Born and raised in Brandon, Darren Hossack has worked in the alarm and security industry for more than 16 years. He began with Alarm-All, and then joined Christ Sobchuk at Allen Leigh Security and Communications. While Allen Leigh was already recognized for creating the “CowCam,” a wireless video signal that transmits from the barn to farmer’s house, Hossack brought the monitored security alarm element to the business about five years ago. (TIM SMITH)
So you’ve spent 16 years in alarms and security. Has there been a noticeable change in the amount of business over that time?
It’s been fairly steady the last few years. The only thing I’ve noticed that has maybe changed is the technology itself. Before, there was the standard sort of security alarm, but now we can have everything going to your cell phones. You can actually turn your house into a smart home via the alarm system — turning lights on and off, thermostats, checking video signals and all those sorts of things.
Are you in any kind of jeopardy from the advancement of technology, in terms of people being able to figure out how to do it themselves? Or do they need the stuff you have to make it work?
The younger generation is getting a lot smarter technology-wise. But we have the 24-hour monitoring surveillance where people are actually being called upon by a third-party company. So unless you can monitor it all by yourself — and there are ways you can do it — people still find dealing with us easier because we have the expertise.
Are we getting more paranoid as a society? I know people who used to leave their keys in their vehicles and their house doors unlocked, which I thought, and think, is really stupid. Do we need to start thinking a whole lot more about security?
Well, I think as the community grows larger, so does crime. Back in the day, you could leave the door open all the time, but I believe those days are long past. You’re just asking for trouble.
And is it just your possessions that you’re worried about? Or is it actually your family members? Things can be replaced. Family can’t. To me — we have four kids — we use it all the time. Every night, every day — it’s a simple button to push, so why wouldn’t you do it? Better safe than sorry.
Is it more when you’re away from home? Or when you’re all there and it’s overnight…
It’s any time of the day. You used to see the TV shows where burglars would break in at night. But we find now that a good majority of the break-ins are happening during the day when people are at work. They’ll actually sit there and watch and find out your schedule and then know when to get in there.
Are most people pro-active, or do you usually get calls after somebody’s experienced an incident who maybe doesn’t have an alarm system?
I would say about seven to eight years ago, other than the commercial industry, calls about the majority of our residential security alarms, unfortunately, came after the fact. Now with all the new construction going on, it almost comes just naturally in the house — they’re being pre-wired, they’re being readied for the alarm system. People here have been a little slower to have them installed than in some of the bigger cities, but we’re catching up.
Do you service just the Westman area?
Generally what we do is a two-hour radius around Brandon. We always want to guarantee good service to the customers, so it’s hard for us, with anybody farther than that, to guarantee that kind of work.
Do you do the monitoring? Or is it somebody else?
Our monitoring station is a Canadian-based monitoring station — all they do is Canadian accounts. It’s not actually in Brandon — there isn’t a local monitoring station anymore since Alarm-All is gone. But it also reduces the headache of me having to staff it all the time.
Fair enough. So if the alarm is tripped, the call goes to the central monitoring station, which is where?
Ours is in Vancouver. But there are seven stations that are all linked together. So even if Vancouver is receiving a high influx of calls, it goes to the next available one.
And what they do, then, is contact the home, first of all — and I know because I’ve accidentally set my mom’s system off more times than I care to tell you — and then they ask you who you are and for the password if you answer the phone. And if nobody responds, or if it could be a burglar, then they automatically call the police.
That is exactly correct. And with the new advances in technology, the false alarms have been reduced quite a bit.
We used to use pretty much nothing but motion detectors, but I really like to try to keep it as a perimeter alarm — we put wireless switches on windows to keep them out. The thing is, with a motion detector, yes, it’ll go off, but the intruder’s already in the house. With Allen Leigh, we try to keep it on a perimeter base, so say if somebody smashes a window or opens a window, the alarm goes off right away and they run away. That, and if you’re in the house yourself, you can’t arm the system with the motion sensors on or you’re going to set it off yourself.
Good point. Any other words of caution or advice in this day and age?
Well, the other advantage of having the alarm system is that it reduces your house insurance rates with most companies. And the cost of the monitoring for the year is almost equalled out by the savings on the house insurance. So to me, it’s a no-brainer.
Years ago we relied on telephone lines in order to get our communication to the monitoring stations, but with the advent of the cell phone and people getting rid of their home phone lines, we’ve switched practically all of our residential monitoring to cellular. Some of the crooks figured it out, that if they went outside and cut your phone line, there was no way of getting the communication across. So now we’ve eliminated that as well. And once you pay for the installation, the cost for monitoring is $19.50 a month.
Heck, I pay that for a bottle of wine! What are the targets usually? Big screen TVs or technology or jewellery, rather than people trying to perpetrate violence? You never know, I guess.
That’s right. And the other thing, too, is we’ve got the people who are addicted to whatever sort of medications and stuff like that — they’ll be looking for that. We’ve actually noticed quite a few of them. My truck was broken into in Winnipeg a little while ago. My wife, Tammy, was in there with her girlfriends — there were about five of them — and all the suitcases, electronics — everything was in there — and the only thing that was missing was a couple of prescription pills.
And I think it’s a little harder for criminals now to pawn off electronics without authentication and receipts. So they’re finding any way they can to get their fixes.
This is a sort of a two-pronged interview, because I know you’re an avid snowboarder. And you mentioned the family — you have four kids. Are they into snowboarding too? Because I see you’ve got quite an elaborate snowboarding set-up in your yard…
The boys, the twins — Rylan and Kayden — are as die-hard as I am, The girls, Shayla and Tianna, do snowboard as well, but just on occasion.
But what prompted you to build that big platform at the side of the house? And you’ve got jumps in the front yard. Was it easier just to build it and supervise at home than to drive somewhere?
That was the problem — in order to snowboard, we need a hill. We need somewhere to do it. Now with ‘The Ranch’ out in Grand Valley by ‘Senate Skate and Snow,’ we get to go out there quite often. But I wanted the boys to be able to practice somewhere at home, too. They’re really good at it — they just turned nine years old.
The neighbourhood kids are coming over, too. I’d like to think I had a little bit of persuasion in getting them into doing the sport. We need to do something in the winter, and if it’s not hockey, what’s the alternative?
And we all know nowadays that hockey, if you don’t have enough money, it’s going to drain you right out. I know when my parents put me through it, I could only do a few years before it became very expensive. So you’ve either got to take that step and jump right in, or it’s kind of an out thing.
I knew with snowboarding, once the original equipment’s paid for, heck, we can climb a hill if we need to and have fun all day.
What is it you like about snowboarding? And is it better on bigger hills?
Oh, most definitely — mountain riding is definitely the best. Number one, the snow is all natural out in the mountains. Two, the biggest rush for me is the actual speed. I know a lot of the snowboarders like to do the jumps and the box rails — the freestyle part of it — but for me, it’s just being able to start up in a mountain and go a hundred-and-some kilometres down the hill.
Is it scary and dangerous?
Well, everything has a danger point to it. But you go within your limits.
And when you’re not snowboarding, you play in a band, too, right?
The band that I play in is ‘Dezl.’ (pronounced diesel) We play anything from classic rock to ’80s rock to real heavy metal. I play bass guitar.
Do you have a lot of gigs? I can’t imagine you have time for a ton of them…
We used to. We’d go on the road every weekend. But now the kids are getting older and it’s a little more difficult, so we’ve kind of shortened it right down to just playing locally, about once a month.
So any dreams of fame, or this is just for you guys to have fun?
This is just for stress-relief more than anything. I played in bands previous to the children where we wrote music and we recorded and we tried, but now it’s just to get out and have a couple of beers with the boys and have fun.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 2, 2013