An ensconced sense of a secure living

HAVING bought a house and in the midst of sprucing it up with furniture, fixtures and decor, new homeowner Cyril Dason looks to add security features to protect his latest asset – single story semi detached unit at the old Matang Road– just a stone’s throw away from MetroCity.

For him, security features that come to mind include those that can deter thieves from even considering breaking into his home in the first place.

Dason told BizHive Weekly that his priority would be to have an alarm system which would be triggered when anyone infringes into the house or compound, and a closed circuit television (CCTV) to actually capture them on video should they break into the house.

He added that an alarm which is linked directly to the police station upon ringing would be better as those seen in the movies.

“Otherwise, I am all for a gated community to be honest, although such a community is not 100 per cent safe as most security personnel as we know, are not exactly fit or ready to take on hardcore criminals,” he said.

Other more traditional home security options such as owning a dog has its drawbacks, according to Dason.

“Friends have suggested dogs, but if one is determined they can just poison the dog before gaining entry, and well, you lose more.

“So, I still think alarms are the best with police making regular patrols,” he says.

This runs parallel with many homeowners not just here in Kuching but anywhere else in the world. Security plays a very important aspect in one’s living style.

Reported rise in crime rates in some neighbourhoods in Kuching has raised the alarm for a heightened sense of security as well.

With that, we ask some security companies what is currently available in Sarawak and how effective are these measures in combating trespasser intrusion.

 

Alarm systems

Alarm systems are a first choice preference among house owners globally, and it is the same with Sarawakians as well. The alarm system is seen as one of the most basic security system a house needs for “first perimetre protection” from intruders such as burglars.

While most people think that alarm systems have been designed to actually catch intruders, Teh Sing Huat of Wemal Marketing Sdn Bhd (Wemal) says that this is a misconception and it is not its main purpose.

Teh highlighted that it is actually a deterrent method to prevent intruders from stepping into the house, adding that it is not our duty to catch or fight them.

“Yes, sometimes, even when the alarm siren goes off, intruders still want to force their way in.

“But in many cases, when it goes off, it does act as a deterrent causing thieves and intruders to suffer cold feet and bolt off,” he explained.

According to Roger Din from the United Factor Alarm Security Network and Consultant (United Factor) security system dealer, there are a few types of alarms available in the form of analogue alarms, digital alarms and touchscreen alarms.

“Generally, analogue alarms are the cheapest. For an analogue alarm, the price ranges. Din estimated that for one house it is about RM2,000 plus.

“For a single storey terrace houses, it is priced at RM1,000 plus while double storey houses are usually priced at more than RM2,000. As for semi-detached homes, they are about RM3,000 and above.

He added that pricing is not fixed as it also depends on the workmanship. These factors include whether customers want their alarm systems to be concealed or semi-concealed and others.

On touchscreen alarms, Din highlighted that it has actually been in Malaysia for around two and a half years.

He said that these touchscreen alarms have additional smartphone features which allow users to turn on their automated gates, air conditioners, TVs, baths via their smartphones.

With a smartphone, users can take advantage of these “home automation” facilities whereby they can remotely control the alarm and other home devices. He added that users can even control the air-conditioner temperature prior to arriving home.

Din commented that this is all a result of new and improving technology.

Normally, United Factor’s alarms with integrated smartphone systems are mainly applicable for iPhones. The second option available would be Samsung smartphones, followed by Sony smartphones.

“Other than that, we don’t encourage people to buy (touchscreen alarms) unless they really know how to manage or manipulate or they know the features of their phone very well,” he advised. He explained that it is not advisable to have this alarm if the smartphone operating system is too complicated even for the homeowners themselves to operate.

Nowadays there are a lot of force-ins, whereby although the alarm is triggered, the intruders still want to enter the house. At this point, owners will have to upgrade their alarm security level by installing a panic button.

Even though intruders have somehow damaged the keypad, users can still use the panic button to trigger the alarm as the siren is still active. When they press the panic button, the alarm will trigger and will call out to either the homeowners themselves or the security company.

In cases where intruders cut off the wires, Din explained that now, whether with digital or touchscreen (with smartphones) alarms, users can go for sim cards.

If the intruders cut off the wire or for some reason the conventional wiring or telephone wire is not working, there is a sim card, a GSM standby, whereby they can use the sim card to call out.

He noted that the GSM feature is normally used for emergency cases only and is generally not widely used. This is because most people do not want to spend more for the GSM service as they will need to pay the telephone companies such as Telekom Malaysia or any cellular line phone companies every month.

Din advised those who intend to have this GSM service to remember to pay because once you forget the second year, the line will be cut off, rendering it useless.

Nowadays, Teh of Wemal noted that alarm ensembles come with a lot of imported systems. However, he noticed that for many imported systems, the design is catered to their own different environments (of the respective countries) and that it is not necessarily suitable for the Malaysian users.

An example of environmental circumstances that affect these imported systems is the lightning surge we experience here.

“We are in a tropical country where rainfalls and thunderstorms are very common. Of course, they have improved their systems already.

“However, previously most of the systems were very prone to lightning surge so any such incidences would cause the systems to become faulty,” he observed.

He reaffirmed that these imported systems have improved a lot since then. In fact, WeMal carries many brands, local or imported. The majority of its imported ensembles are from the UK, US, or Australia. He highlighted that there several local ensembles, which are equally good and match international standards.

On why WeMal carries such a wide range of brands, Teh explained that as a security company and installer they will help customers to design to cater to their needs.

“Maybe for your house or office or factory, you need certain feature that some ensembles might not have. Or that certain ensembles may not perform as well as the others. That’s why we have different brands to cater for different needs,” he said.

 

CCTVs

For second perimeter protection, homeowners will usually go for closed circuit televisions (CCTVs). Basically, when the alarm triggers, the first thing happens is that users will panic. Owners will then use their CCTV to go and see what is happening in their perimeter.

Teh of Wemal noted that while it is not compulsory, he observed that the main purpose of installing CCTVs at home is more towards monitoring.

“For example, let’s say at night, you’re at home and you hear some sounds outside, you will not open the door yourself to go and check outside.

“With the cameras installed, from the house, you can at least see what is going on outside, who is there, whether you need to call the police or not,” he said.

He further noted that the other purpose is, if anything goes missing, then hopefully, what is recorded can be played back and homeowners can find some evidence.

With technology having improved a lot, Teh highlighted that these days, the CCTV resolution is higher, but that it all depends on individuals’ budgets or needs. WeMal offers cameras for as low as RM100 plus to as high as RM10,000 to RM20,000.

Normally for single-storey house (for intermediate), Teh explained that they would put a minimum amount of two cameras, one at the front and one behind the house only, which is usually deemed sufficient.

As for a semi-detached or terrace corner house, there are three sides, in which case perhaps homeowners will need four cameras, one in front, behind, and two at the sides to ensure coverage of all the surroundings.

Then there are those who install cameras inside the house. Teh observed that these are usually those who have maids or children at home so that they can monitor them.

“If they are worried and are not at home, they can easily log in from their handphone or personal computer to view what is happening at home,” he said.

For United Factor, Din highlighted that their perimeter setup is very different from others. He noted that others usually set up their CCTVs to show the outside such as the road which is not the correct way of setting up the cameras.

“Normally, I will set up the cameras (CCTVs) so that all the windows, the doors, the car porch and others can be seen. The outside perimeter is a very important thing,” he emphasised.

He explained that for the interior of the house, customers can choose their main door, back door, kitchen or their sitting rooms to be seen. If it is a double storey house, they can choose to show the entrance to the ground floor, the first floor and even the staircase.

With the conventional CCTV, users can zoom in on the CCTV screen, take a snapshot, and send to an email or save it to their smartphones.

Selling only Korean and US-brand CCTVs, Din explained that the clarity of CCTVs depends on the TV lines (like pixels). The more concentrated the TV lines, the clearer the images.

Simon Wong of Veonic Sdn Bhd (Veonic) noted that some people prefer CCTVs to alarms because they can use their mobile phones to view their house, which they feel  is an effective tool. He added that it depends on the customers, pointing out that sometimes they install CCTVs and no alarms.

For CCTVs, Veonic offers many intelligent functions such as video analytics solutions, intelligent videos, analysis systems and others. However these are very expensive and as such, not widely used.

“For locals here, the most commonly used CCTVs are those with high definition (HD) cameras,” he observed.

Generally, homeowners must have internet systems at home, then only they can view the footages of their properties via the CCTVs. Teh pointed out that monitoring, especially remotely requires internet and is IP-based, adding that it is considered a basic feature of the systems now.

On potential hackers accessing homeowners’ CCTVs, Teh said that they can’t completely prevent hackers.

He noted that every system has its own password but he acknowledged that nothing is perfect and impossible. He does not believe that hackers or intruders will go to so much trouble just to hack home security systems, because in the end, they are not likely to get much out of it.

 

Electric fences

Electric fences, or sometimes known as power fences have been a debatable issue as a home security solution. Some security companies prefer not to install power fences as they do not quite agree that such measures are suitable for residential properties such as houses.

These power shocks, theoretically would not kill a person. However, some companies find that it could cause deaths if the person gets a heart attack or would cause the intruder to fall and hit his head on the rock as a result of coming into contact with the fencing.

According to Wong of Veonic, he finds that electric fencing is a good technology to defer intruders from climbing the compound fences.

“I think in future, there will be more people who will like to install electric fencing. This is a more effective measure and I believe it will scare away a lot of thieves as the electric currents are really painful.

“When you touch it, normally you will not want to attempt to climb it,” he said.

As such, he believes that electrical fencing is one of the most effective security defending systems. While it is costly, he said that this method is worth it especially for those bungalow or large houses which require higher security.

Din of United Factor agreed that electrical fencing is expensive and for that reason, is not so saleable and common in Sarawak. He noted that in Peninsular Malaysia, the market for electrical fencing (for residences) is quite good, in comparison to Sarawak.

He highlighted that for electric fences for a bungalow house customers will need to spend about RM80,000 to RM120,000 (estimated), depending on the size.

On electrical fencing, Din observed that a lot of people think that they can connect it to their alarm.

“It is a different thing, it is not called an alarm, but an energiser. Energiser means that the heavy 230 volts power current will go through that energiser and it can be tuned to lower, or degraded, to for example 60 volts so that it won’t kill anybody,” he explained, adding that this may stun someone and cause them to faint for a period of 10 minutes up to half an hour.

He acknowledged that 60 volts still can kill somebody who is weak-hearted, or has high blood pressure. It all depends on the body mass of the person and that for a small boy, 60 volts can kill him.

If customers want to install electrical fences, they will have to apply for a license for the fencing. “You have to have approved voltage like tuning it to 40 to 60 volts or a maximum of 60 volts only,” he explained.

Din also believes that eventually, more people will end up installing such fencing because over the years, the rates will become cheaper.

When he started with United Factor, which was over 10 years ago, he noted that electrical fencing would go for RM52 per metre for only just the installation and wiring. The energiser and complete set will total to about RM65 per metre.

As such, if for example a house has installed 400 metres of fencing, last time it would have cost about RM200,000 to RM225,000. He further noted that now it would cost about RM42 per metre, which would total to about RM160,000 for 400 metres, a large drop from previous years.

 

Photo Sensors

Din of United Factor noted that people usually go for outdoor perimeter protection in the form of photo sensors – curtain type, which is also a second perimeter security measure.

He highlighted that there are curtain types which can cover the perimeters of your property. Owners can place it strategically so that it can cover up to 20 or 50 metres around their house.

With a photo sensor or photo curtain, you can install this on a wall, or inner house, covering the outside of your house. Photo curtains allow the whole area outside the house to be secured. In that way, any curtain the intruders try to pass through will thus trigger the alarm.

Photo curtains will be installed on the walls of the house, facing outside. Din explained that customers will not need to do any wiring, and can just hang them on the wall which is a more economic measure.

“In my opinion, I still advise that people install a basic alarm and if they can afford it, go for photo sensors or CCTVs first. Normally, I will tell people to do internal alarm first, then CCTV, then go for photo beam sensors – curtain type.

“Only then you move on to a higher level (of security) which is electrical fencing. This is what we call multi-level security,” he said.

 

Canine Protection 

Dogs have been known to be the more traditional method of home security, providing not only companionship to people but they also stand in as a deterrent to intruders who will think twice when facing these animals.

According to Diana Kho of Pets Paradise, apart from being a pet, dogs can be an alternative source of security to safeguard homes and buildings.

“That is why dogs are used by the police to search for drugs and help in tracking down criminals, provided they are given the right training,” she said.

However, not all dogs will give the same level of security or protection. She explained that dogs can be categorised into many groups such as the toy breed, hunting group, guard dogs and many more.

“Different groups of dogs have their own talents,” she affirmed.

For example, Kho says that hunting dogs such as beagles are mostly used to help their master to find the prey which their masters had successfully hunted down.

She noted that only those guard dogs can work well in the field while toy breeds such as toy poodles are mostly used as companions and that they cannot really function as guard dogs of your house given their size and awareness levels.

In contrast, guard dogs such as Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans and Belgian Shepherds are a better choice to protect the house especially in our country.

Overall, she believes that guard dogs can really function well if they are given the right training.

“There is a misconception that some breeds of dogs are dangerous. This is not true as there are no bad dogs, just bad owners,” she added.

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