We live in a world where crime is a part of everyday life and just hope that it won’t touch us. With domestic (forced entry) burglaries on the rise in the UK, with over ½ million reported each year (that means there is one approx. every 40 seconds), we have to start taking our home security much more seriously. Long gone are the days of just popping to the shops or to visit a neighbour leaving windows open and doors unlocked. It doesn’t matter if you live in big cities or small sleepy villages, anyone can be a victim of a burglary – especially as a lot are just committed by opportunistic thieves.
With police resources stretched to their limits and seemly becoming a more reactive, rather than proactive force, we have to do everything we can to secure our homes, and in the event of a break-in hopefully be able to supply the police with some video evidence to enable them to catch the thief.
There are plenty of preventative measures that we can all take to secure our homes, and some don’t even cost any money (see below):
- Lock and secure all doors and windows before leaving the house.
- Double lock UPVC doors (lift handle and turn the key).
- Make sure any gates to the rear of the property are locked.
- Make sure fencing is in good repair.
- Make sure hedges, bushes and trees are kept trimmed (less hiding places).
- Don’t leave any keys, including car keys, near the letterbox and in view (burglars are very good are using hooks through the letterbox).
- Don’t leave valuables on display that can be seen through the downstairs windows (e.g. don’t leave your laptop on the coffee table).
- Mark all your property with your postcode and house number. You can register your property for free with Immobilise.
- Keep ladders and tools stored away so that cannot be used to gain access to your home (a lot of burglars are opportunistic and don’t carry tools, they will just use what they find around your garden).
- Make sure any external buildings, such as sheds, are secure.
- Secure any bikes at home by locking them in the shed or garage (if you have one), preferably to an immoveable object.
- Leave a radio on television on when you are not at home.
- Get a trusted neighbour to keep an eye on your property.
- Consider joining or forming a Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
All the above is very good advice but there are also plenty of products to buy to make your home much more secure (see below):
- Fit better locks to your doors.
- Fit key operated window locks on all windows.
- Install a visible security alarm and camera.
- Install outside security lighting with PIR sensors.
- Use timers that turn on lights at random times when you are away.
- Install a home safe and make sure that is secured to the wall or floor.
- If you have to leave a spare key outside (e.g. for carers) then make sure that you use a police accredited key safe.
Installing a security system in your home is a very good idea and with a variety of different ones on the market, some that even connect to your Hive system or even Alexa, we were delighted to try out the SimpliSafe system – especially as it is a modular system and doesn’t even require screws!
We were sent a home security system from SimpliSafe. SimpliSafe, founded in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 2006, aim to make every home safe by offering a professional-grade monitored home security with no long-term contracts. Their system is available in several configurations, as well as offering a build your own system option, depending on your requirements. It is a modular system, so even after you have bought it you can add/remove modules as and when you need.
There are 6 systems available to buy:
The Starter – designed for small homes and flats (RRP: £279)
The Essentials – designed for bigger house (RRP: £309)
The Warwick – designed for homes of all sizes (RRP: £364)
The Windsor – designed for larger homes (RRP: £454)
The Bamburgh – designed for whole home protection (RRP: £504)
Build My System – designed so you can build the system to your needs (price varies)
We were sent The Essentials, SimpliSafe’s most popular system. It came with entry sensors to cover main entry points, a motion sensor to cover a main passageway and a SimpliCam camera, as well as they base station and keypad. It is a wireless system that is easy to setup, install and if doesn’t even require screws. This system is nearly perfect for our house – we have 3 entry doors and a set of double patio doors. As it is a modular system, we can just buy another sensor module for the patio doors and add it onto the system.
In the box:
- 1x Base Station
- 1x Keypad
- 3x Entry Sensors
- 1 Motion Sensor
- 1x SimpiCam
- 1x Yard Sign Stake
- 1x Yard Sign
- 2x Window Decals (SimpliSafe Protected)
- 6x Adhesive Pads (Spares)
- 1x Setup Guide
The SimpliSafe system is wireless so there are no cables to try and install and it doesn’t need to be fitted by a professional alarm installer. Nothing needs to be screwed into walls or woodwork as everything goes up with extremely strong removable sticky pads.
To start with, we fitted the entry sensors to the 3 doors and placed the motion sensor in the room with the patio doors as haven’t purchased the 4th sensor yet. Each sensor is fitted with a battery that can easily be replaced when needed.
The brains and siren of the SimpliSafe system is the base station and needs to be placed somewhere quite central in the house. It looks quite stylish and doesn’t look out of place wherever you decide to place it. It certainly doesn’t look like an alarm system. This talks to all the sensors and the keypad and features a loud 95dB siren. I have mentioned that it is a wireless system but it also features a cellular connection as well so there are no issues if the power failed to your router. If the alarm is triggered a signal will be sent to the monitoring station (subscription required). In the event of a power failure the base has a built-in backup battery so won’t affect the operation of the system.
The base station has a blue light around the base to show it is working and in operation (this light can be turned off should you wish) and in case of a power cut or the alarm being triggered will change to red.
Once the base station is situated and up and running you can control the system from the keypad. This fixes to the wall with the removable adhesive pads (I have knocked the keypad several times and it has stayed where it is, so the pads really are very secure). It is best situated near your main entry point. It requires 4x AA batteries (these are supplied). It is a portable unit as it lifts off its cradle and has a touch-to-wake screen, so you can take it up to bed with you at night and still be able to control the system. As it is a separate unit from the base station, if damaged during a robbery the alarm system with still work.
The keypad is extremely easy to use with 3 modes:
- OFF, for when you do not want it to be armed at all
- HOME, which arms only the door sensors
- AWAY, for when you are leaving the house and want to fully enable the alarm
The screen itself is actually a multi-directional button, allowing you to navigate the menus by pressing on different edges.
To enable or disable the system you need to use a pin code that you set, you can even have different pin codes for each member of the family so that they can turn on/off the alarm but have no access to the settings. By using the app or the SimpliSafe website you can see who turned on/off the alarm at what times.
The keypad also has an additional feature in case of an emergency. It has a panic button on top. If pressed for 2 seconds it will set off the alarm (extra panic alarm modules can also be purchased and added to the system if you wanted them in any other rooms).
The SimpliSafe system also comes with a camera that is used with the app on your phone if you are subscribed to the monitoring system. Once the alarm is enabled you can check in on the app for a live view and in the case of an alarm going off you can even record video. The SimpliCam incorporates its own movement sensor, so it can trigger the alarm if it detects movement whilst the system is armed.
If you are subscribed to the monitoring station, they can even use the video to determine whether an alarm trigger is a genuine intruder or just the one of the kids setting it off.
The SimpliCam records superb quality high definition footage, and we were also really impressed with the quality of the night-time record videos too – although most home burglaries apparently take place during the day, between the hours of 10am and 3pm. With the app you can even hear people talking.
Lots of people have a dog or cat wandering about in their homes and you don’t want an alarm system to keep going off when your pet walks in front of the motion sensor. The SimpliSafe system is set to detect the unique heat signatures of humans, not pets. There is also a physical stainless-steel privacy shutter on the camera, so you can rest assured that you are not being recorded unless you have armed the system!
In the event of a break-in, if an intruder comes through a door or window fitted with an entry sensor the audible alarm is triggered and if you are subscribed to the monitoring centre a signal will be sent to them. If they come in by another entry point the motion sensor or camera will pick them up and again sound the alarm and send the signal. Once the alarm has been triggered you have 30 seconds to disarm it before the siren is triggered. The siren will then sound for four minutes (you can change the duration of the alarm if you wanted longer) and the monitoring centre is alerted.
Once the monitoring centre has been alerted, their first response will be to try to contact you on the phone numbers that you have registered with them when setting up the app. If they are unable to reach you and verify that there isn’t a problem, they then go on to inform the police.
The system also has some other excellent features with the door beep and duress pin.
When the system is disabled, if one of the doors with a door entry module installed is opened, a beep will sound to let you know that the door has been opened. I think this is a great function to let you know if someone has come in or even gone out.
But my favourite function has to be the Duress PIN, which hopefully will never have to be used. If for any reason you are being forced to disable the alarm, you can enter the duress pin. This turns off the alarm but automatically notifies the monitoring centre to alert the police. This is a great safety feature.
As the SimpliSafe is a modular system it means that you can add and remove other modules at any time to extend the functionality of the system. As well as extra keypads you can add extra motion sensors, extra door entry sensors, glassbreak sensors that “listen” for the specific noise frequency of breaking glass, extra panic buttons, extra sirens (would be particularly useful in a larger house). You can also purchase smoke and CO detectors, water sensors to detector a leak or flood and a freeze sensor to alert about a pipe freezing. It really is an excellent alarm system with excellent functions monitoring more than forced entry.
To use the system to the fullest and best protection, you really do need to take out a monitoring plan. Without taking out a plan, obviously there is no monitoring so you will only get the siren in the house and the door beeps. If you take out the Pro Plan (£12.99 per month), your system will be monitored 24/7 and in the event of a break-in the monitoring centre will call you and designated contacts to let you know the alarm has triggered. For the best protection, and I would recommend, it is the Pro Premium plan (£19.99) which gives you the benefits of the Pro Plan with the added benefits of police dispatch, arming the alarm from anywhere, alerts on your phone, secret alerts (duress pin) and unlimited camera recording.
The monitoring plans have no contract, so you are not tied in for 12, 18 or 24 months, and you can cancel at any time.
The SimpliSafe system is available in black or white (Keypad and Base Station only). It can also be integrated with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and other Smart Home devices (although check functionality first as the Alexa skill is not available in the UK, but hopefully will be soon).
Overall, I think this is a fantastic whole home security system. Alarms themselves are great but a lot of people do ignore alarms going off, so why bother installing one? Firstly, the 95dB will scare any intruder. Secondly, the monitoring centre can dispatch the police. Thirdly, the intruder’s actions can be recorded, which will hopefully aid the police gather evidence and identity the suspect(s).
It is very easy to customise the system to individual requires, the modules are easy to install and add on to the system and keypad. As there is no drilling or screws required, anyone can fit each module and all with no damage to the walls or woodwork.
The app for the SimpliCam is easy to use. It doesn’t seem to require a password/code to gain access to the app so anyone who has possession of your phone can turn off the alarm remotely, so if using the app on your phone ensure that your phone is password/pin protected. The quality of the video is excellent and there is only a couple of seconds delay between the real time and displaying on the app. You even get notifications every time the alarm is enabled/disabled, and if using different PIN codes you will know who by.
I love the functionality, ease of use and the monitoring of this system. It definitely brings a sense of security into the house and the ability to add or remove a module when needs change is fantastic. It’s a safe and secure system, easy to use and looks good.
Once we add in a couple more extra modules, we will have the complete home protection system.
Price start from £279
For more information or to buy a SimpliSafe system visit simplisafe.co.uk.