How a Power Outage Puts Your Home Security at Risk

When you lose power, you can also lose the protection of your home security system. Here's how to keep your home safe—no matter what.

More and more homeowners are opting for home security systems—and for good reason. According to the FBI, a property crime occurs every 4.1 seconds, with nearly three burglaries occurring every minute. Prevention is key for protection, and for that reason, an estimated 27 percent of American households will have some form of home security by 2021.

But even if you’ve taken the necessary precautions and purchased a home security system, is your home truly safe? Maybe not. If there’s a power outage, it may be vulnerable. In fact, burglars often see these times as prime opportunities for home invasions. Make sure you know these smart tips so that your home and your family have the best type of protection at all times.

Beware of this common criminal technique

While homes can lose power during a storm or natural disaster, savvy burglars may also cut the power to put your home security system out of commission. “Most surveillance cameras don’t have battery backup and recording, so they won’t function when the electricity goes out,” explains Nils Mattisson, CEO and co-founder of the wireless alarm system Minut. “Traditional security systems tend to be better, but not all are equipped with backup batteries.” If your area is prone to severe weather incidents or home invasions, choose a system that can withstand power loss. Here are 13 other safety tips that could save your home from a break-in.

Stay notified of power outages

You can’t protect yourself against power outages if you aren’t aware of them. So, consider a home security system that will notify you when they happen. This is a particularly important feature if you travel frequently. If you’re away from home a lot, check out a security system like Frontpoint. It automatically sends alerts to your phone when the power is lost as well as when it’s turned back on. Here are 14 other ways every homeowner should prepare for a power outage.

Security systems that run through traditional phone lines are the safest

Security systems that operate through traditional phone lines will continue to operate during a power outage, so a backup won’t be necessary. If you live in an area that has frequent power outages from rain, snowstorms, and other weather events, this type of system will give you the most safety as well as peace of mind.

Be aware of issues with VoIP systems

Make sure you know if your security system is connected over a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone line. According to Cassie Tolhurst, a safety advisor for Frontpoint, they can be problematic. “If there is an Internet outage, they stop communicating with monitoring centers,” she says. “Although some home-security companies have created solutions to maintain connectivity even through a power or Internet outage, many do not and can put your home at risk.” Don’t miss these 20 other secrets a home security installer won’t tell you.

Systems connected to the Internet can be the most vulnerable during a power outage

Many security systems, particularly those that are self-installed, are connected to the Internet, but this leaves them open to failure when the power goes out. Similar to VoIP issues during an outage, most of these systems will leave your home unprotected if you lose electricity, says Tolhurst. If you do choose this option, ask the company if the system has a secondary security feature in case of an emergency. Can’t afford a home security system? Here’s how to fake one. 

Opt for security systems with backup power options

According to Gabe Turner of Security Baron, buying a system that doesn’t have backup power can cause problems. “You won’t be able to livestream footage or receive notifications, although your alarms may still work locally if they’re battery-operated,” he says. He recommends choosing a system with cellular, landline, or battery backup. While nothing is foolproof, any type of backup is better than no backup. How else can you stay safe? Check out these 13 sneaky ways FBI agents protect their homes.

Know exactly how your backup system works

Read up on what kind of backup your security system has, as well as how long it will last. “This can vary from company to company, but most will last around 24 hours and keep your system running during that time,” Tolhurst says. “Many batteries only need replacing every six years.”

Purchase a generator

All backup systems have a finite amount of power. Purchasing a generator will keep your home safe and make power outages a less stressful experience. That said, generators can come with their own risks. Turner advises keeping the generator outside, away from any windows. Why? Generators emit carbon monoxide and can sometimes become a safety issue, according to the CDC. Don’t miss these 13 other things you should never do during a power outage.

Check for multiple monitoring centers

Rod Pettingill of Safe Streets recommends making sure your security company has multiple monitoring centers so that you will still be protected if the monitoring center loses power. “If they only have one center and it loses power, your system will still trigger if someone breaks into your home, but no one will be able to respond to the alarm,” he explains. “With more than one center, if one center loses power, the other locations will still be able to monitor your home.”

The best home security systems with external power

If you prefer a traditional landline backup, Turner likes systems from Lifeshield, Protect America, and ADT. But for cellular backup, he suggests ADT, Frontpoint, Ring Alarm, and SimpliSafe.

For a battery backup system, Turner recommends Lifeshield, Frontpoint, and Ring Alarm systems.

Some Protect America and Ring Alarm systems are solar-powered, which can be a good option for those who live in warm, sunny climates. And no matter where you live, you should know the 10 places smart homeowners install security cameras.

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Amanda Lauren
A self-proclaimed "Jackie of All Trades. Marilyn of None," Amanda Lauren does everything including writing about anything lifestyle related for a number of websites as well as her blog, It's Amanda Lauren. Anything but lazy, she also has a podcast called Things We're Too Lazy To Blog About. When she isn't in front of her MacBook, she can be found on stage doing standup and sketch comedy or hosting red carpet events. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their two dogs, Lulu and Milo.