Intrusion Alarm System

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

How do alarm system glass break detectors work?

Glass break detectors look for the sound of glass breaking. They are most effective in areas where larger panes of glass can easily be broken to gain entry to a home. They are effective on glass that is at least one square foot in size and no more than one-quarter of an inch thick. Most are rated to work on glass about 15’ to 20’ from the sensor, so a single sensor can potentially cover an entire room. However, glass break detectors can be susceptible to false alarms. We often see mail slots causing false alarms on glass break detectors as the thud (of mail hitting the floor) with the clank (of the mail slot closing) resembles the acoustic pattern the glass break detector is looking for.

All equipment and monitoring are Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Listed, meaning that they have passed a rigorous audit by an independent third-party.

Why is using a licensed security alarm company important?

There are many alarm companies doing business in and around the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia area that are not licensed. This may reflect on the quality of the company. Do you want to work with a company that blatantly cuts these corners? But more significantly, if there is an issue and you try to make a claim against the company, their insurance company may not cover the company if they are operating outside of their licensed business area.

What is the benefit of equipment manufactured in the United States?

Urban Alarm is an authorized dealer of Digital Monitoring Products (DMP). DMP is a manufacturer of security alarm systems and devices and is unique in their US manufacturing of these devices.

Using equipment manufactured in the USA is beneficial for a number of reasons. In addition to the highest quality we would expect from a US manufacturer, the turn-around time on new versions of technology and direct access to the engineers designing the systems is extremely valuable. We have seen a few instances where the US supply change allows the manufacturer to respond much more quickly to the market.

Is your alarm monitoring different than the national alarm companies?

We have the same standard for alarm monitoring and alarm dispatching. Our alarm monitoring centers are staffed 24 hours per way with an East Coast dispatch center and a backup West Coast location. We will follow up.

How can I integrate my security system with my lights?

There are many systems that can integrate your security alarm system with lights, thermostats, locks, shades, and other devices. These systems often utilize the z-wave standard, but there are a variety of technologies that are also effective.

Do I get notified of alarms on my mobile device?

Yes, you may get security alarm notifications via email (or email to SMS gateway) or from push notifications on a mobile app for your alarm system.

Can you monitor our existing smoke detectors?

There are generally two types of smoke detectors which may be installed in your home: 120v sensors generally installed by an electrician; and “low voltage” smoke detectors that are generally connected to, and monitored by, a security alarm system. More details about the differences in these systems are available on our blog.

If your smoke sensors are currently not monitored by an alarm system, they generally can not be monitored; however there are some exceptions.

What is better; hardwired or wireless alarm systems?

Modern wireless systems are very effective and generally considered as reliable as hardwired security alarm devices. However, there are differences from security alarm manufacturer to manufacturer. These can affect the reliability of wireless technology or of certain types of alarm sensors. Of course, wireless alarm systems require batteries in the devices. Batteries should last between three and five years depending on the usage.

Mobile Patrol

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

How do I sign up?

Urban Alarm currently provides comprehensive patrols in the Kalorama and Woodland Normanstone Neighborhoods of Washington DC. Residents of these neighborhoods can signup online here. Additional neighborhoods are being added. If you are not in these areas and are interested in having the patrol in your area, please let us know.

In what areas do you provide services?

Urban Alarm currently provides comprehensive patrols in the Kalorama and Woodland Normanstone Neighborhoods of Washington DC. Additional neighborhoods are being added. If you are not in these areas and are interested in having the patrol in your area, please let us know.

Are Patrol Officers Armed?

No. All patrol officers are unarmed and are there to observe and report. DC does not allow mobile private security personnel to be armed (only stationary personnel may be armed when on customer property).

What do the Patrol Officers do When Confronted With a Crime in Progress?

It is the responsibility of Patrol Officers to observe and report. If they witness suspicious activity they will report it to police dispatch, monitor the situation, and, if possible, document the activity for forensics and/or prosecution. Our Patrol Officers work closely with the DC Police Department and regularly provide them with relevant information.

Is there a charge for the concierge services?

Currently, there is a nominal charge for services that require the patrol officer to enter the home. In some cases, we can hold your house key.

What are the concierge services?

Urban Alarm views certain types of “concierge” services as complementary to community security. While we perform a range of personalized services, some of the most basic activities include: picking up packages that have been left outside and redelivering them in the evening or at the homeowner's convenience, returning garbage bins from the road after garbage pickup, checking for flyers or other items delivered to the home when homeowners are away, and walking the family dog.

Who will be patrolling the neighborhood?

Patrol Officers are Urban Alarm employees that have been fingerprinted by the DC Department of Police and licensed as “Security Officers.” While on patrol, they are in regular contact with DC Police, reporting and documenting suspicious activity. They are given a cell phone / camera to document and email incident reports for properties on their patrol. They are not armed and are not permitted to attempt to intervene in a crime. It is their role is to observe and report. The patrol vehicle is tracked by GPS and the reports are reviewed regularly per Patrol Officer performance.

Access Control

Can I use my cellphone, instead of a prox card for FOB, for access control to my office and building doors?

Yes. Mobile phones as an access control credential has come a long way. You now have a few options depending on the system. Options are available to use the HIB Bluetooth application with a bluetooth reader at the door, to simply using an iOS and Android App with Brivo Systems or DMP.

Can we use Urban Alarm on our office suite if Kastle Systems is providing access control for the building?

Yes. If you have a different company providing access control for the building, including Kastle Systems, but would like to work with Urban Alarm for your office suite, we will add your Kastle Systems FOBS and Prox Cards to your office suite access control system.

Can we use Urban Alarm on our office suite if Datawatch is providing access control for the building?

Yes. If you have a different company providing access control for the building, including Datawatch, but would like to work with Urban Alarm for your office suite, we will add your Datawatch FOBS and Prox Cards to your office suite access control system.

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

Can access control FOB's be used for multiple locations?

Access control card or key "FOBs" the use the same technology can be used in multiple sites or systems. This would allow an employee of a commercial property to have their key card added to the access control system in their apartment building.

This requires that the systems use the same fundamental technology. Some common examples of access control card technology include:

  • HID Prox
  • MiFARE
  • iClass

Commercial Fire Alarm

Is my older Commercial Fire Alarm System "grandfathered" in or do I need to upgrade it?

There are many circumstances which can trigger a required upgrade to a Commercial Fire Alarm Systems. They are completely at the discretion of the local Fire Marshal and/or Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Some typical events that may request in a required Commercial Fire Alarm upgrade include:

  • Change of use of the property (e.g., from a Church to a School)
  • General inspection or visit by the Fire Marshal or AHJ; the local authority or the fire marshal may inspect the property for any (or no) reason. At their discretion they may feel it necessary for you to upgrade the system. Common reasons to upgrade include horns or bells that are not audible at in sleeping areas, inadequate smoke detection, etc)
  • Renovation of a property that would impact the areas of the property where current code requires commercial fire alarm system upgrades (e.g., renovation of an elevator, modification of egress flow)

Key to consider is that no property is legally "entitled" to no meeting current code and it is the discretion of the local authority as it if and when you m just comply with current codes. It can be more cost effective to upgrade the system on your timeline rather then when you are being compelled to do so potentially under a tight (and expensive) timeline.

Can we get a variance on our fire alarm system?

Fire alarm systems are strictly regulated and must meet minimum requirements. However, in some cases, the local authority will allow for exceptions or variances from current code requirements. While this is generally not recommended, there are some circumstances where it may be worth exploring a variance. Possible exceptions include:

  • Voluntarily upgrading a grandfathered fire alarm system where a complete upgrade may not be economically feasible, but a significant partial upgrade is desired.
  • Upgrading only part of a property, as the rest of it is unaffected by renovations.
  • Meeting requirements specified in code that is more current than that adopted by the local authority. Local authorities are generally not using the most recent code and, in some cases, you may want to install a system or devices that meet more recent code than the authority recognizes (e.g., wireless devices).
  • Or, if full code compliance is not practical or feasible. This process often involves a dialog with the local inspectors. In this case, you will want to work with a firm that has the right resources and relationships.

Does my multi-unit residential project require a fire alarm system?

International Building Code (IBC 907.2.9) indicates that fire alarm systems are required in properties where any of the following conditions are met:

  • A sleeping unit is located three or more stories from above the ground exit level
  • A sleeping unit is located more than one story below the egress
  • The building has more than 16 units

These are only a few of the conditions and requirements. For questions about your project, please contact us for a fire alarm system consultation at no cost.

How are fire alarm systems regulated?

Fire alarm system design, installation, and monitoring are regulated by the local "authorities having jurisdiction" or AHJ's. In Washington DC, this is the District of Columbia Department of Regulatory Affairs.

In Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia, properties are required to have a fire alarm system in accordance with NFPA 72. This code reference specifies how a fire alarm system must be designed, installed, monitored, and tested. It is a comprehensive code reference that provides a roadmap for many aspects of your fire alarm system.

Other code references that may be relevant to your fire alarm system are the International Residential Code and International Commercial Code. Urban Alarm will work with you to determine the full code requirements for your fire alarm project.

Fire alarm system code and requirements evolve on a regular basis. Your fire alarm company should have specialists that understand the requirements and are in regular communication with the local permitting and inspections offices.

Residential Security

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

Can you monitor our existing smoke detectors?

There are generally two types of smoke detectors which may be installed in your home: 120v sensors generally installed by an electrician; and “low voltage” smoke detectors that are generally connected to, and monitored by, a security alarm system. More details about the differences in these systems are available on our blog.

If your smoke sensors are currently not monitored by an alarm system, they generally can not be monitored; however there are some exceptions.

Video Surveillance

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

What is the difference between Analog and IP Security Video

Network based video surveillance ( or IP Video ) has become increasingly common over the past 15 years to the point where it is common place and comparably priced to traditional analog video.

The difference is similar to the difference between older analog television and modern digital HD video. IP video allows for much higher resolution pictures and more flexible functionality.

Construction Security

Are power or phone lines required for a construction site intrusion alarm system?

There are number of are many option for construction site security including ones that do not require on-site power or communications. Urban Alarm can provide excellent intrusion coverage of exterior as well is interior spaces that would normally be extremely susceptible to false alarms.

Local Programs

Why is using a licensed company important to me?

Every State and County has its own set of requirements around the licensing of companies. These requirements set a bar for the level of professionalism and compliance for companies. They include requirements such as background checks for employees and owners, to training, to insurance and bonding requirements.

Security and fire alarm systems are unique in that if something is not done correctly you may not know years down the road when something does not work when you need it. If you every have an insurance claim or other issue related to the work of your vendor, and they are not licensed, insurance may not cover the losses.

Unlicensed companies often cut other corners such as taxes, workers comp insurance, or liability insurance all of which can come back to you if something goes wrong.

Review the requirements in your location. For more information on security alarm business licensing requirements in Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia visit Urban Alarms Local Alarm Program Page.

Remote Video Patrol

Where is remote video patrol most effective?

The critical factor in effective use of the remote video guard patrol is clear criteria in what actions to take in various conditions. Instructions to "report anything suspicious" is not going to be effective since people's ideas of what is suspicious are not the same and it may be very specific to a situation and location.

Examples of effective specific action may include:

  1. Report to call list any persons on site between the hours of 10PM and 6AM
  2. Instruct anyone loitering to move on and, if they fail to do so in 90 seconds, dispatch the police
  3. Send email to contact list if a package is deposited to front porch or removed by someone not entering the home

Urban Alarm will work with you to determine if this method of security will be effective in addressing your needs and to define effective processes and procedures.