Urban Alarm is excited to announce we have moved our administrative offices to the Josephine Butler Parks Center in Mt. Pleasant. Located at 2437 15th St. NW, the Parks Center is centrally located in Mt. Pleasant and buttressed against beautiful Meridian Hill Park.
You can look forward to Urban Alarm's new Community Safety Seminars and other community events at this location, which will begin during the summer. Be sure to check our blog and email newsletter for upcoming events.
One of Urban Alarm's key community partners, Washington Parks and People, also calls the Josephine Butler Parks Center home. Over the past year, Urban Alarm has partnered with Washington Parks and People on multiple neighborhood and community security projects and is thrilled to be able to continue to this work at our new location.
Please note that even though our offices have changed, our mailing address has not; you may continue to send all mail to 5505 Connecticut Avenue NW, #306, Washington DC 20015.
Urban Alarm would like to introduce its first 2010 class of Urban Alarm Security Guards. These 15 guards will be representing Urban Alarm as Security Officers, or SOs, at DC Public Schools.
Urban Alarm is one of four companies providing licensed Security Guard services for DC Public Schools throughout the District. You can see our guards working during the school day, during Aftercare programs before and after school, and at sporting and other special events. The majority of Urban Alarm's Security Guards are DC residents, and some even attended the DC public schools they now patrol and protect.
Our guards have passed rigorous background checks and licensing procedures, undergone extensive training both in the classroom and on school sites and have a commitment to their communities and to the schools they serve. Urban Alarm is very pleased to be able to branch out into this area of the security business and interact with the community more directly in our public schools.
Our next group of 18 officers will start in the schools in March. Keep an eye out for the Urban Alarm shoulder patch during pickup and drop-off in DC Schools.
DC's blizzard of 2010 has highlighted the main-streaming of social media as an emergency communication tool. In our house in AU Park the battery operated emergiency radio was no where in sight despite the 30 hour power outage. Replacing it were two iPhones and twitter feeds. While twitter has generally been a vehicle for the masses, we followed a number of government and infrasturecture authroities who kept us informed on a minute by minute basis.
Not only were the feeds informative but also two-way. While I got solid busy signals trying to notify PEPCO of a downed line behind our house a twitter message to DDOT was met with a quick response:
The dialog with DDOTDC was extensive with residents tweeting information on problem areas, pictures of unplowed streets, and DDOTDC acknowledging resident concern passing information to and from the DDOT snow response command center. Other District agencies provided excellent information on bus routes, school closing, and more.
The tweeting was also valuable on a smaller scale. Broad Branch Market twittered hourly updated on the status of the store and availability of high-demand blizzard items (e.g., milk and toilet paper). zBurger announced their $1 "snowburger" to the local inhabitants and got a tremendous response.
While the ability of officials to be so responsive on a one-to-one basis may be diluted as adoption and volume of messages increases there is no doubt that social media will serve an increasingly critical role in emergency and community communications.
We have created a list of twitteres we found particularly useful durring the snow emergiency. Check with stores you frequent in your neighborhood to see if they use social media. While you are at it be sure to follow Urban Alarm on twitter as well.
This month, as part of Urban Alarm's community outreach program, we installed a new security system at the Washington Parks and People's Riverside Center.
The Riverside center has been opened since the Spring of 2004 and has become a hub of activity. Located across the street from the Watts Branch Park in Northeast DC The Center serves a diverse community with a weekly farm stand, neighborhood cafe, arts center, and community meeting place.
Urban Alarm's donation of the system and it's monitoring will help to secure the significant investment Washington Parks and People has made into this program.
Every quarter we look for community organizations that would significantly benefit from our products and services. Washington Parks and People stands out because of their passionate investments in DC's parks and communities.
The "Call 911!" article in the February 2009 issue of Washingtonian Magazine highlights some of the short falls of the DC emergency response system. The problems have been widely reported after a few high profile failures of DC's ambulance system. The Washingtonian article (which is not available online as of this post) provide the history of context of DC system as well as a contrasting overview with Maryland and Virginia's systems which have performed much better.
Some Northwest residents are already familiar with The Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad (BCCRS). Maybe from a volunteer knocking at your door during their annual door to door fund raising campaign. If you have taken the time to chat with one of the volunteers you may already know that BCCRS was originally located in Northwest DC. With that history they still have a commitment to serve Northwest DC residents who are geographically reachable. Their response area is listed on their Web site.
Urban Alarm residential customers in the covered Northwest DC service area have the option of the medical panic on their alarm system being tied to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad. You can also call the rescue squad directly for emergency ambulance service by dialing 301-652-1000 rather than 911.
While it is wonderful to have Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad as an option for some Northwest Washington DC residents, it is unfortunate that we are not able to have confidence in our home system. The limited response area in DC leaves a major disparity on the quality of service available in Washington DC unfortunately echoing the social economic layout of the city with BCCRS only responding to some of the most affluent parts of DC.
Please keep pressure on your ANC and City Council representatives to repair the DC system. There are professional and committed people in the DC medical response system and we all deserve the resources and leadership to have a world class system.
I take issue with some of the ideas in the recent Washington Post article "Downturn Pumps Up Anxiety About Crime ". The last paragraph closes with, "A gun seemed to be the answer," and this statement is misguided, in my opinion. As an alarm company, we clearly have a vested interest in how people approach security -- but as a resident of DC and having the professional perspective we do, I couldn't disagree more strongly.
There really is no comparison between a gun and an alarm system for home security. They serve two very different (although admittedly perhaps sometimes complimentary) purposes. First, an alarm system is not going to "protect" a home. Its main purpose is to secure a home in such a way that the residents know (a) when the home is secure and (b) when the home's security has been breached.
Now that the DC handgun ban has been overturned, the decision to own a handgun is a personal choice. But the choice should be made with a clear understanding of what owning a gun can and cannot accomplish. Many conditions must line up in order for a resident-owned handgun to be a positive factor during a home intrusion. And there are many scenarios, which I will not go into, that can result in a negative outcome.
A gun in a home is not a replacement for an alarm system. Just as a security system cannot technically "protect" someone, a weapon cannot "secure" a property. In fact, an alarm system may become even more important when there is a gun in the residence at risk of getting into an intruder's hands. Alarm systems, when used properly, will alert residents quickly, so they may prepare a weapon and take a defensive position. Alarms will also reduce the chances of the resident waking up to find their own weapon in the hands of an intruder who has quietly broken in.
Additionally, an alarm system is critical to secure property when residents are not home. The system will reduce the time window an burglar has in your home and will notify residents, police, and other responders. Reducing the chance of walking in on a burglary in progress is also a primary value.
Any approach to home security should take a thoughtful and deliberate approach which includes playing out the pros and cons of various scenarios, especially when there is a gun -- in the homeowner's hands -- in question.
Your alarm system is a critical line of defense in keeping intruders out of your home. However, how your alarm system is setup and how you use it will have a big impact on its effectiveness. Here are the top five factors to make the most of your alarm system:
1. Keep the "delay" as low as possible. Your system is most likely setup to beep for 30 to 90 seconds when you enter the house in order to give you a chance to disarm it. Keep this as low as possible. The longer the delay the more damage an intruder can do. Keep in mind it may be a minute or two after the alarm goes off before the police are dispatched. A few minutes may be all the time an intruder needs to get what they want.
Most systems can be setup with no delay. So how do you get into the house to disarm your system? You can use a keychain remote to disarm the system before you even get into the house.
2. Make sure your system is setup to use a "panic" code. With the increase in home invasions this becomes more important. If an intruder tries to force you to disarm your system you can enter your panic code. The system will appear to be shut off but it will actually send a silent panic alarm to the monitoring center who will dispatch the police immediately. The police may take their time to check out an alarm signal but panic alarms generally result in a more rapid response.
3. You should also have a panic code setup with your central station. When they call to verify the alarm you can provide the panic code. They will hand up the phone and dispatch the police immediately.
4. When you arm the system when you are in the house select the "no delay" option. With "no delay" set the alarm will go off immediately when an intrusion is detected. Like the above delay point you don't want to give an intruder more time to do damage then necessary. Especially when you are in the house.
5. Use your system! Even if you are in the house or out for a few minutes the system is worthless if not used. While having an alarm sign in the yard may be a deterant it is not going to secure your property.
Today’s Washington Post (See Burglaries Have Surged 21 Percent) reported a significant increase in Washington DC home burglaries for 2008. While this could be a “blip” it likely reflects the slowing economic trend and its impact on crime.
A number of studies correlate economic conditions with burglaries. A recent article in the Yale Daily News quotes Steven Rafael — an economist and professor at the University of California, Berkeley as saying “Property crimes are the one set of crimes that consistently are impacted by the economy.”
A large portion of the burglaries reported are taking place during the day when people would typically be at work. Consider this in the precautions you take. Some steps you can take:
With the increased focus on home security it is important to focus on factors that will have an impact on deterring burglaries. Your alarm system is part of the equation but attention to many factors will ultimately be the most effective strategy.