Wireless Home Security 101 – How To Arm Your Alarm System

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Learn About Wireless Home Security

Learn About Wireless Home Security

Only about one in four homes in the US has a monitored alarm system – which is not a lot, when you consider that a burglary occurs about once every 15 seconds.

The gradual increase in burglaries across the US, which is often tied to a suffering economy, has certainly generated more interest in protecting our homes and families: more and more homeowners are getting on board with a new system, especially now that systems can be smarter (with interactive features), and safer (with 100% cellular monitoring).

Sadly, I hear all too often that there just aren’t enough objective and reliable sources of information about alarm systems, and that is why this blog sprang into being – to fill a gap that has existed since before I joined the industry in 1989. So, from time to time I will pen an entry that starts with “Wireless Home Security 101” – and pick a topic that explains some nuts-and-bolts aspect of how alarm systems work.

Many people are not familiar with the terms “Stay” and “Away” in reference to how an alarm system is set. The alarm industry calls these “arming modes,” and pretty much every good system out there offers you both of these two setting options:

Arm Your Home Security When You Are Away“Away Mode” refers to when you are arming the system prior to leaving the house entirely, such as during the day if nobody is home. An easy way to remember this arming mode is that everything is armed: the exterior sensors (doors, windows and glassbreak sensors), and the interior sensors (motion sensors). If this is the only way you use your system (and some folks do just that), then you can usually get by with fewer alarm sensors. You always want to have a sensor on every exterior door, but the interior spaces are more easily protected using motion sensors – one or more of these sensors placed strategically where an intruder might go will detect motion in the house and activate the alarm.

Note: these motion sensors are generally pet-friendly up to 40 pounds, so if your Newfie or Bernese Mountain Dog has the run of house all day, then you need to use (and equip your house for) the other mode. Remember my two dogs? One of them is pretty big, so Away Mode is not for me!

Arm Your Home Security When You Home“Stay Mode” is used when you are arming the house when you are there, like at night – and this setting arms only the perimeter of your system: that means doors, windows, and glassbreak sensors. The motion sensors are not armed, since you don’t want to set off your own alarm when going for that midnight snack.

Of course, if there are areas of the house where you don’t go at night, such as an unfinished basement, then you could put a motion sensor down there and ask your alarm company to program the device to be armed even in the Stay Mode. Then, if you ever do need to go down there when the system is armed, you just need to disarm it before you go down to check the furnace: simply rearm it when you come back upstairs.

FrontPoint Security, a leader in interactive wireless home security, is pleased to present this blog for its customers, soon-to-be customers, and the alarm-shopping public. The FrontPoint web site has produced targeted and informative videos on plenty of alarm topics, and this one is no exception. In fact, here is aneasy link to a video entitled, What Alarm Equipment Do I Need, that is tailor-made to help you understand the relationship of your alarm equipment and the arming modes.

I promise to address the topic of alarm system design in a later post, but since we get a lot of questions about arming modes, it made sense to address Stay & Away for the first installment of “Wireless Home Security 101.” With your new understanding of Stay and Away modes, you are now good to go – or stay!


Comments (46)

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  1. Hilary

    What is the refresh cycle for the motion sensors? For example, if a motion sensor is triggered, how soon will it report additional movement? I ask because we’ve had trouble with our cat setting off the motion sensors (she must run around a lot when we’re not home) and we’re looking for ways to detect a false alarm versus a break-in. We thought if a motion sensor reported repeated movement that would be a sure sign of trouble, versus a single report of movement, which would most likely be the cat. Thank you for your help!

    • Gilbert Cho

      Hey Hilary! To answer your question, once a motion sensor is triggered, it will stay in the activated state for about three minutes before returning to idle. Motion will not be detected during this this reset period.

      The motion sensor was designed to set off an alarm at the first sign of movement, but should not be detecting pets under 40 pounds. If your cat is triggering your motion sensor, we’d like to work with you to reposition the sensor so it still covers the area, but won’t be accidentally triggered by your cat.

      I’ll let a Support Specialist know to reach out to you to work with positioning the sensor!

  2. Andy

    I have a Simon XT system with about 16 standard door/window sensors. I would like to have one sensor on my 3 year old son’s room so we can receive a notification when he is leaving his room. He likes to sneak out and go downstairs and play in the middle of the nite.

    I was told if I put the sensor in Group 40, I could do this, but my notification only seems to work if set for being open for one minute.

    How can I program this sensor to be an instant notification via the app and SMS even though it isn’t a monitoring station enabled group.

    • Jamie Botzer

      Hi Andy, you should be able to receive instant notifications. I’m sorry that you can’t!

      Shoot me an email (jamie.botzer@frontpointsecurity.com) with the name on your account and I’ll have one of our Customer Support Specialists contact you to see why this isn’t happening. Thanks!

  3. ctamex

    Vould you plaese tell me how to arm away without delay from the mobile app on my phone? There is only the “no delay” checkbox option on the arm stay and not arm away. Thanks

    • Jamie Botzer

      Hi ctamex, unfortunately you cannot arm away with no entry delay from the mobile app. This feature is presently only built into the Control Panel, with the thought that if you armed without entry delay from your smartphone, you may accidentally trigger your alarm when you come home. If you’d like to learn more about your smartphone’s app capabilities, please feel free to contact our Support Team and they will happily walk you through everything! Thanks for your question.

  4. olivia

    Att digital life, what’s the difference between inst and stay?

  5. Tammy

    Hi. I have a question regarding the control panel. When we arm with delay, once armed the button stays lit. But when we arm with no delay, once armed the button will flash. Is this normal for the this to occur? Thank you.

    • Peter M. Rogers


      Thanks for your comment. In fact, what you describe is exactly the way the control panel is supposed to work. I understand that your Support has reached to you to discuss this, and answer your questions – which we are ALWAYS happy to do. Thanks again!

  6. Willis

    I just ordered from Frontpoint and eagerly waiting for my system to arrive. While I wait, I’ve been researching installation locations. I’ve a few questions. My question is there a way to program a delay with motion sensors? I did read the “Entry Delay,” but does that apply to motion? My main concern is installing the motion in my living room corner facing the front and garage doors and stairs leading upstairs. If I come in through front or garage door, I’m assuming it would trigger and alarm instantly? I need a way to delay that so I can turn off the alarm.

    I will also be setting my motion sensor ON when I’m home before bedtime. Is there a way to set the motion to sound alarm instantly or delayed? For ex., pressing STAY will turn motion ON with instant alarm, if triggered. Pressing AWAY will turn motion ON with delay alarm.

    I understand motion will be less sensitive to pets under 40lbs. I’m assuming it’s sensing the pet by the dimensional size of an object and not the actual weight? If my 10lbs cat walks upstairs through the path of the sensor, would it trigger an alarm? If two of my cats are tackling each other with a combine weight of 20lbs, would that also trigger an alarm?


    • Peter M. Rogers

      Willis – Thanks: excellent questions.

      Yes, there is a way to program a delay with the motion sensors, we would just need to put the sensor in a different programmable “group.” The ability for the control panel to accept different sensor “groups” allows a security system to be customized for how our customers want their systems to behave for their lifestyle and home.

      Some customers choose to have their motion sensors on at night to protect an area of the house that is vulnerable – this can be done with the STAY option. Taking this a step further, if a customer has multiple motion sensors, they are able to activate some motion sensors in one area of the house, and not activate other sensors in other areas of the house. This would protect the area of the house that no one would walk around at night (i.e. a basement). All of this can be arranged with the “groups” mentioned earlier by a customer support representative at the time of activation, or at any time thereafter.

      The motion sensors have infrared beams that span a 90 degree area from the center point of the motion sensor. The beam is mostly parallel to the ground but also has a “look-down” feature making it harder for an intruder to sneak by – or under the beam array. You are correct about the way it works: the sensor has sophisticated processing built into it that will discriminate between a human sized “warm” object and a smaller one, using ~40 lb. as the threshold. However, if a cat or dog is very active (i.e. jumping onto furniture), the animal may present a larger image and trigger the sensor. That is to say, your cat walking up the stairs should present no problem. But two cats conducting an airborne free-for-all may just set the system off. That’s why placement becomes so important.

      Thanks again for your questions!

  7. Paul

    Is there a way to configure additional armed modes? It seems like you should be able to define an arbitrary number based on your specific needs. For example, i would prefer 4:

    1.) Armed Away
    2.) Armed Stay – Inside (Would include windows and sliding patio door)
    3.) Armed Stay – Night (some inside sensors could be turned on)
    4.) Armed Stay – Outside (some windows and sliding patio door not armed b/c we may be enjoying the outdoor space)


    • Peter M. Rogers

      Paul -Thanks for your excellent question. While we can address your various needs on a case by case (or condition by condition) basis, it happens that there is not actually a method to accommodate all four needs at once.

      Based on how the GE Simon XT control panel operates today, we can change sensor groups so that specified door/window sensors are armed in Stay and Away, or Away mode only. If you would like to bypass one or more sensors, then you can do this from the control panel, but you may find it somewhat repetitive if you do this on a regular basis.

      Please let us know if you have any questions about this, or would like to know how to manually bypass sensors.

      Below is a list of what the system can do for each situation you mentioned:

      1) Armed Away: All intrusion sensors are armed (default)
      2) Armed Stay: Inside – Motion sensors will NOT be armed; all other intrusion sensors (door/window and glass break sensors) will be armed (default)
      3) Armed Stay: Night – All door/window and glass break sensors would be armed; some motion sensors can be placed in a different group (group 35) so that they arm in both stay and away.
      4) Armed Stay: Outside – Specified door/window sensors can be set in a “non-reporting” group 40 (these will not trigger an alarm), or set them in group 19 so they arm only in “Away” mode.

      Thanks again – and please feel free to call our Support team for further questions, or for more detail on the above.

  8. Joe Wojtas

    Is there a way to “arm imediately” so we don’t have to listen to the series of beeps for 30 seconds? Interested in this for control panel and iPhone application.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Joe – thanks for your excellent question. The answer is a resounding yes, although you have some options here, based on whether you are arming in “Stay” or “Away” mode: it may be easier for you to call the folks in Customer Service to have them walk you through the various processes. For example, you can “Instant Arm” in “Stay” mode by pressing the “Doors & Windows” button twice. To silence the beeping, you then press the “Silent” button. And there is now a way to arm the system without delay from your iPhone. You will have to download the latest version of the app to get that feature. Once you have done that, you will see a pop-up box when you select the arming option. It’s there that you select or unselect the “Entry Delay” option (it’s a check-box). Thanks again – and if you have any issues or other questions, please don’t hesitate to call our Customer Service team.

  9. Kim Clark

    On the mobile app, what are “push notifications”?. I’m afraid to put it on for fear that I won’t know how to fix it back if I don’t need it. I have no idea what push notifications are.

    Thanks, Kim

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Kim – Great question, and thanks for asking. We specialize in the kinds of interactive services that are getting so much press these days, and push notifications are just one more cool aspect of what FrontPoint can do to make your life more convenient – and secure.

      A push notification is a service that can send notifications to third party applications on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Instead of the notification being sent in the form of a text message over a cellular network, it is sent via a mobile or wireless internet network directly to an application. When setting up notifications on MyFP.com, instead of having to type in the mobile number in which to send text notifications, you can enable your mobile phone or tablet as a push device and be able to select that device as a recipient. This is a great time saver. However, in order for push notifications to work, the device must always have some form of internet connection and must be permanently logged into the alarm.com application.

      Please feel free to call our Support team for assistance with this or any other FrontPoint questions. We want you to get the most out of your system!

  10. mike

    is there a way to arm the system using the iphone app, where there is no entry delay? using the control panel, that is done by hitting the doors and windows button twice; but can it be done from the iphone app? otherwise, there is always a 30-second delay with armed stay and armed away modes.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Mike – thanks for your question. In fact there is now a way to arm the system without delay from your iPhone. You will have to download the latest version of the app to get that feature. Once you have done that, you will see a pop-up box when you select the arming option. It’s there that you select or unselect the “Entry Delay” option (it’s a check-box). Thanks again – and if you have any issues or other questions, please don’t hesitate to call our Customer Service folks.

  11. LaLa

    I arm my alarm for “away” before bed because my motion detector is in the living room area and I don’t have to go that way at night even if I do get up. However, about 80% of the time, my alarm will change by itself to “stay”. If I wanted it on that, I would do it myself. Why does it sometimes do that?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, LaLa, for your comment. Some people do just as you do – they use the “away” mode even when they are home, if the motion sensor location(s) can be avoided while the system is armed. However, I’m not aware of any situation where the system will change its own arming status, and strongly suggest you contact your alarm company’s service department to straighten this out. I do not see you in our customer account list based on your email, so I am not sure if you are a FrontPoint customer or not – but if you are with FrontPoint, please call (877) 602-5276 as soon as you are able to do so.

      Thanks again.

      • Danny

        Hi LaLa and Peter,

        Some alarm panels switch automatically from AWAY arming to STAY arming if the alarm panel does not “see” an entry/exit door being opened during the exit delay after the alarm system was AWAY armed.

        In other words, the alarm panel has recognized that you did not exit the home during the exit delay, and as such, it automatically switched the arming to STAY mode to prevent you from causing an alarm by passing in front of the motion detector(s) which would be active in AWAY mode while you are still inside your home.

        You must contact the alarm company that installed your alarm system and ask them to change the programming to prevent automatic AWAY to STAY arming detection.

        Or, you can arm your alarm system in AWAY mode and then open and close your front door during the time alloted for your exit delay to “trick” the alarm system into thinking that you have left the house.

        The alarm panel will “see” that the front door has been opened and then shut and it will “think” that you left the house. So it will arm in AWAY mode, as you want.

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Danny – Thanks for weighing in here. It happens that you are correct when you say “some” panels work that way. The GE Security Simon XT control panel sold by FrontPoint has the option to work that way, but we turn that option off 100% of the time, unless a customer specifically wants their panel to work that way. The feature is called “Unvacated Premises” and works as you describe it – but again, it’s not relevant for FrontPoint panels. Just one more way that we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the crowd! Thanks again.

        • LaLa

          Thank you both. I think that is how mine is set up where one of the exit doors must open and close with the away mode. so now I just arm it, open the door, and shut it and all is well. Thanks

          • Peter M. Rogers

            You are most welcome!

  12. Jennifer

    I just recently had an ADT alarm system installed. We have away mode, which covers doors, windows, and motion…as well as a stay mode which only covers the perimeters. We have a large dog that comes with me at times during the day, which is when I would set the alarm to away mode. However, when I leave the house and leave him in it, I would need to set the alarm to stay so that he does not set off the motion sensor. However, once I set the alarm to stay mode, it will not let me leave the house without changing to away mode. Is there a way to set the alarm to stay mode, leave the house, and let my dog still be able to roam about? Thanks in advance!

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Jennifer – thanks for your question. Of course, we wish you had just bought a FrontPoint system – but if you had, you would not be facing this dilemma. What you are trying to do makes perfect sense: be able to arm the system in “Stay” mode and then leave the house. When I was traveling a lot for work, that is exactly what I would do when leaving at 5 am to catch an early flight: arm the system in stay mode, so that my family was still protected after I left. It amazes me, in fact, that your system won’t let you do that. I would be calling ADT right away, if I were you, and getting them to make that change in the programming for you – for free.

      Of course, a FrontPoint system would give you another option. With our interactive monitoring services, you can can remotely disarm and arm your system (in either mode) from anywhere, using our free mobile app. Almost all our customers have these cool interactive features, including notifications, video, and even remote home automation capability, for lights, locks, and thermostats. ADT was late to the game, and they charge a lot for these services – and I’m not sure they have the ability to support them very well.

      Good luck to you, and thanks again for your question. And next time you are in the market for some real peace of mind, please give us a call!

  13. Katharina Ray

    When issuing “Arm Stay” with my iphone Alarm.com app, the base station issues a long series of beeps. If I were using the base station, I could hit the Silent button on it to stop the annoying arming beeps But I’m using an iPhone at the other end of the house. How can I silence all those beeps without impacting the intrusion alert sounds.
    Thanks in advance or your help.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Katharina – Thanks for your question. I’ve replied directly to you with the answer, but for anyone else who might be curious, here it is:

      You can set the panel to always arm “Silent” when arming from a remote device. This option can be found on the myfrontpoint website. In the top right corner of the Arming box there is a gear icon that you can click, and it will bring up an option for having the system arm in Silent mode in arm Stay or Away, or both.

      If you have any questions, please call us at (877) 602-5276.

      Thanks again!

      • John DePrato

        Is there anyway to do this with the keyfobs as well? It’s great to have this setting for the smartphone app, but it would also be great to have this same setting for the key fobs!

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Actually you can use the key fob to arm in Stay or Away. If you have any question, call our Support team and they will be happy to help you. Thanks!

      • Paul

        I am looking for this option to SILENT arm the system remotely (via website). You refer to a “gear” icon in the Arming box — but there is no gear present. How do I set the remote arming to be silent as either a one-off action or as the default? Thanks.

        • Paul

          I just checked the online help too, which also mentions the “gear” and arming settings:

          Arming Settings – Arming Settings can be accessed by clicking on the gear icon in the upper right corner of the Current Arming State box. Arming Settings includes the Silent Arming feature.

          Silent Arming – By default, when you arm your system, the panel makes exit delay beeps. Silent Arming allows you to arm the system without any noise. Your Silent Arming setting applies to all future commands from this login through any user interfaces (including mobile apps, mobile site, and this website) for this system. There are separate settings for Arm Stay and Arm Away.

          But I do not see this mystical “gear” that will allow me to arm the system silently, which is exactly what I want to do (we leave, forgetting to arm STAY, and there are people sleeping in the house — we want a silent remote arming).

          • Jamie Botzer

            Hi Paul, I confirmed that this is still possible through your online account. Here are the step-by-step directions:
            – First click the arming method, either ARM (AWAY) or ARM (STAY)
            – After you click your arming method, an arming options box will appear. To have silent arming, click the check box next to “Silent Arming”
            – After you have selected that you want silent arming (or not), click the ARM button

            I hope this helps. Please let me know if you still have issues silent arming from your online account.

          • Paul

            Jamie — thank you! I figured there might be a silent arming option *after* you first click the AWAY or STAY links… but I wasn’t brave enough to try with people in the house. Really good to know! And thanks for coming back to me as promised — truly appreciate it.

            As an aside, you might want to get those help docs updated on the website and save yourself some confused customers!

            Cheers; Paul.

        • Jamie Botzer

          Hi Paul, there should still be a way to do this now that the gear icon is no longer there. I’m checking into this and will get you an answer (either way) soon!

          • Paul

            Awesome — thank you Jamie!

  14. Henry Munford

    This article was timely for me but unfortunately it does not help. I want to know how to arm the system for when I am at home at night (and so have no delay for an entry) and also when I am away and there is a delayed alarm so I can have time to enter and disarm the system.
    My alarm system is not yet a year old and i do not see or have a “stay” or an “away” button on the master or outlying panels as the article suggests.
    Any help?

    • Steve Roberts

      Hi Henry! On your Control Panel:

      To arm your system in Away Mode, press the Motions Button once.
      To arm your system in Stay Mode, press the Doors+Windows Button, once to allow for the standard 30 second entry delay and twice for no entry delay (primarily used at night when no one should be expected to enter). You can also press the Silent Button after intiating a command on your Main Control to silence the beeps and double your exit time.

      • Peter M. Rogers

        Steve – You are right on the money – and thanks! That is exactly the set of instructions that our Support Team would provide.

  15. Bob Miller

    I started with FrontPoint early in 2009 and I just ordered and installed a FrontPoint alarm for a neighbor. One of the best things about ordering and installing was the interactive communications between myself and FrontPoint. This is a significant change from just 15 months ago. Howell of FrontPoint was extremely helpful and it seemed that he became my “account executive”. Whenever I sent an email or called he was the one who responded. That is great. Howell, was able to answer my 3-4 questions and informed me of things I had not known or which I had forgot. Your newsletter just informed me that special programming for motion sensors in the stay mode. Great!! Keep up the good work.

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