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Our 28th year of publishing

Published November 30, 2021

Security systems are useful, until they go rogue

By John Toth / The Bulletin

We worked hard and chilled out at the hideaway. The trip back to Bulletin Headquarters was uneventful and an easy drive. We were relaxed. Then everything fell apart.

When we were close to home, I punched up the home security device app on my phone to turn off the security system. It asked me for my password. I changed it recently and wrote it down on a piece of paper - which was inside a container I used to transport all my office stuff.

No problem. I’ll just shut it off manually when I get inside the house, I thought.

I opened the front door and went straight to the security alarm to turn it off. I punched in the secret code, and … nothing. The little clock-sounding device inside the pin pad was still ticking.

I had one minute to solve this problem. I punched in the code again. The ticking continued. I needed the remote control to shut it off.

But I had no idea what I had done with it. I may have left it at the hideaway, or it was somewhere in the car. That didn’t help.

Time was up. The siren came on. It was loud enough to hurt my ears. If I were a burglar, I’d be leaving right now, just to save my hearing.

The pin pad was broken. That became obvious as I punched in the code over and over while the siren was making me deaf.

I decided to pull the siren plug, but it continued on backup batteries. These guys thought of everything.
I hurried to remove the battery cover. It required a Phillips head screwdriver. I have only a half dozen of those lying around the house. But all I could find were flatheads. Of course. Why not?

Finally, I found the right type (by the siren) and began to disassemble the battery compartment. Finally. I pulled the battery, and the siren stopped. My wife was saying something, but I could just see her lips move. Maybe she was saying, “Your phone is ringing.”

My ears were ringing louder. I answered the phone. It was the security company. I told the woman what happened. She sounded muffled, but understanding.

“Just give me your safe word, and I’ll cancel the alarm,” she said.

Safe what?

“Your safe word or the account number,” she said.

You’ve got to be kidding. I didn’t know I had a safe word.

“If you can’t give me either one, I’ll have to call the police,” she said.

The officer got out of his car. I met him in front of the house and explained what happened. He ran a check on my driver’s license. All the while, the neighbors must have been curious what a police car is doing in front of my house.

“I have the same system,” said the officer. “I access it from my phone.”

We went into a detailed discussion of why that doesn’t work all the time. I suggested he order a remote control. I explained to him why the safe word was important. He didn’t know his, either.

“I’m glad I got called out,” he said. “ I learned a lot.” He added that if his alarm goes off, he might be sent out to his own house. We shook hands, and he left.

I found the safe word. I can’t remember ever making it, but I apparently did, and I now know what it is.
I found the remote control in one of my pants pockets - after it was washed and dried.

No, it didn't still work.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send comments to john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)