Security systems help protect your home from break-ins and burglary, but what happens to a house alarm when the power goes out?
Power outages can happen anytime. Sometimes you can plan for them, but others are without notice. Planned outages, downed power lines, car accidents, blown fuses and extreme weather conditions — including lightning, hurricanes, snowstorms and floods — can leave you without electricity for hours, days or even weeks.
When these situations arise, some home security and monitoring systems can continue protecting your property and family, but others will be rendered useless. Learn more about staying safe, including tips for navigating home security without electricity.
What Happens to the Security System If There Is an Outage?
Will an alarm system work without power? It depends. As far as power outages and security systems are concerned, you have two things to consider — the power at your own home and the power at the monitoring facility connected to your security system, if applicable. In both cases, power outages do not always guarantee problems. In fact, many systems and monitoring centers are designed with potential outages in mind.
During a power outage at your home, your security system will stop working if:
- You do not have a battery backup.
- You use an internet, VoIP or Wi-Fi-based security system and lose connection.
- Your system has been damaged or otherwise compromised during extreme weather events or direct impact.
To avoid these situations, look for security alarms and video surveillance that is compatible with external or built-in battery backup systems. Have your system inspected, updated and serviced regularly, so it’s performing at its best when it loses electric connection.
Types of Alarm Systems That Work During a Power Outage
An alarm system will work without power if you’ve invested in the right equipment. The best way to ensure continuous protection is to invest in a unit with a battery backup for your home alarm system. Battery backups are useful for retaining your house alarm during a power outage. It will also keep your operation panel up and running for the duration of the battery’s life, so you can input and use controls if necessary. In events of sabotage by burglar or intruder, backups can also keep your house alarm operating even if the power gets cut manually.
One thing to keep in mind regarding battery backups is that, although they enable you to use your security system without electricity, they will eventually lose connection when the backup battery dies. For prolonged outages, you may want to invest in a secondary battery backup or have more manual security measures in place to counteract the lapse in service.
With a battery backup in place, two types of security systems work during a power outage — traditional landline phone systems and cellular systems.
Phone Line Systems
Traditional landline security systems operate through telephone lines to keep your surveillance, alarm and control panel operational in areas without adequate internet access or cellular signal. Landlines are very reliable, making traditional systems a popular option for those seeking continuous connection. External signals, like the signal between your alarm and the monitoring center, will remain functional even during a power outage. Use a battery backup to keep the control panel running without electricity.
The only circumstance that could disconnect your phone line security system is if the telephone lines are damaged — like in a storm or accident — or they are manually cut.
Cellular security systems operate using the signal from wireless cellular networks, similar to your smartphone. This means during a power outage, your service will remain unaffected. A battery backup is useful for supplementing your home control panel.
Many homeowners prefer cellular compatibility because it’s more easily integrated with other home automation devices. It’s also a safe option, as cellular systems do not have lines that a home invader can cut or disarm. When investing in a cellular system, choose one that operates through a network with a strong signal in your area — slow signals may cause delays in response time. You should also check if your cellular system is 4G, LTE or similar, as each type of connection is different. Talk with a representative to learn more about the best option for your area.
Questions to Ask Your Security Provider
Aside from at-home outages, your security provider can also experience power outages from time to time. When this happens, it’s imperative your home security remains stable and uninterrupted. To make this possible, many security monitoring centers have backup batteries and power sources, and they connect to your security system from multiple different locations to ensure there are no problems.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to your security company and ask them about their backup plans and strategies. Some questions you can ask include:
- What strategies and equipment do you have in place in case of a power outage at your facility?
- How will you communicate with me during a power outage?
- Can my security cameras work without electricity? If so, how and where are images and footage stored?
- Will I experience power interruptions or disconnection during any of your routine service or maintenance?
- What can I do to ensure there are no gaps in connection during severe weather events?
- What do I need to do to my security system before a planned power outage?
- What steps should I take when my power is restored, if any?
- What backup battery options do you offer for my system?
- Can I back up additional security accessories, like smart locks and doorbells?
How to Prepare for a Power Outage
Don’t let a power outage take you by surprise — here are six tips to help you prepare for and recover from short and long-term outages.
1. Have a Plan
While some power outages are coordinated and scheduled by your utility company, most happen when we least expect them. Establish a power outage plan before you need it.
Have the following precautions in place:
- List emergency contacts: Keep a paper list of emergency contacts in case you need to get ahold of someone and can’t access your smartphone’s contact list. Include the phone number and address for the nearest hospital, vet and doctor’s office. You should also give essential people — like family, friends, work and school — an alternative way to contact you if your phone loses battery.
- Have an evacuation plan: Create an evacuation plan for you and your family in case of extreme weather and temperatures that may cause a power outage. Include a nearby accommodation that you can easily access in a hurry, and ensure it’s pet-friendly, accessible or kid-friendly if necessary.
- Check on others: Power outages are more than an inconvenience — for some, they can be dangerous. During brief and prolonged outages that affect your neighborhood, don’t forget to check in with friends and neighbors who may have trouble taking care of themselves or require assistance with medical equipment.
- Stay up to date: During a power outage, your first step should be to contact your power company and neighbors to learn more about the source and whether it is your home only or if others have been affected as well. Make sure your energy company has the correct account information on file for you, including an up-to-date phone number in case they need to reach you. Some cities may have online portals you can access via your smartphone connection to help you save time during this process.
- Ask the property manager: If you live in a rental home or apartment complex, contact your landlord or property manager for further instructions regarding an outage. Let them know when the outage occurred and ask them about their plan for reinstatement.
2. Stock the Essentials
If you know severe weather or a planned outage is on the way, stock up on enough of the essentials to last you a few days. This is especially critical if you anticipate staying at home during the outage or are unable to travel due to dangerous road conditions.
Essential items include:
- Food: Fill your pantry and cupboards with nutritious, non-perishable goods — like canned beans, soups and protein bars — and consider bringing a cooler with ice indoors to store some additional foods, like cheeses, pre-made wraps and sandwiches and salad ingredients. Use a thermometer inside your fridge and cooler to make sure all food remains at a safe temperature. If not, toss it and replace it when the power returns.
- Warmth: Make sure you have plenty of blankets available to keep warm during the night, especially if the outage occurs during the winter. Bring firewood indoors if you rely on a fireplace or wood stove, which can also double as a heat source for cooking.
- Light: Light is critical for deterring burglars during outages. Make sure you have flashlights and spare batteries on hand, as well as lanterns and candles. Keep non-flammable lights near windows to show potential intruders that someone is home.
- Entertainment: Power outages aren’t all bad — they are an excellent time to have some old-fashioned fun with the family. Bring out some board games, cards and instruments for a night of powerless entertainment, or relax with a good book by candlelight.
- Hygiene: If you live on a property that loses water access when the power is out, store bottles of hand sanitizer in each restroom and keep a bucket full of water nearby to help flush toilets when needed. You can also fill the bathtub with water to draw from if the outage lasts longer than a few hours.
- Pets: If you have indoor or outdoor pets, pick up some extra food and fresh water jugs if you aren’t sure you’ll be able to leave your home during the outage.
Some homeowners may want to invest in a generator to operate certain electrical equipment during outages. Only do so if you’re familiar with generator operation and aren’t restricted by your lease or property agreement. Always use a generator outdoors and away from windows, and follow all safety guidelines to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
3. Ready the House
Get your home ready for a power outage with these tips:
- Go through your fridge and freezer to find the food you can prepare before a prolonged power outage to prevent waste. Once the power is out, keep the doors to your fridge and freezer closed to keep the internal temperature as cool as possible.
- Unplug all large and small appliances to prevent surging during extreme weather.
- Clean and declutter the rooms you frequent daily to prevent tripping in low or no-light conditions. Straighten up the outside of your home and secure all valuables in a locked building.
- Invest in “off-the-grid” security measures, like reinforced doors and windows, deadbolt locks, padlocks and chains.
- Repair any broken doorknobs or window locks.
- Install a security sign in your front yard to deter would-be burglars and intruders.
4. Create an Emergency Kit
It’s always a good idea to keep an emergency kit in your home for extended outages or weather that leaves you housebound.
Your emergency kit should include the following:
- Drinking water: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends keeping a gallon of water for each person, per day, for at least three days. Use the water for drinking and personal hygiene. Add extra for pets and baby bottles.
- First-aid kit: Fill any prescriptions and pick up some over-the-counter medicine to keep on hand. Assemble a first-aid kit that includes enough supplies for adults, children and pets, if applicable.
- Household tools: Household tools, like a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, pliers and a cordless drill, can help you make minor repairs around your property, if necessary. You may also need them to reinforce your doors and windows as a secondary security measure.
5. Switch to Battery Backup
Security systems do work when the power is out if they operate via landline or cellular network and are supported by an additional battery backup. In addition to your home security system, consider whether the following items also require a battery backup or if there is a way to operate them manually:
- Automatic garage doors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Smoke detectors
- Fans, if extreme heat is expected
- Medical devices, including oxygen machines
- Battery or crank radios to stay up-to-date on alerts and weather changes
If you have smart home automation, like smart locks and thermostats, note which items may not work during a power outage. Some homeowners — like those who use breathing machines or similar medical necessities — may benefit from using an uninterrupted power supply, or UPS. The uninterrupted power supply helps your home stay connected after the power goes out while you wait for the generator to start up or you can safely evacuate elsewhere. A UPS is also a good way to protect your data and office equipment against hard system resets.
6. Reset Your Security System
Some security systems may need to be reset after a power outage. You can usually tell by the status light or if another operational indicator is no longer working, even once the power has returned. Consult your user manual for further instructions, or contact a representative for the next steps.
If you have to perform a manual hard reset, remember to:
- Disconnect any backup battery power before resetting.
- Leave the system off for several minutes before restarting it.
- Reconnect the battery backup once reset.
Some home security systems, like smart-enabled devices or Wi-Fi connected cameras, might be even easier to reset via a smartphone app.
Contact Wayne Alarm Systems for Your Home Security Needs
As a UL Listed/5 Diamond home security monitoring center, Wayne Alarm Systems utilizes backup generators and a backup monitoring location in case of power outages, so you get the peace of mind of around-the-clock monitoring, no matter what. Our residential alarm systems also come with battery backups to last you through planned and unplanned power outages.