to disarm. It does give someone a heads up to where the keypad is but trashing a keypad does nothing to disable the alarm. But the sounder can be turned off.

 

Alarm manufactures have master codes for different model panels but monitoring central stations replace that code with their own master code. Some panels you can program over 100 entry/exit codes so it's possible that a precinct could be given a master code unique to them. It would depend on the cities policy with police and monitoring companies. The customer file would contain which doors have delays or are immediate alarms.

 

I would personally have any master code call the central station immediately since it is not a normal operation. Any time a technician worked on a alarm the central station would know about it a head of time so they knew about alarms being sent. A system can be programed to send openings/closing once a week, daily or immediately depending on the business and how critical an alarm is. We questioned every bank keypad entry no matter what. Openings/closing were sent immediately in that case. I sent low battery warnings at midnight when the monitoring was quiet.

 

Whether it's monitored or not every keypad press is recorded in memory along with time & date.

 

I hope this helps you but I think what you wrote was possible. I had no experience with big police departments.

 

Thank you very much for this! As long as it's possible, I'm happy. :)

 

I've always found alarms interesting. I much prefer hardwired systems (I hate anything with batteries) but I can see how a retrofit installation could be a real pain.

 

I wonder how many people realize that their alarm system records every set and entry, along with the date and time, and often makes that info available to others? Probably not too many, which makes this very much akin to the "black box" issue with some cars; their computers record a great deal about your driving. Or, a GPS car navigation system, which automatically logs your ground track, making a nice map of everywhere you've been, and you can't disable it. You can delete the log, but you can't stop it from logging. (this is true for Garmin units, I don't know for sure on others).

 

Thanks again!!

 

I can't comment on what C James wants, apart from to say that there would be a lot of options, so anything is possible. What's realistic is the question, and I have no experience at all regarding that.

The less digits the easier it is to figure out how to bypass it (look at the dirty keys).

That doesn't always work. I remember over ten years ago one computer manufacturer whose office security system used a touch pad where the numbers were displayed when it was activated. That is, it didn't have a permanent set of 0-9 digits, but had blank buttons that would only show the digits when the keypad was activated... and the digits would appear in random locations. That way, the actual keys used would vary each time the keypad was used.

 

I believe the idea was to stop someone from observing the buttons pushed, and the coming along later and trying those same buttons.

 

Of course, that's getting exotic and over-the-top for most applications, but it shows how there is a lot of variations possible. Security companies are always on the look out for how people can bypass/fool/break their systems, and then come up with ways to plug those holes.

 

That's a great idea!

 

My own variation was definitely low-tech... I dirtied up a button that wasn't in my code. That wouldn't have prevented someone from seeing which keys I pressed, though.

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