Burglar alarms could have Y2K bug problem

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Burglar alarms could have Y2K bug problem By WARREN CORNWALL Herald Writer The new year's arrival could be heralded by the din of burglar alarms, unless people make sure computer chips in their security systems won't go haywire with the arrival of the year 2000.

The computer glitch known as the Y2K bug has been the subject of so much talk, the shorthand nickname for the problem gets knowing looks even from computer illiterates.

But, while people wonder if banks, electric companies and airlines will be struck with the problem, fewer are addressing pitfalls close to home -- like home security systems, Barry Domber said.

"I think, in fact, the reaction is somewhat cavalier. People by and large don't understand how many of the things in their house have computer chips in them," said Domber, vice president of the New Jersey-based consulting firm Technology and Business Integrators, who has worked with companies such as Lucent Technologies to ensure their security systems will work in the coming year.

Fancy burglar alarms often have computer chips that use dates to gauge when to turn alarms on and off or to adjust for changes such as daylight saving time, Domber said. Some of those chips may use only the last two digits of the year, so 1999 would be read as "99." When 2000 rolls around, the computer could confuse the year with 1900 and malfunction.

In the case of home alarms, the most likely result is a false alarm to police departments or a home security company's monitoring station, Domber said. A less likely scenario is the alarm shutting down.

"If you have a system that was installed before 1997, you should really have it checked," he said.

Businesses could face problems as well. Simple alarms that ring during a break-in probably don't have chips that could go awry. But companies using magnetic badges to open doors need to check their systems, Domber said.

"The chances are that in the reader, especially in those systems that are being used to clock people out, there are date dependencies," Domber said.

If those systems fail, doors could suddenly unlock, he said.

Sonitrol, a nationwide security company with an office in Everett, has fielded Y2K questions from about 40 percent of its 1,400 local customers, said Joe Bullis, the office's general manager.

"All of our equipment has gone through Y2K testing," Bullis said. "We send them (callers) a letter and a certificate of compliance."

If alarm owners haven't heard from installers, "they should call and ask them what steps they are taking. They should ask the companies whether they have tested their hardware, software, and internal functions (such as billing)," said Kara Rupard, spokeswoman for the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, a trade group for alarm installation companies.

They can also turn to alarm manufacturers. Many have statements on their company World Wide Web sites saying if their equipment is Y2K compliant, Rupard said.

Do-it-yourselfers, however, beware. Domber warns against testing an alarm simply by changing its date reading to 2000.

"Whatever you do, don't touch it," he said.

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), June 21, 1999


Alarms are not your biggest concern. The date won't set off the alarm, but might report to the central monitoring office an incorrect date. We have been installing for 22 years and all manufacturers have given written confirmation that the ones we have installed are compliant or simply don't use a clock at all. Also the monitoring service is compliant.

Beyond that, what can you do? probably just wait. Some alarms are not compliant and must be chaecked through the manufacturer and/or installing company.

remember, an alarm is triggered by an opening or closing circuit(depending on application), not by a date.

Bob P lic #11234 NJ

-- Bob P (rpilc99206@aol.com), June 21, 1999.

Bob, I love it when someone posts the facts, not the fantasies you usually read (such as the cited article). Good work. We have found almost nothing but minor y2k bugs in the power utility industry as well. But hey, the facts aren't much fun or as exiting as Y2K Armegeddon...;)

-- FactFinder (FactFinder@bzn.com), June 21, 1999.

er, factfinder - care to document your claims?

Arlin Adams

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), June 22, 1999.

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