Dad was apparently trying to disarm the security system. Since he had punched a button on the panel the security system was -- obviously -- going to challenge him to make sure he wasn't an intruder trying to bypass the device. If he failed to give the proper reply the system would sound the alarm and I was going to have to listen to that godawful noise while I tried to disarm it. In an attempt to be proactive I stuck my head out of the bathroom and yelled down the hallway with the passcode. I paused and listened carefully, water running off my body and onto the carpet in rivers. In retrospect I should have wrapped a towel around myself and gone into the kitchen to handle the situation myself. Hell, even if I'd walked into the kitchen in the buff I'd have at least gotten the problem resolved to my satisfaction.
Okay, I think to myself. He's gotten it turned off, so no noise. We're all cool. I duck back into the bathroom, finish my morning routine and emerge to get dressed. Less than ten minutes after I yelled the passcode down the hallway I'm eating some dry cereal in the kitchen and talking with my father (I'm pretty fast in the morning once I'm actually out of the shower and dry). Out of the corner of my vision I see headlights splash in the front door window. Huh, the neighbor must be leaving for work early, is the thought that comes to my mind. I go back to eating my cereal, and am about to take another bite when the doorbell rings. A sense of dread descends upon me.
"What the hell is that about?" asks my dad. He's almost always gruff like that. With my father it's never, "Oh, I wonder who that could be," or "It's awfully early for somebody to be ringing the doorbell." No, with him it's always "What the hell is this about?" Ignoring him completely I'm already up and striding towards the entryway. Is that a menacing shadow I see looming through the window? Why yes, it is. With a sinking feeling in my stomach I turn on the outside light, open the door ... and sure enough there's a large young man sporting a crew-cut hair style and a deep navy uniform standing outside the storm door, his right hand on a pistol grip and his left hand on the handle to the storm door. I look at him for a moment and sigh inwardly.
"Yes, officer?" I ask, already knowing exactly why he's here. The officer eyed me for a moment, his hand never leaving the butt of his Glock. I couldn't help but notice that the safety strap on the holster was undone, the chrome of the button glinting from my porch light. After letting me sweat for a second or two he leaned back as if to look behind me. "Is everything okay here? We received a panic alarm." I look over his shoulder and see another police cruiser glide silently into place across the street from my driveway, parking behind the first one. In the back of my mind I'm impressed -- ten minutes to get two cruisers in my driveway, and the police station is about 4 miles away. That's pretty good timing. Swallowing the lump in my throat I step back and nod, then gesture down the hallway to where my father is standing in front of the security system again, staring at it. "Yes, officer, everything is fine. My parents have been staying for a few days, and my father accidentally tripped the alarm." The officer looked over my shoulder, then nodded a bit. "Alright. You have a good day now." Stammering an apology I nodded and wished him a good day, feeling very embarassed for wasting this gentleman's time. I closed the door and walked back to the kitchen, picking up the phone so I could call the monitoring company and get the alarm events cleared. Once I had that taken care of I went back to the kitchen and sat down, picked up my bowl of cereal and peered over it at my father. "So, when I told you the code... what precisely did you push?" My father demonstrated, and all I could do was shake my head in dismay. I had told him to press one series of buttons, the characters for it are clearly labelled upon the panel. He interpreted it in a manner different than that, and went through the buttons in series instead of sequence. Unfortunately, when you do that, you're entering the panic code that causes the system to dial the police directly with a silent alarm.
Through this misadventure today I've learned a few things: First, I learned that the response time of my police department is quite good. Second, I learned that my father shouldn't be allowed to touch my security system. He's not technologically inept -- he's rather computer-savvy, actually. He's just not allowed to touch the security system without getting some training on it first. I also learned that the panic code will disarm the system, but will still cause the silent alarm to be triggered.
Mostly I learned that I just want that to not happen again. The very last thing I need is to become the house that's infamous for false alarms, and there's two reasons I'm touchy about this. For one thing, I don't want the local dispatcher to say, "Oh, the Olsen place is reporting a break-in via ADT? It's probably the cat this time. Stop by there in a few hours, there's no rush." That sort of defeats the purpose of the security system, now doesn't it? The second reason is a lot more near and dear to my heart right now: most towns have an ordinance allowing only so many false alarms to be called in per year, and once you exceed that number the incidents are penalized with increasingly expensive citations. I don't need to be fined, and I don't want them becoming lax in responding to alarms.
This is another one of those little "perks" that comes with ownership of a home. Fortunately this is just a minor thing and in the long run it shouldn't come back to bite me... I just need to practice a little more due dilligence.