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Alarm!

Oddly enough, the warning came via email. My mom sent me an email with a link to a local news story. There was an escaped criminal loose in our immediate area. He was considered armed and dangerous. Now the reader needs to understand, we live out in the country. Our house can’t be seen from any road. Our doors are rarely locked. We have great neighbors (my parents and brother are among them). Tonight, we lock the doors.

We have a nice alarm system. The only reason we have an alarm system is because I install alarms. We rarely turn it on. Tonight, we turn on the alarm.

After an uneventful night we head out to church. My wife is singing so she leaves earlier. I enjoy a little extra coffee before getting ready. On my way out I decide to lock the doors and set the alarm in case the fugitive is still nosing around the area.

I catch my wife between services, inform her that the alarm is set, and remind her of the procedure for disarming it.

Before we go any further let me tell you something about my wife. She’s great! I love her very much! She’s smart! She is a little bit of an anomaly. She works every day on a computer and figures out a lot of technologically advanced things. That being said, she occasionally lets a bit of tech slip past her (especially if it’s something she doesn’t do on a regular basis).

She got home, opened the door, and the alarm started to beep. No big deal since she knew her code. She remembered her code and punched it in…now what? The beeping was sounding very urgent. The buttons on the alarm keypad are a bit cryptic. There are numbers. The number keys have something else on them, but it was hard to tell for someone who hasn’t done it in several months. Before long the beeping stopped. OK. Good. Maybe she guessed right.

Before long she gets a call on her cell phone. She doesn’t recognize it so she lets it go. The home phone rings. That’s strange, the telemarketers usually leave us alone on Sundays. She lets the answering machine get it. About that time her phone notifies her that she has a voicemail from the alarm company.

In the mean time, I’m sitting in the church service. Our church building is a metal Quonset hut. If you’ve ever been inside one of those you know they tend to be a pretty good RF shield. It works pretty good for a church since you don’t end up getting a lot of cell phones going off in church. In this situation it meant I didn’t get my voicemails from the alarm company and my wife until after I had stepped outside after the service.

By that time my wife had tried to call the local police department and the county sheriff in an attempt to call off whatever the alarm company had dispatched. Neither department was able to give her any information without hearing it from the alarm company. She calls the alarm company back to get them to cancel the police dispatch. They wanted her 5-digit PIN. She didn’t remember it.

After listening to all of the voicemails I was up to speed on what had happened. I called the alarm company, gave them my PIN and asked them to call off the police. They thanked me for my call and hung up. I called my wife and told her that everything was OK.

Later that day I went back through the phone logs on my phone to put together a timeline. What I found was that from the time the alarm went off to the time I called the alarm company to cancel the police dispatch was over 30 minutes. My wife never saw the police or even heard a siren. 30 minutes!

Let’s change the scenario a bit. For the sake of argument we’ll tell the same story with a couple of variables changed: My wife came home, but the alarm was not set. She walks in the house and can tell that someone is there. She dials 911. The operator can hear that she is in trouble and has her location from the caller ID. The 911 operator dispatches the police. All of a sudden, 30 minutes sounds like a long time! What could an intruder do to my wife in 30 minutes? I hate to think about it!

Let’s change the scenario again. This time my wife comes home and realizes that I had left a skillet full of leftover breakfast on the stove with the burner on. It had finally dried up enough that it caught fire. The fire had grown to the point that it was beginning to spread. My wife quickly calls 911. They dispatch the fire trucks. They may take up to 30 minutes! What does my wife do in the mean time? She could fill a pitcher with water from the sink and throw it at the fire, but what if it was a grease fire? The water would have made it worse! Now she’s got fire all over the kitchen!

What she needs is a fire extinguisher. She needs one conveniently placed and appropriately sized so she can deal with that fire. The right fire extinguisher in the right place could put that fire out, save our home, and possibly save her life. I need to go buy her some fire extinguishers!

Now let’s go back to the scenario where my wife comes home and finds an intruder in the house. She’s called 911, she’s in trouble, and she has 30 minutes before help arrives. What does she do while waiting for the police? She could grab something to hit the intruder, but like throwing water on a grease fire, that could just make matters worse. She needs a gun! She needs a gun conveniently placed where she can quickly retrieve it to protect herself from the intruder. It needs to be appropriately sized to stop the intruder in the event that she actually has to pull the trigger!

Your local Fire Department would be the first to tell you that you need a fire extinguisher in your home. As a matter of fact, they would likely tell you that you need more than one. They might also tell you that you need one type for the kitchen, and a different type for the garage.

So, this begs the question, “Why doesn’t your local police department tell you that you need a gun in your home?” Actually, many police departments will tell you that if you ask. They will qualify that by telling you to obtain and keep your firearm within the confines of the law and within the guidelines of good gun safety. They will also likely tell you to get trained. Once you’re trained, keep your skills up.

I haven’t done the research on this, but I’m guessing that the likelihood of having a home intruder is about the same as the likelihood of having a home fire. So, that being said, go buy a fire extinguisher!

2 thoughts on “Alarm!

  1. I like your concepts but I think there is a disconnect in your analogies with the Fire Department and the Police Department.
    You’ve completely removed the 3rd party agency involved — the alarm company.

    While I agree that we are our own first responders, I want to make sure we are arguing fairly. Keeps the anti-rights cultists (aka gun control advocates) from pointing out how ‘you are wrong’

    A more appropriate approach would be to count from when the alarm company did not receive a response from the house to when you called off the 911 response. This would show the police response to be slow — removing the possibility the alarm company was slow to notice the issue.

    I think that most people would be shocked to know the average police response time to a high priority call — and a burglar alarm is not considered high priority — is 6 minutes nation wide. Situations like yours are usually much much worse.

    I’ve asked gun control advocates to allow me to conduct an experiment. While they pick up a ‘phone’ and ‘call 911’ — I will simply tap them on the forehead while they count to 360 slowly.
    Given those people generally advocate ‘leaving it to the professionals’ it is amazing how often they will resort to physical violence to stop me tapping them on the head.

    Bob S.

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    • I appreciate your comments. While I agree that there is no way to accurately compare the response of police to an alarm call with that of a 911 call, I can rule out any latency on the part of the alarm company. Since I install alarms, I have instant access to the records of their calls where my customers’ systems are concerned. I do know that once they had exhausted our contact list that they immediately placed the call to emergency services. The 30 minutes was very conservative. It was actually much more than that, but for the purpose of the blog post I discussed it as 30 minutes since most people have a firm grasp on that unit of time. The fact of the matter is 3 minutes would be too long in many intrusion or fire situations. Our home is in the far corner of a county jurisdiction the borders of which include a state line. In order for a county officer to reach our home he would either have to enter the neighboring county or the neighboring state. We are not a high priority.

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