"There were several instances of concerned customer care just to make certain that things were going well with an installation you had made long ago. That kind of service impresses me. That level of interest in the welfare of the customer and their satisfaction is all too rare today. I am happy to recommend your services without reservation."
Bill W., Fairfax, VA
|When making a decision to have a security system installed in your home or business, there are three areas you’ll need to be satisfied with in order to look back years later and feel you made the best decision. The three areas, in order of importance, are:
The reason the company you choose to install your system is the most important of the three is they are the ones who will decide where your system will be monitored, how your system will be programmed to be monitored, the equipment that will be used and how it will be installed.
5 Star Security has endeavored to structure our business, the way we program and install systems and the way we monitor them so that our customers receive many benefits they wouldn't have enjoyed had they chosen a different security company.
With 5 Star Security you have one of the most experienced electronic security technicians in the D.C. Area at your disposal to discuss your concerns, needs and preferences. Lenny Bianchi, the owner of the company, has been designing, installing and maintaining electronic security systems full time for 25 years. He will see to it that your system is designed and installed with the highest standards of professionalism. With most other security companies, they'll send a salesperson to your home, who –– in most cases –– has never even installed a security system before. They may have very little knowledge of the proper application of the technologies involved, or the limitations of those technologies. Who would you rather have design your system and answer your questions? A technician with decades of experience –– or a part-time salesperson?
With 5 Star Security you'll never find a subcontractor installing a system for us. To save the many costs of carrying a person as a company employee, many security companies now use subcontractors to install their systems. Just like the phone company and the cable and satellite TV companies. There are many potential problems associated with having your security system installed by a subcontractor. They're usually paid a flat fee, such as $100, to install a system. As a consequence they have to install three or four systems a day to make a living. They'll be in a race to get your system installed. There are far too many mistakes that can be made in the installation of a security system to trust it to a subcontractor who's racing the clock to get the job done. We've run into many of them as we've taken over servicing hundreds of systems installed by other companies.
What have we found? Devices mounted to the wall without the use of wall anchors, just drywall screws. Sensors mounted crookedly. Trim around doors carved away to accommodate the device, something totally unnecessary and very ugly. Bare wires just twisted together inside the main panel. Wrong power supplies used. Wrong gauge of wire used. Wires stapled across walls in finished areas of the home. Wires with staples driven through them. But the worst area of offense is in the programming of the system. We have actually found systems –– several years old –– with several sensors that were never programmed into the "brain" of the system. So the customer had paid for protection that for several years they never enjoyed.
At 5 Star Security we schedule an entire day for the installation of your system. We're not in a hurry. We're far more interested in leaving behind a first-class installation than we are in how fast we can get it done. Only a company employee with many years experience will be used to install your equipment. We test every single sensor ten times to assure a perfect 10 out of 10 performance.
For many reasons, most people prefer having a wireless security system to a hardwired system. Wireless systems require more expertise to install than a hardwired system. The designer and installer need to have a working knowledge of what is called "radio wave propagation", that is, how radio waves move through the air, as well as how that environment will affect the radio waves. Many, many times we have taken over wireless security systems installed by other companies and find the radio receiver located in the basement, surrounded by galvanized steel air ducting, I-beams, major appliances and other surrounding metal. This is absolutely the worst location in the home for a radio receiver. Radio waves hate metal. They can't pass through it. They'll bounce off it and head in a totally different direction or break up into smaller waves and dissipate. This indicates clearly to us that the designer and the installer had little or no knowledge of how to properly install a wireless security system.
For the first four years we were in business, 5 Star Security installed both hardwired and wireless security systems. By 1992 we found that our customers with wireless systems were far happier, had far fewer problems and were able to enjoy features not available on hardwired systems. So, in 1992, we made the decision to become an exclusively wireless security company. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only security company in the D.C. area that installs only wireless security systems. Since we've been an exclusively wireless security company for over 20 years now, 5 Star Security is the wireless expert.
All security systems will have an entry delay and an exit delay. Basically a grace period to allow you time to leave your home after arming your security system and time to re-enter your home and turn it off. But there's another kind of delay you should know about. It's called a Call-Out Delay. Here's what it is:
Let's say someone breaks into your home and the siren begins sounding immediately. Most people think their system would now be immediately calling the monitoring station, but it's not. With a call-out delay, it's going to wait for maybe 40-60 seconds –– after the alarm has been triggered –– before it starts to make a phone call. Why do they put this delay into your system?
Like all businesses, monitoring stations are in business to make money. And they continually look at ways to increase their profits. The cost of operating a monitoring station is directly related to the volume of incoming phone traffic. Every time your system goes into alarm and calls them it's going to tie up one of their lines, a piece of their equipment, and a live operator. They know that around 90% of these alarm signals are not real emergencies, but just "goofs" by the homeowner. You forgot your system was on and opened the back door to let the dog out. If there was only some way to prevent those calls from ever reaching the monitoring station, they could reduce their incoming phone traffic by 90%! They finally figured out a way to do it.
If you set off your alarm accidentally, you'll probably get to the keypad and cancel it within 30 seconds. If they have a 40-60 second call-out delay programmed into your system, that means it will never make that phone call at all. This is great for the monitoring station. They can now monitor far more accounts without hiring any more employees or buying any more equipment. It's really bad for you, because they're now treating every alarm as if it were an accident, even the real one!
Let's take a typical scenario. An intruder breaks into your home when a family member is there, and we have a face-to-face confrontation with the siren blaring in the background. What will be their first demand? "Shut the security system off." If you now go to your keypad and cancel the alarm before the call-out delay runs out, no call will go out at all. It's as if you don't even have a security system. That's why call-out delays are so bad for you.
To the best of our knowledge, 5 Star Security is the only company in the D.C. area that refuses to use call-out delays, because it degrades our customers' level of security.
There is a feature in every security system made that we are aware of, called Automatic Daily Tests. When this feature is switched on, your system will make a call into the monitoring station every day to log in a test signal with their system. This is to assure you, on a daily basis, that you're receiving the service you're paying for. If your test signal wasn't received last night, we receive an email the next morning to let us know.
We have taken over monitoring hundreds of systems installed by other security companies over the years and have never, not even once, found a system with this feature turned on. And of those systems, there have been a number that were actually unable to make a call, either because the phone line had been disconnected from the system, or there was excessive noise on the line. In the worst case we found the person had a system that for up to two years had been unable to make a phone call. Yet he had been faithfully paying his monitoring fee all along, assuming everything was working. Thankfully he had no break-ins during that time, because if he did, no one would have been notified.
To the best of our knowledge, 5 Star Security is the only security company in the D.C. area that includes Automatic Daily Tests in every new system we install, at no extra charge. Why don't other companies do this for their customers? Well, if you read the previous section, Call-Out Delays, you understand that maximizing profits for the monitoring station means reducing costs. And reducing costs means reducing the volume of incoming phone traffic. That's why they use the Call-Out Delays. So, if they turn on Call-Out Delays to reduce incoming phone traffic, why would they now switch on Automatic Daily Tests, which will force your system to call them 365 times a year? It's absolutely contrary to what they're trying to achieve.
Just like your cellphone, cable or satellite TV service, security companies use multi-year agreements for their monitoring service. Typically they're for three, five or seven years. 5 Star Security has a three year agreement. But what if you have to move before your term is over? We are not aware of any other security company in the D.C. area that has a move-out release in their monitoring agreement. Why is this important?
Let's say you're interviewing two different security companies. 5 Star Security and XYZ Security. 5 Star has a three year agreement and XYZ has a five year agreement, but their equipment is about $400 less than 5 Star's. You like that we have a shorter agreement, but you also like that XYZ is $400 less for their system. You figure you're going to be in your home for at least five years anyway, so you go with XYZ. A year from now something unforeseen occurs in your life and you have to move. You call XYZ to cancel your service and you know what will happen? They'll tell you there is four years remaining on your contract. But they're so nice they're going to give you a 10% discount on the balance. That still means you could be writing them a check for well over $1,000 –– for nothing. For service you will never be able to receive.
Here's the reason their system was $400 cheaper. Number one, it was probably cheaper equipment to begin with. Number two, they were probably subsidizing all or part of the cost of the equipment with the future anticipated monitoring revenue. So they're not going to let you out of your agreement. No way are they going to end up losing money on this deal, and you've signed their contract promising you'll pay for all five years.
If you choose 5 Star Security, your system may cost a little more than another company. You see, we use very high-quality equipment and we never subsidize the cost of the equipment with future anticipated monitoring revenue. So, you're really getting what you pay for. As a consequence, if you're unable to complete the three year monitoring term because you're moving, just give us 30 days notice and we'll release you from the balance of your agreement. No early termination fee. No games. You just pay for the service you received and we part friends. It's written right into our agreement.
Here's an important question you should ask yourself: "Why would I ever sign a multi-year agreement with any company I've never done business with, without a written guarantee of performance?" An attorney well-known in this industry who prepares contracts for security companies all over the country as his area of specialty, has stated he has never heard of a security company having a written performance guarantee in their contract. 5 Star Security does.
What if you contract with another company and your alarm goes off and you don't get a call from the monitoring station until a half-hour later? Obviously you'd be very concerned. If you call them to complain, they may apologize and promise to do better in the future. But there's no way they're going to let you out of your contract. 5 Star Security provides a Performance Guarantee in writing that says if we haven't responded to any genuine emergency within five minutes –– you have the right to cancel your agreement. Thankfully, we've never had a customer have cause to exercise this right. But we put it in writing as an assurance to you that if we don't do our job right, we're not going to use a contract to try and hold you "hostage."
What's been the result of our doing business this way? We have been repeatedly top-rated by Washington Consumers' Checkbook, we have a Straight-A rating with Angie's List and in 25 years we've never had a single customer register a complaint at the Better Business Bureau.