Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kitsilano Soapbox Derby this Weekend!

This Sunday (June 26th) Provident is once again sponsoring a soapbox car in the 15th Annual Kitsilano Soapbox Derby. This is our third year of being a part of this great event.

Every year, between 9:00am and Noon, West 4th Avenue between Yew Street and Burrard Street is closed down.....

..... the complete post is on our new blog at ... please update your bookmark!

Early Morning Burglary in Kerrisdale

At about 2:30am yesterday morning (Wednesday) a home on Carnarvan Street was burglarized (the homeowners were out of town at the time). The crook(s) gained entry by throwing a baseball sized rock through a double paned window at the back of the house.

Once inside, the crooks went straight to the master bedroom and opened up the bedside table drawers, then...

..... the complete post is on our new blog at ... please update your bookmark!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Securing your Garage

When reviewing the security in people’s garages, one of the most common problems that I see is the requirement for an incredibly long delay time. This delay time is needed to allow you to drive in, park your car, get out, get to the keypad and then disarm the alarm. As discussed in a previous post about delay times, you need your delay to be as short as possible…. A long delay time virtually eliminates the potential value that your alarm can offer.

..... the complete post is on our new blog at ... please update your bookmark!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

New home security blog address

We have just launched our new version of the Provident blog at ... all of the posts from this site have been moved over and all new updates will only be found at the new location... Please update your bookmark.

We made the change to a different software package that offers more flexibility and options for posting. Besides offering a few technical advantages for me when posting, it also allows for the use of some new technology that we could not implement using the old (this) software.

One of the changes that you will notice is that the new blog has categories (which you will find on the right side of the screen). All of our posts have been grouped which allows for easier reading should you be interested in reading all of our archived posts with security tips, burglary statistics or Provident media, etc.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dunbar Attempted Burglary

Early Friday morning, thieves broke into two cars parked in a driveway at a home in Dunbar while the owners were out of town. Because the car doors were never opened .....

this blog posting has been moved to our new address at

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Another Security Tip for Windows (& sliding glass doors)

In our Operations Centre we are already receiving large numbers of clients bypassing windows, particularly at night. Although this allows for a more comfortable sleep on a warm night, particularly on the second floor of many older Westside homes, it does present a security risk.

If you like to keep your windows open for fresh air during the summer, but are concerned about having to bypass each window (and subsequently reducing the detection capability of your alarm) consider having fresh air magnets installed.

A fresh air magnet is simply a second magnet that we will install in your window frame so that the alarm can read a ‘close’ in two positions… and therefore allow you to arm the system. This way, should someone try to open your window further than you have it set, the alarm will sound and we will be immediately on the way to respond.

To maximize the security of your windows, we strongly recommend some type of secondary physical security such as a window block. Here is a link to a post from a few months ago that explains what a window block is and how to install one.

Ideally, every door and window should be fully secured and locked.

another option....

A few summers ago, I found that we were regularly bypassing all of our upstairs windows at night so that we could sleep. Concerned about the security risk that I was taking in my own home, I looked into getting air conditioning and was surprised to find that it was a lot less expensive than I thought. Because we have a forced air system in our old Kerrisdale home, Kirkland Metal Shop was able to install a new air conditioning system for about $3,500.00 ... a lot less than the aggravation and loss that would happen during a typical burglary.

Since then, we have slept a lot better as well as ensured that all of our doors and windows can be kept fully secure, irrespective of how hot it gets.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Provident on Global TV News Tonight

Provident will be featured on the 6:00pm Global TV News (channel 11) tonight.

The story is about residential burglaries in Vancouver and I demonstrate a couple of really simple (& cheap) ways to protect your windows from summertime burglars.

I've got a couple of posts coming up that talk about the tips in more detail over the next few days.

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Do burglaries increase in the summer?

Last Friday night on the news, there was a report on residential burglaries. Specifically, they mentioned that residential burglaries increase during the summer.

However, the VPD statistics from the past four and a half years show that increases in the number of burglaries are not as seasonal as most people assume. In terms of total numbers, at least since 2002, the summer months have not been the busiest burglary months of the year.

The chart below (click on the chart for a bigger image) compares the total number of burglaries per month on the Westside (the blue line) as well as for the entire city (the pink line). The blue boxed areas highlight the months of June, July and August in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. The chart shows that there are actually fewer burglaries in the summer. One interesting statistic that the chart illustrates is that for the past four years, the month of July has always had fewer burglaries than June.

So, should you be less concerned about burglary in the summer?

The real story is the different method of entry of a residential burglary during the summer compared to the rest of the year. As I detailed in a post about the typical burglary, most burglaries tend to happen through the front or back door. However, during the warmer months, people tend to leave windows open and burglars take advantage of this easy access.

Consequently, many summer burglaries often happen through 2nd and even 3rd story windows.

What should you do?

1. Don’t forgot to close and lock all of your windows when you leave. One of the great features of using your alarm is that it will not allow you to arm it until all connected doors and windows are closed. If you still have windows that are not connected to your alarm, give us a call to quote on how much it will cost to add them to your system. Without a doubt, EVERY opening in your home should be connected to your alarm… on all floors.

2. If you regularly bypass some window zones so that you can arm your system at night and still get some fresh air, consider installing fresh air magnets.

3. Keep an extra eye out in your neighbourhood for people using ladders. There were a string of 2nd story burglaries last summer on Angus Drive where thieves used a ladder in broad daylight to burglarize homes. In order to avoid tripping the alarm (because many homes still only have a single motion detector on the second floor… rather than contacts on every window) the crooks used the ladder to gain entry to one room, then climbed back down, moved the ladder over to the next window and stole from that room. It is likely that the thieves were dressed like roofers or some other type of service provider (complete with vehicle) to help avoid looking too suspicious climbing up to the second story of a house from the front yard. If something, or someone, appears suspicious in any way, give us a call at 604.269.9999 and we will be happy to come by and check it out.

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Saturday, June 03, 2006

April 2006 Burglary Statistics

The Vancouver Police recently released the city crime statistics for April 2006.

March was an anomaly in that for the first time in a very long time, the Eastside of the city 'led' in reported burglaries. April saw a return to the normal distribution of burglaries with Westside residents being the victims of 236 burglaries, compared to the Eastside's 160, Downtown core's 103 and the Northeast's 132. This means that in April, 37% of all burglaries in the city occured on the Westside. Incidentally, 37% is the average monthly percentage of city burglaries that occur on the Westside since January 2002.

The graph below shows both the actual number of burglaries on the Westside (the line graph) as well as the percentage of the city total that those burglaries represent (the bar graph).

In terms of our own clients, we dealt with one residential burglary and one commercial burglary on the Westside (both on the Easter long weekend) as well as one commercial smash & grab in Gastown. By comparison, in the month of May, we only had to deal with one commercial burglary on Alberni Street downtown.

Here is how reported burglaries are trending in the neighbourhoods where most of our residential clients live.

As I have done in the past, I have put together a chart comparing the police statistics for the month of April by crime category. The distribution below is fairly typical with the Westside leading the city in both burglaries as well as mischief (vandalism, grafitti, etc.)

Here is a link to an image
of how the Vancouver Police divide the city into four districts.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Provident in the Vancouver Sun

On Thursday, May 25th Provident was featured in the business section of the Vancouver Sun by Malcolm Parry. (click on the image to view the full size PDF file)

The column gave a quick overview of how Provident was started, how we purchased Vytaltek Security as well as our five minute alarm response guarantee.

As is mentioned in the column, it was Gail Ruddy at York House School who was the very first Provident client... and one of our biggest supporters over the years. 2006 is our 11th year of providing security at York House School graduations and school dances (among other services now).

Thanks Gail!

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Friday, May 26, 2006

a long delay

I have not posted in a little while due to being kept significantly busier than normal... I have heard from a few people who actually noticed that nothing had been posted since the 10th and were wondering what the delay was about.

Last week, I was in Texas on a benchmarking trip where I spent two days at Dell in Austin and then a day at Rackspace Managed Hosting in San Antonio.

As a part of a small group of business owners from throughout Canada and the U.S. who were able to take part in this unique opportunity, we spent a day with six senior executives from Dell who spoke about some of their best practices, as well as failures, in managing their amazing growth.

On the second day, we were led on very in depth tours of Dell's Optiplex (one of their PC brands) manufacturing facility. Most importantly (for me) was then getting a chance to visit their central command station where they coordinate all emergency response to their commerical clients (like Provident), who pay for immediate on-site part replacement for their Dell servers. Given that Dell has thousands of clients like Provident where the importance of immediate response to equipment failure is huge (hospitals, military facilities, financial institutions, etc.) it was very re-assuring to see how they guarantee their four hour response despite hurricanes, black-outs and other disasters.

I have travelled to dozens of central monitoring stations in the past, but was very impressed with Dell's facility. It is certainly one of the best monitoring facilities that I have seen and I was able to create a list several pages long of ideas for implementation at our own operation centre here in Kerrisdale. After only a few days, we are already working on a few improvements that will serve to improve our own service delivery.

The other company, Rackspace, is located in San Antonio and provides the physical infrastructure for just over 1% of all internet traffic worldwide... which is a very big number. They have been recognized many times as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States and are a great model for many of the inititives that we are currently working on at Provident. We spent half of a day there talking with Lanham Napier, Rackspace's President, about the things that they have done to grow quickly while taking very good care of their existing clients. Again, a long list of ideas came back with me that we are implementing here.

Two days after I got back into town, my wife went into labour a little early... and by Friday night we were parents of three kids under age 4.

All in all, a busy couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

CKNW Show This Morning

Here is a link to the full hour of the Bill Good Show this morning where I was on a panel with Joe Wilson from Sonitrol and former Vancouver Police Inspector Dave Jones (now with the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association) discussing burglar alarms and alarm response.

In particular, we talked about what 'verified' response means, how burglaries happen as well as some specific tips on how to protect yourself from burglary. Several callers asked questions about the role the Police should (or should not) be playing as well as about our opinions on two-way voice alarms such as those heavily advertised by AlarmForce. A couple people also called to tell their own stories about their experiences with burglary as well as with ADT and other security companies.

Similar to my last time on CKNW, I reiterated my feeling that the only reason that you have an alarm is to generate an immediate response. Any attempt to verify an alarm by calling the premises (whether over the phone or through a speakerphone) only wastes time that ensures that a crook will be long gone by the time Police or Security are dispatched.

I explained that at Provident we do not verify any alarms and dispatch ourselves to attend immediately. If the alarm is the result of a false alarm, it is our clients responsibility to call us and tell us not to respond... otherwise we are on the way assuming that every call is a burglary in process.

The segment starts at the 7:00 minute mark.

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Your Burglar Alarm Should Not Share

Another key consideration in alarm system design is to ensure that every alarm detection device (your door contacts, window contacts, motion detectors, glassbreaks, smoke detectors, etc.) is assigned to its own zone. Most systems that we look at for prospective clients 'share' zones... (so that the front and back door might be zone 1, all upstairs windows are zone 2, etc.)

While this saves a little money up front, and saves the installer a few hours, it poses several risks and reduces the value that your alarm is capable of offering.

In the case of a Provident installed alarm, determining whether an alarm is an actual burglary is instantly evident as we receive many different signals that literally tell us exactly what is happening at your home. Conversely, in a system that shares zones, we might only recieve a single zone trip, even though five or six different detectors were tripped. With the new 911 policy, this will have a major impact on the speed at which the Police will attend. In addition, for our own dispatches, we priortize alarms based upon the number of zones being received. Basically, the more zones being tripped increases the probability of an alarm being the result of an actual burglary.

Another good reason to ensure that every device is assigned to its own zone is to aid in future service. Should you ever have a problem with a particular zone, the technician will have significantly more work to do when they try to troubleshoot the issue because the zone in question could be any one of a number of devices. This requires each device to be disconnected so that they can be re-connected one at a time in an effort to isolate the problem. Typically, the cost of this work well after the fact is more expensive than simply isolating all devices while everything is working well.

The majority of burglar alarms can be easily upgraded with expansion modules (which typically allow for 8 additional zones per module) so that we can easily 'split out' your system so that it can communicate more effectively.

A third benefit is that bypassing zones becomes much simpler when you can isolate each device one at a time. This means that in the summer time when you might want to bypass three windows in your home to allow for airflow, you can bypass only the specific windows you want without running the risk of other devices also being bypassed.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Provident on CKNW Wednesday Morning

On Wednesday, May 10th at 9:00am I will be a part of a panel on the Bill Good Show on CKNW radio discussing the false alarm problem as well as how Lower Mainland Police Departments are trying to deal with the issue. The show will specifically address the new Vancouver Police response policy and what types of alarms will qualify as 'verified' under the policy.

You can listen to CKNW live on your computer by going to CKNW and clicking on 'Listen Live' on the top right corner of your screen.

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Your Security Is In Your Redundancy

For the majority of burglar alarms that we design and install, there are three basic levels of detection:

1. Perimeter detection
2. Motion detection
3. Acoustic detection

Perimeter detection is achieved by installing a magnetic contact on EVERY door and window in your home, on each floor. This provides the first level of detection so that if a burglar pries open a window or door, the alarm will trip.

The next level is motion detection. At Provident, we feel very strongly that a motion detector only serves as a 'back-up' detector and should never be used as a primary means of detecting a burglary. Unfortunately, the majority of systems we are asked to look at by prospective clients place far too much reliance on the motion detectors. The reality of most burglaries is that all of the real effort is spent trying to get in, by the time a crook is inside, he is already running pretty quickly. The goal is early detection.

The third level is acoustic detection, which is most often achieved through the installation of glassbreak detectors in every room that has accessible windows or glass doors. This is the most common deficiency we come across in most systems.

Modern glassbreak detectors are acoustic sensors that are installed on your ceiling and will trip upon hearing the sound of breaking glass anywhere within 25 feet (25 feet with regular glass... laminated glass has a much shorter range). This means that most rooms only need a single glassbreak detector irrespective of how many windows there are.

Glassbreak detectors are the only kind of detection device that we can install inside that will detect someone while they are still standing outside. Coupled with some physical security precautions such as window blocks, glassbreak detectors are the most effective device that we can install to maximize the value of our 5 minute response service. With the new Vancouver Police alarm dispatch policy that allows us to call 911 when we receive glassbreak alarms, they are even more valuable.

The vast majority of alarms that we are asked to take over are offering only a minimal amount of detection and could be easily defeated by an experienced burglar. To minimize the risk, as well as maximize the value of our response service, we always recommend upgrading the alarm to include all three levels of detection in EVERY accessible room. This means a contact on very opening as well as a motion detector and glassbreak detector in each accessible room.

Your security is in your redundancy... multiple layers of detection with at least two ways for the system to communicate (ie. a telephone line connection as well as cellular back-up) are essential in order to maximize the value of your alarm.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

New Vancouver Police Alarm Dispatch Policy

On Friday, we received a fax from the Vancouver Police indicating that, effective immediately, they have made a major change to their burglar alarm response policy so that we may call 911 to request Police response to client's burglar alarms under certain circumstances.

These circumstances are:

1. Hold-up/Panic alarms
2. ULC rated security alarms (ie. in banks, jewellery stores, etc.)
2. Multiple zone alarms where both glassbreak AND motion detectors have tripped;
3. Multiple motion alarms AND either interior audio or video verification is in place

The VPD have decided that alarms that can be considered 'verified', or at least high risk, are worthy of a 'priority dispatch' much like any call for a crime in progress.

This is great news for all Vancouver homeowners and we have already changed our dispatch instructions to include calling 911 (in addition to dispatching ourselves) on every alarm that meets the above requirements.

Up until now, no alarm company was allowed to call 911 and instead had to call a special alarm dispatch line. All alarm signals were treated equally under the old policy... which was basically as the lowest possible priority. This new policy is an acknowledgement of the value of a properly installed burglar alarm that has multiple levels of detection.

For all alarm signals that do not meet the above criteria, the old policy is still in place. Hopefully, by distinguishing alarm signals in this way, the Police can avoid the massive false alarm problem caused by user error (typically single zone alarms) and faulty equipment.

This policy adds yet another great reason to ensure that you have glassbreak detection in your home or business.

While the Police obviously cannot offer a guaranteed response time, this policy change will allow us to initiate communication with 911 much sooner during an actual burglary. As always, our own response teams will still be on the way immediately after every alarm signal.

We will keep you updated on our experiences under this new policy.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Kerrisdale Arsons

Many of you have heard about the arson attacks in Shaughnessy and Kerrisdale the past two days. Here is a link to this morning's story about them in the Vancouver Sun.

Over the years, we have dealt with several arsonists working in the Kerrisdale, Kitsilano and Arbutus Ridge neighbourhoods.

About three years ago, Kerrisdale Business Association merchants were regularly having the contents of their dumpsters set on fire. Similarly, an arsonist targeted a condominium/town house property where vehicles, garbage bins and children's playparks were targeted. A particular problem with the condo development was that multiple fires were often set on the same night... some which the Fire Department felt were set while they were already on site dealing with the first call. In Kitsilano, someone was making their way into many office buildings along West Broadway and lighting fires in the washrooms as well as at office doorways.

In each case, we were hired to increase the level of surveillance and security by providing both uniformed and plain clothed security guards. On several occasions, both Vancouver Police and Fire Department Arson investigators have spoken with our staff and advised us on what to look for, especially at the scene of a fire.

Typically, arsonists like to watch the fire that they have started... sometimes going out of their way to help 'put it out' or assist in some way once the Fire Department is on scene.

For the most part, arson is a crime of opportunity and convenience. In the three incidents noted above, the suspects all ended up living very close by.

To help reduce the risk for you and your neighbours, try to take your garbage and recycling out in the morning rather than leaving it out all night. Similarly, take a look at your property and remove anything else that might tempt an arsonist. Motion activated lights are a good deterrent and should be mounted as high as possible on your garage (You will need to call your electrician to install motion lights). Most importantly, pay special attention to any late night activity in your alley. All of the recent arsons have occured between midnight and 4:00am.

All of our patrol teams have been briefed about what has happened and will be paying special attention to this issue. As always, should you see someone suspicious in your back alley, or anywhere, please call us at 604.664.1087 and we will send someone around to check it out. Of course, if you witness someone actually starting a fire, or committing any other crime, call 911.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

March 2006 Burglary Statistics

The VPD just released the March crime statistics for the city.

In March, District 4 (the Westside) did not have the most burglaries in the city! For the first time in more than two years, District 3 (the Eastside) got the chance to ‘lead’ the city in break-ins with 262 reported burglaries to the Westside’s 231. District 2 (Northeast) had 137 while District 1 (Downtown) had 91. Here is a link to an image of the four districts in Vancouver.

As in the past, I have extended the same two graphs (double click on either of them to see a bigger version) to include the March 2006 numbers. The first compares the Westside vs. all of Vancouver. The second graph (the line graph) compares four neighbourhoods: Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, Dunbar/Southlands and West Point Grey since December 2005. For the most part, there was little change for each neighbourhood between February and March. The biggest change was in Dunbar where 4 fewer burglaries were reported to the Police in March than in February…

In terms of some of the other categories of crime incidents, here is how the Westside compared to the other areas of the city in March.

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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Does an 800lb. safe need to be installed?

I was speaking with a client this morning who is getting a new 800lb. safe delivered to his home. He called to ask if, given the size of the safe, should he still go through the hassle of having it professionally installed.


I told him a story about a home in Shaughnessy that was burglarized several years ago. Three men broke into the house and stole a huge safe from the master bedroom closet that weighed over 700lbs. The safe was not 'installed' and the men were able to get it out of the closet and down the upstairs hallway. Rather than carry the safe down the stairs, they simply pushed it down the curved marble staircase.

Once at the bottom (you can imagine how the staircase looked) the crooks loaded the safe into the back of their waiting car. A neighbour saw the men and called 911 to report the burglary as well as give a description of the little car that was bottoming out with the weight of the safe in the back. Unfortunately, they got away and I'm not sure if the safe was ever found.

(we did not provide any security services for the home)

Moral of the story?

If it is not bolted down... a safe is movable.

If you are going to get a safe, no matter how big or small it is, it MUST be professionally installed. Virtually every safe comes with a special mounting plate and pre-drilled holes that will allow for secure mounting without impacting the fire rating of the safe. This is definately a project that is worth calling a locksmith for. At a minimum, bolting a safe down will help five minute proof it.

For many of our clients that have had a safe installed behind cabinetry or some other type of millwork, we have added an alarm contact to the wooden door in front of the safe so that we have an even longer head start to respond (we always install the safe door as a 24 hour zone, so that the alarm will sound as soon as the door is opened, irrespective of whether or not the alarm is actually armed).

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Kerrisdale Carnival Days

For the first time in our 10 years in Kerrisdale it rained virtually all day long.

Despite the rain, we still managed to give out about 700 balloons ... and a few kids even went down the (water)slide. Many clients came by to say hello and several people who have been waiting to call us came by to ask a few questions about how easy it is to switch over from their current alarm provider to Provident (most of the time, it's really easy).

The next Kerrisdale Days will be held on August 24th, 25th and 26th, 2006 - which are almost always bright and sunny days!

We'll be out there again, for our 23rd Kerrisdale Days, with the giant slide and hopefully short sleeved shirts.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

Provident's new Operations Centre featured in national security magazine cover story

In October 2005, we finally went “live”.

After spending the better part of two years researching the latest and greatest technology in central monitoring stations, (research that took me to 21 states and 26 different monitoring stations across the U.S.) we implemented the best of everything into our own 24-hour operations centre. We invested more than $1 million dollars in software, hardware, servers, battery back-ups, generators, as well as training and disaster/contingency planning. This makes us one of very, very few companies in North America that own and operate their own central monitoring station. (Before October, we contracted the services to two separate third party monitoring stations)

Why does this matter to you?

As a service company, first and foremost, we need to ensure that we are doing everything possible to get to your premises as quickly as possible after an alarm signal is received. By now being able to control every step of the alarm transmission process, from your premises to our response teams, we have been able to eliminate several time wasting steps.

Beyond having the most advanced and up-to-date alarm monitoring technology , we are also now able to offer remote video management and recording as well as remote access control management for building access systems.

To ensure that we can operate through an extended power failure or major disaster, we have several layers of internal redundancy as well as real-time back up systems that are maintained at another location, several thousand miles away (in the event that it was impossible to remain in our own building). This ensures that the security of your home or business is in the best possible hands.

Dianne Dobbins is the manager of our Operations Centre (OC). She is certified as a Central Station Trainer… the highest certification available in North America. Dianne has also traveled to other central monitoring stations to learn best practices as well as completed training programs in Tennessee, Mississippi and California within the last year. She has been working incredibly hard to train & manage our 24 hour customer service team. Many clients have already mentioned to me how much they appreciate being able to call in at any time of the day or night and speak directly with one of our customer service team members, rather than having to wait until the next business day.

The new OC was an immense project and we are proud to have been recognized by a national security publication, Security Products & Technology News with a cover story that came out today.

If you would like a tour of the Provident OC to learn exactly how we are monitoring your home or business, send me an email and we’d be happy to show it off.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

No love for Provident in Africa?

The map above shows the location of the last 200 visitors to our blog on Monday and Tuesday of this week. The red dot is the most recent visitor, the green dots are the 10 next most recent and the white ones are the balance of the last 200 visitors.

What was created to be a resource for our clients and neighbours on the Westside of Vancouver has very quickly found its way all over the world. We are amazed by how far and wide this blog is being read.

Courtesy of search engines and referrals from individuals like you, we've quickly become a resource for people all over the world. We are receiving emailed questions about home security from every corner of the planet... as well a couple inquiries about whether Provident has offices in either Ohio or Southern California!

Please continue to forward this blog to anyone you think may benefit. And do send me questions or suggestions for posts that you have.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Kerrisdale Carnival Days - April 28th & 29th!

Kerrisdale Carnival Days are happening again this weekend (Friday, April 28th and Saturday, April 29th). The Annual Kerrisdale Parade will get underway on Saturday at 10:00am.

The parade route follows West 41st Avenue, starting at Maple Street, all of the way past Larch Street and ending at Elm Park. As always, the parade has a great mix of marching bands, vintage cars, pets on parade, the Kerrisdale Little League as well as an assortment of other groups. The first pitch for the Kerrisdale Little League happens at Elm Park as soon as the parade is over.

For the 9th consecutive year, Provident is a major sponsor of Kerrisdale Carnival Days and we will have our giant inflatable slide set up between the Royal Bank and TD Canada Trust on Yew Street all day Saturday. Myself and many of the Provident team will be there giving out balloons and tattoos for the kids.

In addition, members of the Vancouver Police Dog Squad and Kerrisdale Community Policing Office will also be onsite for most of the day near the slide and Provident tent.

Please come by and say hi!

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Monday, April 24, 2006

What's your delay?

In the majority of residential burglaries on the Westside, access is gained through the front door. As described in my post about the typical burglary, crooks tend to use a screwdriver or small crowbar to pry the door enough so that a good kick will break the door frame and allow easy access.

One of the reasons burglars choose the front door over other access points is they assume that you have an entry delay time on this door. In the vast majority of homes I see, this entry delay time is far too long… most often 30 seconds, but in some cases up to a minute or more.

The alarm system cannot tell the difference between you opening your door with a key and a crook breaking the door down… the net result is that when a crook uses the front door (or any door with an entry delay) he has a long head start on the response process. Once the alarm finally does trip at the conclusion of the entry delay, the system then needs to start dialing our central monitoring station and communicate with our receivers. This process takes between 30 and 45 seconds for most alarm control panels. It is at this point that our response teams are first notified of a problem at your home. Why give a crook such an easy head start?

Increasing the risk, many homes have several doors with entry and exit delays. While this might offer greater convenience to you, it is often at the expense of reducing the effectiveness of your alarm system during an actual burglary.

What should you do?

1. Re-evaluate whether or not you need multiple “entry/exit” doors… ideally, you should restrict yourself to one door only so that all of the others can send an immediate alarm as soon as they open. The door that you do use should have the keypad located as close as possible.

2. Do you really need 30 seconds or more to get to your keypad? In many cases, we are changing the delay times on client systems to 10 seconds or less. From your “entry/exit” door, time yourself on how many seconds it actually takes you to get to your keypad… and then add no more than 2 seconds on top of that. Give us a call and let us know what your delay time should be set at. For most clients, we can dial into your system remotely and make the change for you right away.*

3. To maximize security, consider purchasing a remote keyfob for your keychain that will allow you to disarm your alarm system from outside your house. This way, you can disarm the system before you open the door which will allow you to completely eliminate the entry delay time.

* keep in mind that the entry delay and exit delay times are programmed separately… we can still allow you 45 seconds to get out while changing your entry delay time to just 5 or 10 seconds.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Renovating? Put your smokes on test!

Over the past few weeks, we have received several fire alarms from people’s homes and dispatched the Fire Department only to find out that the alarm was caused by contractors working on site.

Dust, and certainly smoke, will cause your smoke detector to trip. Unlike other devices on your system (motion detectors, door contacts, glassbreaks, etc.), you cannot bypass any fire zones from your keypad.

If you are having any work done, please call us at 604.664.1087 and request that we put your fire zones on “Test” for the hours of the day that work is being done. This will ensure that we do not dispatch the Fire Department needlessly.

Upon receipt of any fire alarm, we dispatch the Vancouver Fire Department immediately. Once they have been sent, the Fire Department WILL NOT cancel a response.

You will not be charged for the Fire Department’s response but we are committed to ensuring they are not unnecessarily dispatched.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Do you have a Saferoom?

As discussed in several other posts, your security goal, in terms of protecting your personal belongings, should be to five minute proof your valuables. When we tell clients this, many then ask about what they should do to protect themselves in the event that they are home during an attempted burglary.

In my experience, the vast majority of burglaries that occur when people are home are the result of the burglar mistakenly assuming that no one is home. (Here is a link to a recent post about the typical Westside burglary). However, a burglar’s intentions do not lessen the risk that is posed to your family should you be at home when someone tries to get in.

What should you do to protect your family?

Always answer the door when someone knocks or rings.

Should your alarm trip, DO NOT disarm it.

Consider installing a deadbolt on your master bedroom door, or if you have small children, on their door so that in the event that you hear someone trying to get into your house, you can immediately run to the ‘saferoom’ that you have set-up. One of the most important things to ensure is located inside the saferoom is a portable telephone so that you can call 911. A portable landline telephone is superior to a cellular phone because when you call 911, they will know exactly where you are calling from and can send help even if you are unable to talk. A cellular phone, obviously, does not provide an exact address. However, because of the chance that your phonelines could be cut, it’s a good idea to have a cellular phone with you as well.

If you have small kids, it’s a good idea to turn the ringer off so that the phone can always be left inside the room. Many manufacturers now sell portable phones that have extension handsets that do not require a physical phone line for each base station. This means that you do not need to have a phone jack in the room that you want to ensure always has a telephone in it…It only requires an electrical outlet.

While some of our clients have built actual ‘safe’ rooms that are protected by large vault doors, in most cases, a strong deadbolt and phone are all that are required. Ideally, the door itself should have a solid, rather than hollow, core to increase the level of security offered.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Kitsilano Burglary

Holidays are usually busier for us and this Easter was no exception. One burglary is worth writing about, not because it was unique but rather because it was quite typical. The burglary occurred on the night of Good Friday, at about 9:30pm (admittedly the time of the burglary was unique given most occur during the day, but crooks often assume homeowners are on vacation on holiday weekends).

At this Kitsilano home, the burglars (I’m pretty sure that there were two) gained entry by throwing a baseball sized rock through the back glass door. Once inside, the burglars bypassed the family room with a significant amount of electronic equipment, including a plasma screen TV, and went straight for the master bedroom. In a textbook example of a residential burglary, as I described in my post about the typical Westside burglary, the thieves pulled the drawers out of the bedside tables, checked under the mattress and then rifled through the master bedroom closet. While in the master bedroom, they ripped the alarm keypad off the wall and broke it (which has absolutely no effect on the alarm system – other than requiring a new keypad).

Given the actual ‘event history’ (the order in which we received the various alarm signals from the initial trip to each of the motions and openings), we know that the thieves were in the house for less than one and a half minutes. On their way out, they tried a few other drawers in a bathroom and the kitchen.

Luckily, the homeowners believe they did not get anything of value. Because the alarm was tripped from the glassbreak detector as soon as the window was smashed, the burglars had less time than if they had they pried open the door. This is because the alarm would have started an entry delay countdown for 30 seconds before tripping the alarm had the door sensor been the first to trip.

When our response team arrived, they found a purse that belonged to the home owner laying in the backyard and the rear gate left open.

Our client was out of town when it happened and we initially could not reach them, or any of their emergency contacts. We called the Police who indicated that they were unable to attend due to a busy night and as a result, would not visit until the client was home to confirm what, if anything, was taken. We obtained an incident number and started a Police file so that the Police would have all of the basic details on file to assist when our client called to complete the report.

We then arranged for the door to be boarded up and swept & vacuumed all of the glass from the family room and kitchen. Our on-call technician came out to install a new keypad and the system was tested to ensure it was functioning properly.


1. The burglars were able to gain easy access to the backyard through the rear gate. Locking the gates may have been enough to dissuade these crooks. There are two options for locking your side and back gates: 1) get a padlock from Kerrisdale Lumber, or 2) have a locksmith install proper deadbolts on the gates with the same keyway as your house.

2. Closed blinds or curtains may have also provided less temptation as the crooks would not have been able to confirm so easily that no one was home or get such a good look inside.

3. Our client was relieved to hear that his desktop computer had not been taken. You should always ensure that you make regular back-ups of all of your computer data (including photos, home videos, etc.) and keep them in your safe… or at least away from your computer so that in the event a crook does steal your laptop or PC, you do not also lose all of your data. Remember, the goal is to five minute proof your most important belongings!

4. Does your delay time need to be so long? If you can make it to your keypad from your door in less time than your alarm currently allows you, call us to talk about reducing your entry delay time to 10 seconds or less.

In this case, the crooks were looking for cash and jewellery, items that are easy to quickly grab and run with. How would they have fared if they had broken into your house?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Provident featured on CTV News

Provident was featured on CTV News last night in a follow-up story relating to the Southlands kidnapping. The story was about security measures that people in Vancouver are taking and included a short interview with me in our central monitoring station in Kerrisdale.

Click here for a link to the streaming video

Provident’s False Alarm Procedure

A reminder about how we handle false alarms at Provident…

Should you cause a false alarm:

1. YOU must call Provident at 604.269.9999 and let us know that it is a false alarm and that everything is ok by providing your password. If you don’t know your password, please call us at 604.664.1087 to confirm;

That’s it!

Because we assume that every alarm is real, we will not waste any time by trying to contact you after an alarm signal is received. SIMPLY USING YOUR CODE TO DIS-ARM THE ALARM, WITHOUT CALLING US, WILL NOT CANCEL THE RESPONSE. The only way to cancel an alarm response is to call us at 604.269.9999 and provide your password.

This procedure gives you complete control over billing in that so long as you call us before we are at your doorstep, there is no charge. Conversely, by not wasting any time by assuming that you have made a mistake, this procedure ensures that help is on the way as soon as possible. It also is a key factor in ensuring that all of the steps you have taken to five-minute proof your belongings matter.

Please ensure that your babysitters, nannies and anyone who may be using your system are aware of this procedure. Every month we respond to many alarms that have been caused by a house guest or nanny that was not aware that it was their responsibility to call us to cancel.

This results in a lot of alarm response fees that could have been avoided.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Burglar Alarms: "An Unnecessary Burden?"

In this month’s Security Sales & Integration Magazine, there is a great interview with Chief William Bratton of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Bratton has been at the centre of a huge debate in Los Angeles about Police response to burglar alarms. The same debate has been, and is being had, in dozens of other cities. However, Los Angeles has been the most widely publicized and would be the largest North American city to move to a full verified response policy (they are part way there now). Bratton has been actively, and very strongly, pushing for a complete verified response policy meaning that the LAPD would only respond to an alarm signal that has been verified by either a security guard (or other person onsite) or by remote video.

In the interview, Bratton says “Policing, in general, is not fond of the burglar alarm industry. We consider it an unnecessary burden and it’s an industry that we don’t feel is particularly willing to work with us to make the alarms more reliable and less of a negative and resource impact on police.”

I completely agree. Typically, I find myself one of very, very few people within the security industry that will speak out against the entire concept of Police response to private alarms. For years, our industry has gotten away with selling a service, that in order to offer any real value (in terms of burglary), completely relies on the Police (over which the alarm company, obviously, has no control). I just cannot see the value in that. What’s worse, it actually serves to detract from the value that the Police are able to offer in that it wastes so many of their resources.

As I wrote in a post a few weeks ago, nearly 5% of all dispatches to the Vancouver Police in 2004 were for alarms… virtually all of which were false. The news has been full of reports recently about City Hall approving little more than half of the new Police Officers that Chief Jamie Graham has requested. All of the statistics show us that Police response to alarm signals is of virtually no value… so why not reclaim those 5% of calls and help the Police use the resources that they already have more efficiently?

In Los Angeles, Chief Bratton says that “if the house is not protected by private guard response, the reality is we’re not going to be coming with lights and sirens on to that location unless there is human verification.”

Why hasn’t Vancouver done this yet?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Don't call 911

Recently, the Vancouver Police changed their policy regarding when to call 911 for emergency services.

Effective March 12th, all non-emergency calls, which the Police consider any call that does not require IMMEDIATE police intervention, should be directed to 604.717.3321 (too bad they could not come up with a more catchy number).

Here is a link to their website explaining the change. The quick version of the story is that the number of calls to 911 have increased dramatically over the past few years and the Police need an easier way to distinguish priority levels.

When should you call 911?

1. If you need immediate Police response
2. If someone’s life is in immediate danger
3. A crime is in progress or has JUST occurred

All of the non-emergency calls will still be answered in the same facility (E-COMM), but will be routed to different operators. E-COMM has committed to answering 80% of all non-emergency calls within three minutes, 24 hours a day.

Keep in mind that you can always call Provident to help out if you observe any suspicious activity in your neighbourhood. We are open 24 hours a day and happy to take your calls at anytime. Please make sure that any nannies or babysitters that might be in your home know that they should call us as well.

If you are ever in doubt as to whether or not to call 911, call 911.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Provident wins industry marketing award

Last night, Provident was honored with a SAMMY marketing award from Security Sales & Integration magazine in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The award was for company logo design and its use in company branding.

Provident was one of only two Canadian firms nominated as finalists in any category and the only Canadian firm that received an award.

We have been finalists in a number of categories in both 2004 and 2005, but this is the first time that we have actually won a SAMMY award.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A typical residential burglary

Most people are shocked to hear about how burglaries on the Westside (or anywhere) actually occur.

After being at the scene of literally thousands of burglaries during my experience with the RCMP and Provident, I have found that the vast majority of burglaries are nearly identical, making it relatively easy to anticipate and prevent one at your home.

Residentially, most burglaries occur between 11:00am and 4:00pm (yes, broad daylight) Monday through Friday. The burglar will typically go to your front door and knock. If someone answers, they may ask for a random person (“Is Bob here?”) or for directions to some obscure address… whatever they say, you can be pretty sure that if it sounds and looks suspicious, the man at the door is likely casing out homes in your neighbourhood and you should call both 911 and Provident to come and check it out.

If, alternately, no one comes to the door, the crook will do a tour around the house and knock again on the back door. Whichever door looks weaker tends to be the one that will be used. Entry is most often gained using a screwdriver or crowbar near the lock to pry the door just enough so that a good kick will split the door frame. In most cases, the door and deadbolt withstand the kick, but the doorframe splits, allowing the burglar to walk right in.

Once inside, the crook(s) will go straight to the master bedroom and empty out the bedside tables and dressers. The next stop is the closet where they will rifle through everything looking for cash, jewellery and anything that can be easily turned into cash. After the master bedroom, they’ll typically do a quick tour of the entire house looking for other portable items like cameras before heading out to their waiting stolen car.

In my experience, the one variation of the above scenario is when entry is gained through a window, often on the second floor, with the burglar hoping there is no alarm sensor. In that case, the first stop will be a main floor door in order to open it and prepare an easy escape, before heading to the master bedroom.

As most of the property crime in Vancouver is committed by drug addicts trying to support their habit, stolen goods are sold very quickly , often within an hour of the burglary. Most of the time, a crook gets about 10 cents on the dollar. As a result of these economics, a typical burglar needs to break into multiple homes every day to support their drug habit.

What are the lessons?

1. You need to “five-minute proof” your most precious belongings…. DO NOT keep anything that you cannot replace in your master bedroom;

2. Whether you have anything or not in your master bedroom, that is where the crooks want to go… consider installing a deadbolt on your master bedroom door (even if you only use it when you are out of town). This will slow them down and allow time for Provident to respond;

3. Consider having a safe installed. However, you must be willing to have it professionally installed by a locksmith. Believe me, it does not matter how heavy the safe it, if it is not bolted into the ground (preferably a concrete pad) it can be stolen.

4. Typically, people are most concerned with losing irreplaceable family jewellery. If you have jewellery that you do not regularly wear, consider using a safe deposit box at the bank or in a properly installed safe… or store it somewhere else in your house, but not in the master bedroom.

Remember that the goal of your security plan is to ensure that it would take a crook five minutes or more, from the point at which the alarm is tripped, to get to your most valuable possessions.

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Friday, March 31, 2006


The response that we have gotten from this blog in only a few short weeks has been absolutely incredible. I have received great feedback from clients as well as other people who have either been forwarded a link or just found us on Google or MSN from all over North America (literally all over!) as well as England, Mexico, Taiwan, Singapore and Russia. Thank you to each of you who has forwarded it to others.

We are in the process of building our client email database. Each day, we are adding more people…my apologies to those clients who’ve called us to say, “Why didn't I get sent a link to your blog?”. We’re trying to reach everyone as soon as possible. We hope to have sent the introduction e-mail to each of our clients by the middle of April. In the meantime, If you know of anyone that may be interested in this blog, please feel free to send them the link.

If you want to be kept up to date and advised of new postings you have two options… one a little high tech and the other very low tech… here they are:

1. low tech option: send me a quick email asking to be added to our notification list and we will send you a reminder link every time the blog is updated (send it to; or

2. high tech option: subscribe to our RSS feed and get this content automatically incorporated into whatever blog or news reader you prefer… here is a link to a Squidoo lens that tells you everything you need to know about RSS... for what it is worth, I use Bloglines myself and it is very easy to setup.

So far, given the topic, most people with specific questions have either called us (our customer service team is available 24 hours a day) or sent a direct email…. Please feel free to do either. Alternatively, you can simply post a question or comment (with our without your name) by clicking on the comment icon at the bottom of every post. The advantage of using the comment icon is that other people will be able to see both what you wrote as well as our response.

Your suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

February 2006 Burglary Statistics

The Vancouver Police just released their February crime statistics for the city.

During the month of February there were almost 100 fewer burglaries reported in the city compared to January. The Westside saw a decrease of about 75 burglaries in the same period.

I created a couple graphs (double click on each to make them bigger) to show how February compared. The first is an extension of the same graph I posted a few weeks ago which shows the total number of reported burglaries on the Westside as well as the percentage of burglaries throughout the city that occur on the Westside. The second graph (the line graph) compares four neighbourhoods: Kerrisdale, Shaughnessy, Dunbar/Southlands and West Point Grey since December 2005. As you can see, with the exception of Dunbar, the other three neighbourhoods had fewer burglaries than in January. Kerrisdale had the most marked difference going from twenty-eight (28) reported burglaries in January to thirteen (13) in February, which is the lowest total since November.

I found it interesting that January was the only month in the past year that saw all four of these neighbourhoods experience an increase in reported burglaries. In every other month, an increase in one neighbourhood coincided with a decrease in one or more of the others.

Here is the breakdown by neighbourhood for December 2005 through February 2006:

Often times, we are asked by clients how the crime is in their particular neighbourhood. As these statistics illustrate, there really isn’t a true pattern in terms of being able to accurately predict what is going to happen based on past statistics. Certainly, the style of burglaries change depending on the season (for example, there tends to be more burglaries through windows in the summer, due to the fact that many are left open), but the actual amount of activity throughout the entire Westside stays fairly constant (an average of 290 per month). In my own unscientific experience, I have found that crooks tend to work an area for a while, resulting in a spike of activity, before either getting caught or moving on to another neighbourhood.

I recall an incident in our own parking garage where I had a run-in (literally) with a car thief who, once caught a couple weeks later, the Police figured was responsible for a significant number of recent Dunbar burglaries. In the words of one of the Constables who was involved with the incident, the car thief was a “walking crime wave”. Once arrested, the impact on Dunbar burglaries was quite dramatic… for a while. Eventually someone else moved in and took over.

The fact that the majority of crime is committed by a small minority of people helps explain why so many burglaries happen in such a similar fashion. It also helps improve your odds at being able to prevent a burglary by being able to correctly anticipate how a burglary could happen at your home or business.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please use the comments icon below or send me an email (a link is on the profile page).

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Simple Security for Single Hung Windows

As discussed in other posts, your security goal is to “five minute proof” your possessions. Often, people mistakenly assume that the goal is to make it impossible for someone to get into your home.

In my experience, I have learned two general truths about burglary:

1) You cannot make it physically impossible for someone to break into your home; and

2) Virtually every ‘successful’ burglary can be prevented (I’m calling a burglary a ‘success’ from the burglar’s point of view… namely that they got enough of your valuables to justify the effort of getting in).

In order for you to keep burglars out of your home, you need to give them a good reason why they should just not bother trying. One of the best ways to help do this is to ensure that your alarm is tripped while the burglar is still standing outside your home.

In the case of single hung windows such as those in the photo above, a great (and cheap) way to help slow a crook is to install a wooden block in the track above the window that slides up. A piece of an old hockey stick or other small block of wood works best and can even be painted to match the window frame.

The block should be installed so that you can open the window no more than 3 or 4 inches. If the crook is standing outside your home and pries open the window, he will open the window just enough to set off the alarm but not enough to climb through. This way, the alarm is sounding, Provident is on the way and the crook is still standing outside trying to decide whether or not it’s worth it to try another route.

The block of wood trick can also be used on sliding doors (provided that the slide track is on the inside).

The mistake that most people make when doing something like this is to use a block that does not allow the door to move at all until the stick is broken (and then you are no further ahead because the first alarm will trip as the burglar is actually getting into your house). It is very important that you allow for at least a few inches of space so that the alarm will trip before the burglar gains entry. The value of your alarm monitoring increases exponentially when you can detect the crook while he’s still outside (provided you have immediate response)