Now, you might think that a derelict house is unlikely to be secured with a state of the art alarm system, but you would often be wrong. There are several vacant property protection companies around, such as VPS and Sitex, who are responsible for the houses you see about the place that are basically covered in grey steel, normally with a big steel front door over the old one. Inside a good number of these you will find, screwed to the floor, a smallish grey steel box containing a set of batteries and a very loud siren, plus a mobile phone based alert system. The first thing you know is when a loud automated voice tells you that the police are on their way, then the ear splitting noise starts!
What about the householder who likely wants something along the same lines, but without the expense of replacing all the windows with steel sheet? Well, not much you can do about that, but for the alarm systems, you can, and for a very reasonable price.
The “AlertPal” is a battery backed-up mobile phone based alarm system with a difference. The main difference is that it is silent! When motion triggers the PIR sensor, or one of the three optional magnetic switches is broken, the unit sends an SMS to the number or numbers of your choice, telling you something has happened. Further, it will send you a series of MMS pictures which let you see in a few seconds if there has been an actual break-in, and letting you call in to listen what is happening if you aren’t sure, or even request extra pictures from the on-board camera. The basic version costs around £100, plus SIM card costs.
Another option, for those locations where there is no power at all, is one of the “TrapCams” now available. I have used the Swann BushCam to good effect. It is a simple to program PIR and camera housed in a waterproof box, powered by 4 AA batteries, which simply saves any pictures triggered to the on-board SDcard. Obviously this will only help after the fact, but it is far, far better than nothing for a remote site. It even has a built-in IR flash for covert photos at night, and runs for over a month without trouble.
A simple autodialler PIR is also useful if there is a phone line, and for less than £20 it will cover a room very effectively, running off either wall power or a set of internal batteries.
The final neat trick is a PIR sensor light with an in-built camera. This doesn’t need much help, as it installs in the same way as a regular PIR light does, but whenever it is triggered, the camera saves a photo (or even video clip) to the on-board memory card. Useful for anywhere, really, but especially good for small commercial premises, as in the event of a robbery where the main CCTV system is compromised (read: smashed into small bits on site, or taken away) you will still have a timestamped record that may be of use, not least because of the high resolution, well lit photos!
With the police no longer responding to siren alarms, I feel it is better to put up a warning sign and a few bits of hardware to back it up (but please, no dummy cameras!) Once you are alerted, you can make the judgement call, and this will be far more likely to get the police response you want, when you want it. Plus, stand alone systems are harder to compromise, and to locate. Defence in depth is always the better option.