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How Long Until The Police Arrive?!

By:  William P. Flinn

We often hear the saying that “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”  I had a chance recently to test that notion, albeit that the test of this often repeated saying happened quite by accident.  Still, it was an eye opening, although accidental test.  At about 5:30am, my alarm clock went off; I got out of bed, and in a bleary-eyed state of being went down stairs to let the dogs out.  Still half asleep, I walked right past the alarm panel, and forgot to turn the alarm system off before opening the back door.  You guessed it:  The alarm immediately went off.  I ran back to the alarm panel and frantically fumbled to put in my code to turn it off.  Finally got the alarm turned off, and I figured that ADT would probably call me to ask about the alarm.  But since I had reset the alarm right away, perhaps they would not call.  They would see the hour of the morning and figure that the owner forgot to turn it off before opening a door.

A few minutes passed, and I let the dogs back in when they scratched at the door.  I went to the stove to put on some water for morning tea, and sat back down on the sofa.  Finally, the phone rang – but it only rang once and stopped.  Possibly ADT calling?  Sometimes that happens – the alarm system takes control of the phone line and people who call can’t get through.  As it turned out, they next called my cell phone, which was on the end table, turned off and charging.  They called my wife’s cell phone – also turned off and charging.  Having seen an alarm, and not being able to contact the homeowners, they called the Fort Collins Police. 

So before I go on, let me say that I have nothing but total respect and admiration for the Fort Collins Police and the Larimer County Sheriff’s offices.  The men and women who make up our law enforcement agencies in our community do a thankless job on a tight budget.  I mean after all, the City of Fort Collins has found it important to pay artists thousands of dollars to put fancy paint jobs on all of the electrical boxes in town, but seem to be kind of stingy when it comes to funding our police and fire services.  In fact, I remember awhile back receiving a letter from ADT stating that the City of Fort Collins was piloting a program where, due to budget constraints, was ordering the police department to provide quick response to calls from the alarm company ONLY if a second verification could be obtained that an actual break-in was occurring.  Otherwise, they were to respond on an “as available” basis. 

So back to the story… Meanwhile, I went up to my office to check email and wait for the water to boil.  The water finished boiling; I went down to the kitchen and started my tea brewing.  Went back up to read the news, work on my web site, and do a few more things in the office.  Then a few minutes later, the dogs start barking wildly and shortly after the doorbell rings.  Yep – it was the Fort Collins Police.  I explained what happened, the extremely professional and friendly officers understood completely, and then left.  Let me just say that I am thankful that there were two of them responding to a potential home invasion, and not just a lone police officer.

So again – this story isn’t meant as any kind of criticism against our law enforcement community.  The men and women of law enforcement really are professionals and most deserving of our respect and gratitude.  Rather, this story is a testimony about the somewhat dubious thought processes of our legislators.  This is clearly another example (and there are many) of why it is that law abiding citizens should NOT be legislated against when it comes to the right to defending themselves or their homes.  From the time the alarm went off to the time the police finally arrived, I had time to let the dogs out, let them back in, boil a kettle of water, make some tea, check email, read a news story or two, and start doing some work on my web site. 

If someone had actually broken into a typical Fort Collins home at that time of morning, with the family there (and possibly still asleep), how much damage and injury could an intruder have done in that time?  In our family’s case – not much – we’re also armed and have a plan.  But still, several minutes elapsed before law enforcement arrived.  Give it some thought, folks.  Are you willing to hope for the best until help arrives?  Or are you resolute in developing a plan to keep your family safe? 

It also helps to know a little more about how home alarms operate in the United States to help understand what you can do to increase the priority level of your alarm event in the case of an actual break-in.  After writing the original version of this article for the news letter, security expert Wayne Crook, creator of "The Pistol Pad" sent me the following:

"Every alarm company in the USA and, to the best of my knowledge, every State by law or rule recognizes the following three (3) alarm response categories.

Priority 1 - Fire. Takes precedence over any other signals being processed by the central station. Emergency responders notified immediately.  No Verification Call to the location. This represents a catastrophic threat to human life and property.  Priority 1 – Fire devices can not be bypassed or disarmed; only silenced and/or reset.

Priority 2 - Panic. Takes precedence over any other signals (except Fire) being processed by the central station. Emergency Responders notified immediately. No Verification Call to the location. This represents a serious threat to human life.  Priority 2 - Panic devices can not be bypassed or disarmed; only silenced and/or reset. 

Priority 3 - Intrusion. Lowest level taking precedence over administrative communications only. May require one or more verification calls prior to notification of Emergency Responders.  Delays of 15 seconds or more may be required before any communication attempt to the central station is initiated following activation of an intrusion alarm.  This represents a threat to property only.  Priority 3 - Intrusion devices can be bypassed or disarmed.

For any monitored alarm system owner that has a panic button immediately available; even if the system is in full alarm with the sirens blasting, Push The Panic Button! This changes the status of your alarm signal from a Priority 3 - Intrusion to a Priority 2 – Panic and should significantly increase speed of notification to and response priority of Emergency Responders."

Source:  Wayne Crook, The Pistol Pad

So what can you do?  For starters, here are some important things to remember:

  • Your alarm system is (or at least should be) only one part of a multi-layer system of defense for your home and your family.  If able, also call 911 and get the response rolling as soon as possible.

  • Get a wireless "Panic Button" from your alarm company, but it in your safe room, and know where it is.  Use it to elevate the alarm priority so that the police will know that you are in fact being invaded and to respond at a higher priority.

  • Get another "Priority 2 Panic" device such as the The Pistol Pad which can also serve to help increase the alarm priority.

  • Have a plan – if your alarm does go off, or you hear the obvious signs of a break-in, be able to get yourself and your family to a “safe-room” that can provide protection and give you time to call 911, and again - upgrade that alarm priority level by pushing the panic button.

  • Get trained in self-defense and defensive firearm use.  Your safe room will only keep you safe for so long from someone absolutely determined to get to you and do you harm.  Your firearm is your last resort for defense, but you need to know how to deploy it in an absolute crisis situation.

Above all - stay calm, follow your plan, and make those defensive layers of protection work for you.



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