Want an Alarm System? No Phone Line? No Problem.

Wireless Alarm Systems Don’t Always Require Phone Lines

Fortress Alarm System
Image taken from Fortress’ website

As part of cutting cords I chose to get rid of my traditional phone service. I used to have VOIP through Verizon, but I got rid of that in favor of Ooma. The problem with Ooma is that I cannot hook it up to an alarm system. Oh, I suppose I could do some fancy footwork and figure it out, but I am not inclined to do so right now. As a result, my old alarm system could no longer call me if it was triggered. Obviously this substantially weakened the security in my home.

The Solution – GSM & Wireless

In the four years since I purchased my original system, wireless alarm systems have only gotten better. Now, you can buy an alarm system that works with a land line, GSM cellular or both. I spent some time doing research and picked a system called Fortress. Fortress has several models. The one I purchased allows me to use a GSM sim card and/or a land line. This means when I do connect Ooma to my house’s phone jacks, I should be able to use it with my alarm system. No guarantees though, since Ooma states that it doesn’t work with security systems. (I imagine I will be able to get it to work and I like having a dual system, so I’ll try it.)

As before, I won’t give you all of the details of my alarm set up. Suffice it to say, my dogs aren’t the only things protecting my house. The Fortress has numerous options, including door/window sensors, strobe warning lights, movement sensors, sirens, smoke detectors and so on. And, of course, I have the system set up to call not only me, but others if the alarm should go off. I.e. don’t try to break into my house. It will be very noisy, not even counting Millie and Curtis. Also, police will come. Oh, and I will put video of you on the web and mock you. (No doubt the worst part.)

The Choices

I explored several systems. My final choice came after reviewing the very helpful Amazon question and answer sections as well as the reviews on five or six different systems. Some of the systems I considered seemed to require you to add in monitoring to get full functionality. The monitoring was cheap, but not what I wanted. In the end, I went back and forth between Fortress and PiSector. I really could have gone with either one.

There are also more advanced systems that add in the ability to control various items in your home. I really wasn’t looking for that at this point, so I didn’t bother exploring those.

Set Up

The system was very easy to set up. I purchased my sim card the same time I bought the Fortress and  they both arrived on the same day. I opened up the box, briefly read the instructions, and got to it. I have more windows and doors in this house than in my last one, so the greatest amount of time involved putting up the sensors. But I actually found the Fortress easier to set up than my old system. Everything was already pre-configured and a few adjustments on the control panel had everything humming…or rather blaring (my poor dogs.) Setting up the sim card was simple too. I put it into the system, called the sim card company, paid $10 and there you go (or Bob’s your uncle, if you prefer.)

Where to Get the Sim Card?

There are many places you can get a GSM sim card. Either get a pay as you go option or see if you can add a cheap line to your current plan.  I got a sim card from a company called H2O. I think I might switch to a different company though, since I have to pay $10 a month to keep the minutes from expiring and I know there are cheaper options. I see TMobile has a very inexpensive plan right now (March, 2015) for $3 per month. Another option is a company called Ting, with a $6 per month minimum. Right now, TMobile looks like the best deal. I called Sprint, my own cell phone company, to ask if I could get a GSM card, but was told no, only CDMA. So simply adding another line is not an option for me.

Check the Size

You will want to find out what size sim card you need for your device and what size card the provider will send you. That way, if you end up with a card that is too small, you can be prepared with an adapter. Fortress requires a larger card. Not a big deal, just be aware. Many times, if you buy a sim card alone, it will come with an adapter.

Why not a Paid Monitoring System?

You might wonder why I don’t go with a professional alarm company with monitoring. Some of these systems have options without phone lines. I considered it. I did some research. I dismissed this option.

My main concern with these sorts of companies is not the cost, though it can be high, but the employees of the companies, especially the independent companies/contractors. Did you know that the BTK killer worked for ADT at one point? Of course, he wouldn’t have set off any signals from a background check, so we cannot blame ADT too much for that one. On the other hand, the background checking done on employees and freelancers is, in my opinion, questionable. As a result, the idea of having any of these companies (not just ADT) involved in my security, makes me very uncomfortable. What is the point of using a security company that, by its very nature, makes me uncomfortable?

Bad Experience with Security Company Reinforces my View

ADT Safe Haven Flyer
Flyer left on my door (cell phone number removed)

As it happens, I just had a negative experience with an ADT authorized reseller a couple of days ago.  He showed up (uninvited) during the day while I was at work and left a flyer. Then he showed up at my house again (uninvited) around 7 pm. I didn’t let him in, of course, but I spoke to him. It was hard to understand him, because my dogs were going nuts. He didn’t care much.

When I told security sales guy (his name is Al) that I wasn’t interested. He kept talking. He lied and said my Realtor had put me on a list. (I knew he was lying, but I checked with my Realtor later. She confirmed it was a lie.) I told him no again, he kept talking. I told him it was time for him to leave. He didn’t leave. Actually he tried to question me about my security. I finally shut the door in his face.

My next step would have been to call the cops.  A security person who won’t leave when I tell him no just makes me feel insecure. Al simply reinforced my view that I have a reason to be concerned about the employees of security companies. Good job Al.

I complained to ADT on Twitter. ADT apologized profusely and said it would put me on a no contact list. I told ADT it had best, otherwise if an ADT person (of any kind) showed up at my house, I would call the police immediately.

After I sent the flyer that Al left on my door, ADT told me that the he was an employee of an authorized reseller from a company called Safe Haven, not an employee of ADT. When I pointed out that Al was dressed as an ADT employee, well, there was no response to that one. All this tells me is that ADT does not seem to take responsibility for those it allows to sell and install its products. At least not in my opinion.

Nope, no security guys for these companies will be allowed in my home. I’ll stick with do it yourself options that actually make me feel safe.

 Update – SIM cards and an ADT Resller? Comes Back

Two things.

1. I went ahead and purchased a sim card from TMobile. I bought the card from Amazon where it was only about $5. I then set it up. The only problem is that to set up an account online (so you can pay bills and make adjustments easily) you need to be able to receive a text on your device. Obviously, I cannot do this on my security system. When I get a chance I will call and see if there is a solution.

2. Someone from ADT just showed up at my house again. I told the man and woman, in no uncertain terms, to get off my property. Then I complained to the person I spoke to last time. He again told me it was probably a reseller and since I didn’t know the name there is nothing that he could do. I responded that it is a problem that ADT has all of these “authorized resellers” running around bothering people and I wanted someone higher up to call me. His response?

“I apologize but I work for the ADT Corporate Office, there is nobody higher up who will be able to contact you to assist with this.”

This guy’s title is

“ADT Corporate Customer Relations Consultant Social Media Specialist”

Somehow, I think there is someone higher up who can help me. I responded that since he refused to cooperate I would just contact the legal team. So that is what I will do.  I don’t care if these people are directly employed by ADT or if they are resellers. They need to stop showing up at my house and ADT needs to have better control over people it allows to use its name.

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