Do Alarm Systems Work Without Power?

By Tim Chesonis •  Updated: 05/14/19 •  13 min read
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Security alarms work great and will protect you and your family by notifying the authorities should an intrusion occur.

All home security systems will function as designed when a power outage occurs, provided that the system was installed correctly and that there is a battery back up in place. However, should an extended power outage occur, you would be wise to take measures that do not require power to protect your home and family.

In this article I will offer you tips on how to prepare for an unexpected power outage, and point out several security measures that you can take to protect both your home and family that do not require power.

First Things First: Lock it Up and Take Inventory

Lock all Doors and Windows
It may seem obvious, but the first thing that you want to do when your power goes out is to lock all doors to the outside. 

Did you know that 34% of all burglars enter through the front door?

Don’t forget to close and lock all windows either.    When you lock the door, be sure to use the dead-bolt. When you lock the door, be sure to use the dead-bolt too.

Disable Security Cameras
Some might argue with the idea of disabling security cameras when the power goes out, given that there may be a higher chance of being robbed during a power outage.  But you may want to consider conserving battery power by disabling your security cameras during a power outage because security cameras use the most power and will drain the battery quickly.

This is certainly something that you may want to consider if the power outages occurs due to a hurricane or tornado, given that it will probably be days before power returns.  Remember, the battery back-up will only last up to 24 hours from the time that the power goes out.

Place Candles on all Windowsills Throughout the House
When I speak of placing a candle at each windowsill throughout the house, I am not speaking of candlesticks.  I’m talking about “pillar candles” that have a diameter of about 2 inches or more.  When lit, they will not easily tip over, and the wax generally burns from within so that there is no risk of the wax dripping all over the windowsill.

Safety is paramount here. So as much as the kids would love to light the candles, it’s probably not wise to let them do this. Be certain to pull the curtains aside and tie them off.

Lighting candles serves a dual purpose. Obviously it will provide the light with in the house but just as important, it won’t let anyone outside of your home know that you are home, due to the flickering lights of the candle, especially from pillar candles.

Everybody Gets a Flashlight
When the power goes out, typically children become afraid. However, you can completely turn this around and make it a family fun time. In fact, if you implement what I’m going to share, the kids will get excited when the power goes out. Let me explain.

Turn the Power Outage into Family Fun Time 

When the power goes out, give everybody a flashlight and tell them to go to the windows facing the front of the house.  Kids will naturally shine their flashlight across the street into the neighbor’s house, (let them), on the mailbox, down the sidewalk,  in the bushes, and up in the trees. This is fun for them, so make a game out of it by playing I-spy.

If you don’t know how the game is played, one participant says, “I spy [they pick an object outside]”.   Everybody else playing the game has to  find what they are talking about with their flashlight and call it out once they find it.   The genius of this, is that you are advertising to  anyone who might possibly think about burglarizing your home that you are not only home, but you are equipped with several flashlights that are looking out towards them.

After five minutes at one window, go to the other side of the house and play the game from that window.  Trust me, no burglar is going to burglarize your home when confronted with several flashlights from a window.

How To Stop the Alarm From Beeping

Read the Manual Ahead of Time
I know that you probably don’t wanna hear this, but you really do need to read the manual ahead of time,  familiarizing yourself with the security system so that you know how to stop the beeping when a power outage does occur.   If I could give you one definitive answer to this question, I would.  However, each home security system is different and for the most part, addresses this issue differently.

Press Either the STAR KEY or the POUND KEY
If you do not wan to read the manual ahead of time, you can try this as it just might work.  On most home security control panels, you can simply press the STAR key (*), or the POUND key (#), to stop the keypad from beeping.

If you are paying for home monitoring on your home security system, do NOT press both at the same time, as this may silently notify the monitoring station which will then dispatch the Police.  Again, this may differ from each home security system, but the user manual will offer a definitive answer on this.

Call Customer Support
If you really hate reading user manuals, just call customer support. That’s what they are there for. It’s their job to answer any and all questions you may have regarding your home security system.

While you are on the phone with customer support, be sure to ask them how to reset the alarm system after the power comes back on. They will be more than happy to tell you what to do and how to do it.

How Can I Prepare For A Power Outage?

Be Sure to Have a UPS on Hand
The uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will provide power to your home security system for up to 24 hours during a power outage.  If you want, you could get a second UPS to use after the first 24 hours without power.

To determine whether or not you need a second UPS power supply, ask yourself this question: “When was the last time the power had been out for more than 24 hours?”   Now, of course, anything could happen, but how likely is that? You need to weigh the answer to that question when considering purchasing a second UPS battery power supply.

Don’t worry about recharging the UPS,  because once the power comes back on, it will automatically re-charge all by itself, provided that it is plugged into the wall.

Assuming that you have not disabled your security cameras to prevent the draining of your UPS battery backup, and assuming that you want to keep the cameras running; you may want to connect your security cameras and any security DVR to your UPS battery backup so that it will keep running during short-term power outages.  Again, this will only be useful for up to 24 hours.  If you do follow through with this, and are using wireless cameras, be sure to connect your wireless receiver to the UPS as well.

Buy a Generator
For those who live in the Midwest of the United States, power outages are real, given the threat of tornadoes.  In the southeast, (as well as the Golf of Mexico), one has to deal with the threat of hurricanes which can leave one without power for days on end.  Not fun.

If you live in a state that is prone to power outages for extended periods of time, it would be very wise of you to purchase a generator.

If prepared, a power outage will have a little effect on the way you have been going about your daily routine because the generator will provide all of the electricity that you require. You just want to make certain that you also have several containers of gasoline on hand, and be sure to store them outside or inside your garage.

A generator will allow you to keep your home security system running just as it did prior to the power outage. In fact, the longer the power outage, the greater chance there is of someone trying to burglarize you home.  People get desperate over time, needing essentials such as gasoline, water bottles, or even food.  A generator will help maintain the security of your home.

Install Composite Doors to all Entrances of the House
Composite doors are very popular these days and are exceptionally secure, especially when utilized with a dead-bolt that extends deep into the frame of the house.

I wrote an extensive article entitled, “Are Composite Doors Safer and More Secure?”, that you may find very helpful.  In it, I show that composite doors will protect your family, keeping them safe and more secure than other doors sold on the market today.  I even show the difference between composite doors and other doors using a sledgehammer test.

The bottom line is that a burglar is not going to make his way through a composite door unless he uses a ram-rod to open the door in the same way that a SWAT team does.

Battery Operated Radio
I know this sounds “old-school”, but another way that you can prepare for a power outage is to ensure that you have a battery operated handheld radio available. This radio should probably be put in the kitchen drawer so that you know where it is when you need it. Be sure to replace its batteries once a year so that it is ready and available for use as needed.

You may think that you don’t need a battery operated radio because you think you could just pull up a radio app from your cell phone, but your cell phone will die faster than a battery operated handheld radio will.   The radio will provide pertinent information regarding the weather and emergency services as well.

Backup Batteries for Everything
One of the biggest ways in which you can prepare for a power outage is by having an ample supply of a variety of batteries. This includes everything from AAA batteries, AA batteries, C-Cell batteries, to D-Cell batteries.  You may find that you don’t need the batteries, but your neighbors may in the event of an extended power outage.  Just make sure that you use them completely before changing them out for new ones.

Security Measures That Don’t Require Power

Get a Family Dog
Quite frankly, the best security measure that you can employ without the need for power is a dog. Did you know that of all the 5 senses, a dog will utilize their sense of smell 40% of the time?  They smell everything and can hear better than you or I can.  This is why your dog will start growling in the middle of the night when somebody walks down the sidewalk on the other side of the street.

Dogs have protected families since the dawn of time, and are still as effective.

Dogs will sense things that you are not capable of sensing. They will hear and smell things before you do, and can see in the dark way better than you can.  A dog will tell you when there is a threat, giving you time to either grab that Taser, can of Mace, your gun or baseball bat should you need to.  Just remember, if a dog starts growling or barking, there is a reason.

For further reading on the effectiveness of a dog as a home security measure, you may want to take a look at an article I’ve written extensively on entitled, Do Dogs and Fences Deter Burglars?

Secure your Property with a Fence
You may want to consider securing your property with a fence. I’m not referring to a white picket-fence.  I’m talking about a fence that is about as tall as a man. A 6 foot high fence will serve as a deterrent to burglars.  The reason for this is simple. The objective of a burglar is to get in and out of the house as quickly as possible in the least amount of time with the least amount of obstacles in his way. If he has to climb over the fence with any of your belongings, he is going to have a hard time. Can you imagine a burglar trying to climb a 6 foot fence with your big screen TV? He can’t imagine that either, which is why he will likely go onto the next house.  It’s just easier for him.

Purchase a Taser
“Stun guns” and “Tasers” have been around for quite a while.  A Taser will completely incapacitate a burglar, while a “stun gun” requires direct contact with the skin of the assailant. Did you know that one shot with a taser can deliver up to 25 minutes of continuous electricity into the assailant.  In other words, he’s not going anywhere and will beg, (when he can speak), for you to let him go.

You can learn more about the effects of a taser from an article I’ve written entitled, Can Taser Cartridges Be Reused?  In it, I show just how effective a taser can be, given that you can shoot the intruder from a distance, and you don’t have to be in direct contact with them to use it.  It’s very effective.

Place a Baseball Bat at Your Bedside
Nothing wrong with old school. This method of protecting you and your family has been around since the caveman.  It worked back then and it still works today.  Burglars have this thing about not wanting to get hurt, which is why they run when they see you coming at them with a baseball bat.

Purchase a Security Whistle
One final security measure you can take that does not require electricity is to use a security whistle, (or “gym whistle”).  It is meant to scare the burglar. In the event that he happens to make his way into your home, if you blow that as hard as you can, you just may scare him away, (and probably will). Doing so will also notify anybody else in your home, apartment building, or neighbors across the street that there is a burglar about.

Final Thoughts

In a perfect world, power outages would not occur. Unfortunately, that’s not a reality and we must be prepared to protect both our home and family.  Power outages come as a surprise, and the last thing you want for you and your family is to be unprepared when a power outage does occur.

When the lights unexpectedly go out, do not to panic. On the contrary, create an atmosphere of fun by getting each member of the family to participate in getting the house ready.  For “practice”, you can even unexpectedly turn the circuit breaker off yourself in your house to help them prepare for this family fun-filled event.

Tim Chesonis

Tim loves writing to help people succeed. He loves tech, Linux, his iPhone and iPad. When he's not writing another article, he's probably binge-watching “The Middle” or “Breaking Bad”, (again). To learn more about Tim, click here.