fortress GSM-Bstars4Rating: 4.0 Reviewed by Paul

 

The Fortress Security Store GSM-B Wireless Cellular GSM Home Security Alarm System Kit is a DIY security system that you set up, install and monitor yourself. It is designed so you do not need to sign up to a long term contract for third party monitoring protect your home, valuable and family.

It gives you the ability to self-monitor your system over a land line and cell phone when you buy a GSM SIM card separately. You can receive texts and phone calls when an alarm is                        buy5._V192207739_                        triggered. It auto-dials up to 6 phone numbers and sends a text to up to 3 phones.

It gives this functionality at an affordable price and you get a good selection of sensors. You buy the equipment and can take it with you without incurring any additional costs. As it works wirelessly you do not have to drill holes into your walls to run wires from the control panel to the sensors.

It is customizable and flexible. You can change many of the systems settings to suit yourself as required. You don’t have to do this as it is pre-programmed to work out of the box so you can get it set up and installed in less than 2 hours in many cases. If you want the system can control 99 sensors including environment ones (smoke, CO2 detection) as well as more security devices.
If you don’t want to connect the system to a land line or cellular connection you don’t have to. It will work as an independent alarm system where only the sirens will sound when a sensor is triggered.  You also can’t phone the system to monitor it or arm/disarm it remotely.

The monitoring of the system with your smartphone is through text and phone calls only. There is no app you download to “see” what is going on. Similarly you can’t monitor over the internet. It is a “no frills” self-monitored home security system at an affordable price that can be relied on.

Installation

The system comes pre-programmed to work out of the box. The installation and setup takes only a few hours for most people to complete. The only programming required is to change the program code, operation code, record your voice message, type in 6 phone numbers for calls and 3 numbers to send SMS texts (if you want to use the cellular capabilities).

To use the cellular capabilities of the built-in GSM dialer (dials out over a 2g or 3g cellular network) you need to buy an old standard sized style SIM card (full size) separately from the system. (You can use a micro-card with the system but you will need an adapter and check with the company before buying if unsure).  The recommended networks are AT&T and T-Mobile and (on customer review suggested) mobalfreedom.com. One of the cheapest options is to get a prepaid plan with T-Mobile for $100 per year. This article on the company’s site gives you the instructions for ordering the SIM card needed: https://fortresssecuritystore.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/articles/201360960-Where-do-I-get-a-SIM-card-for-my-GSM-Alarm-System-What-size-of-SIM-card-

You don’t need the internet to install the system. But the manual included with the system can be difficult to follow. There is an updated and much clearer manual available online at the company’s website along with step by step videos to make installation very straightforward. You can also phone the company during their business hours; they are very helpful and should get you up and running quickly.

There are 10 steps in the quick start guide that goes through the steps of setting up the system which should be done before installing. These steps include testing that the sensors are communicating with the control panel. It makes sense to do this before the sensors and control panel are mounted in case there is an issue.

The sensors are installed using double back tape to stick in place. In some of the earlier systems the tape included was not strong enough to hold them in place. In later systems the company has replaced with much stronger 3M tape so this should no longer be an issue.

The only item that will cause an installation issue is the outdoor siren. It requires attaching with screws to the wall and to be plugged into a power source. It comes with a power cord so you may need some help from an electrician to move or install a socket for the power supply.

Contract

You do not sign a contract when you buy this system and there are no ongoing fees needed to pay to unlock the notification and remote monitoring functionality.

It is sold as an unmonitored system that you can monitor yourself with your phone. In theory you could get a monitoring company to monitor on your behalf but it has proved difficult for customers to find a company prepared to do this.

Fortress Security Store GSM-B Wireless Cellular GSM Home Security Alarm System Kit Support

system boxThe company has a very good record in helping customers and prospective ones. They are normally quick to respond to questions and help with problems that may arise with installation and later on.

There is a 3 year manufacturer’s warranty. The company appears to be very responsive in supporting this by quickly sending out replacement parts if they can’t sort the problem over the phone.

They have a 45 day return policy on items purchased on their site and refund less a 10% stocking fee when arranged prior to return.

The company can be contacted by phone and on live chat on their site between 8 AM to 5.00 PM Pacific Time.

When I emailed them some questions on their systems they responded quickly and with full responses.

Cameras

Cameras are not included or supported with this system.

Video Storage

Not applicable.

Alarms

2 sirens are included – an internal siren and an external siren. Both are 130 decibels loud. The loudness cannot be turned down.
The internal alarm needs to be plugged into the control panel to work. The cable is short. This means that it needs to be installed close to control panel and this can help the intruder find the control panel so they can destroy it to stop the siren and the dialing out sequence.

The external alarm communicates wirelessly with the control panel but needs to be plugged in to a power supply so needs to be installed near a socket. It is weather resistant but shouldn’t be installed so it is directly in the rain as water could pool in the horn. Installing under a roof overhang is an ideal location.

The siren when triggered will sound for 3 minutes before the system resets itself back in arm mode unless disarmed. This can be changed to silent or for it to sound from 1 to 10 minutes.

Notification

The Fortress Security Store GSM-B Wireless Cellular GSM Home Security Alarm System Kit can be set up to dial out over a landline or cellular network or both. When both are set up it will first dial out using the landline and if it can’t get the notification out it will then use the cellular network (standard SIM card needs to be bought separately). So if the land line is cut the notification can still get out.

If you don’t have a land line it can be used with VOIP using MagicJack or other suppliers.

It can notify of a security event in three ways:

1.    The siren can sound
2.    Dial out and phone up to 6 phones and play back a 10 second recorded message
3.    Send a text message to up to 3 phones if a SIM card has been installed.

When the system phones out it will playback a 10 second message you recorded and let you know the zone that was triggered. It phones everyone in sequence for up to 3 cycles or until someone answers.

The text message it sends out provides the zone number and location of the incident. You can also set the system to text each time the system is armed or disarmed. This will be charged against your cell provider account – against your text message allowance or charge your account.

You can set the system to call a monitoring service but you need to arrange this with a third party monitoring service yourself. It appears from customer reviews that it is difficult to find a company that supports this system.

It is advised not to set the system to call emergency services as municipalities prohibit alarm systems calling them direct.

Remote Monitoring

When the system dials you, you have the option to disarm, listen in to the room through the control panel and also speak to whoever is in the room. It requires a GSM SIM card to be purchased separately – T-Mobile or AT&T have these but Verizon does not.

Also you can dial in using your smartphone or other phone to listen in to what is happening at home and speak to whoever is in your home.  You dial the system using your land line or the cell phone number of the SIM card number.

If you have a fax or answer machine on your land line you are best to dial in using the Cellular number. In this way you can set the alarm system to pick up after the answer machine or fax by changing the number of rings before it picks up otherwise the system will pick up your calls or fax and ask for a pass code.

Even though it works over a cellular network the system can’t be control and monitored with a smartphone app or through the internet. It is not designed to do this and that is reflected in the price.

Battery

batteries

Sensors/Detection

sensors-detection

Door/Window Contacts

door-window_contacts

Unfortunately you cannot set this system up so that when the system is disarmed that it chimes when a door or window is opened. So, you can’t use it to let you know when someone has entered your store during opening hours or if you want to know when a door is opened when it shouldn’t be like when teenagers are trying to sneak out or your kids are going outside when they should be inside.

Panic Button/Duress Codes

There are 3 ways you can send out an emergency distress notification – by pressing the SOS (panic) button on the control panel, the key fob remote button or the panic button included with the system.

The notification is sent out immediately a button is pressed by phone call and SMS text. The default is that the siren does not sound but this can be changed if you want it to notify anyone in the house that there is an intruder.

There is no option for a duress code to be used to sent out a notification that system you have have been forced to disarm the system.

Setting The Alarm

You have 2 modes for arming your system – in away arm and home arm. Away arm is where all sensors are armed.
Home arm is for where you or someone is staying at home and will be moving around inside – it is normally set so the window/door contacts are armed and the motion sensors are not. In this way you can move around your home without setting of the alarm.

There are 4 options for arming the system in away mode when a SIM card has been installed. They are:

Control panel – pressing the arm key

Remote control fob – pressing the lock key

Phone – you can phone the system and arm or disarm by entering the operating pass code and the number for arming and disarming

Text – by texting operation pass code to the SIM card and arming number

You can disarm the system using these 4 methods too.

To arm in home mode you can only use the remote key fob and control panel to do this.

In addition it is possible to schedule when the system is armed and disarmed. It does arm in away mode so can only be used when the home is unoccupied such as when everyone is out at work and school during the week. So, the system can be timed to be set after everyone leaves in the morning and disarm for just before your children arrive home.

When you set or disarm the system using the control panel you can hear the beeps from the panel to confirm this has happened. If you use the remote key fob you normally do this outside the home and won’t hear this. If you want to hear a confirmation you can program the system so the siren gives a short burst of sound to let you know it has been successful.

You can phone and text the system to arm/disarm, receive notifications and listen in. These functions give you good control over the setting of the system but without giving you an option to use a smartphone or the internet to arm/disarm or monitor the status of the system.

Control Panel

control panelThis is the brains of the system and is where you can program, monitor and control the system.  There is quite a bit of functionality on this system for the price.

At the back of the panel is where you can add wired sensors to the system but check with Fortress before doing this. The siren, power cord and phone cords for the land line are plugged in to the back too. The SIM card slot is on bottom right corner. Also, this is where you access the backup battery if it needs replacing.

The front of the panel has a display panel that is 1.5 inches by 3 inches. This is where you can see: how strong the GSM cellular strength is, whether a land line is connected, system is armed, sending out notifications, the source of power – battery or house supply, system date, system time and the zone number and name of any triggered sensors that have not been cleared.  The details displayed are of a size where someone with average sight can see them quite easily.

Around the display are status symbols letting you know if the SIM card is active, what mode the system is armed in (home or away), that main panel is working, if panel is being programmed or the alarm has been triggered.

Underneath the display is the keypad and the speakers and microphone (for recording and listening in to room over your phone).

The keypad has the standard 10 numbers you expect plus the enter and esc buttons for programming. Also included are the buttons for arming in home or away mode, panic button and using the control panel as a phone.

By pressing the phone button (if a SIM card is installed) on the control panel and entering a phone number you can use the control panel as a speakerphone and hold a conversation for as long as you want.

Using the keypad you can see a log of the last 30 alarm events showing the date, time, zone and zone number.

By default the keypad and display is not backlit except when buttons are pushed making them hard to see in poor light but this can be changed so they are backlit at all times. This reduces the time the backup battery will work as the charge is drained quicker.

When you press the keys the system makes a loud beep and a voice speaks to let you know the button pressed. You can turn the voice off if you want but not the beeping.

There are 2 pass codes for the system. One is the program code and operation code. The program code is used to program the system and the operation code is used to arm and disarm the system.

There is only one operation code allowed by the system which can be restrictive as you probably won’t want to give this out to people visiting your house. You can change it as often as you want, so you could change it afterwards to prevent someone using when you don’t want them to. Giving your visitor or the workman you want to give access a remote key fob is one option or disarming/setting remotely by phone call or text is another way to achieve this.

Timers

When you arm the system in away arm you have 60 seconds to leave the building before the system is activated. It is possible to change the activation to happen between 1 and 99 seconds. The control panel beeps once every second during this delay time

There is a delay from when one of the sensors is activated and the alarm is sounded and the calls being made of 40 seconds. During this time the control panel beeps once every second which could alert an intruder to its location. This can also be changed to a delay period of 1 to 99 seconds.

For some zones this delay time can be disabled so that the alarm and calling out happens immediately as you would want when the panic button is pressed.

Protection against it being switched off

One of the known weaknesses of traditional alarm systems is that a criminal could defeat the dialing out function by cutting the land line before entering the home.

If the land line is cut with this system, it will dial out on the GSM network when a SIM card is installed therefore providing protection against this weakness.

Coverage

The sensors and key fob remotes can work up to 150 feet away from the control panel which is fine for most homes. If you need to extend the coverage you can buy a Wireless Signal Repeater separately which increases the range to up to 400 feet.

Wireless or Wired

This wireless system communicates with itself using the 433 mhz frequency and therefore should not interfere with your WiFi internet network.

As noted above the internal alarm is the exception to the wireless communication as it is powered and communicates with the control panel via a cord. The control panel and the external alarm are both powered by plugging into the house supply. All the other sensors are battery powered.

Zones

system without control panelThere are 10 zones that can hold up to 10 sensors each.  All sensors in a zone will have the same settings or characteristics as each other, i.e. you can’t customize the setting of the sensors only the zones.

The zones can be set to have the following characteristics:

1.    Location – the zone can be named Balcony, Boundary, SOS, Fire, GAS, Door, Hall or Window.  Unfortunately it does not give you the option of using names like living room, kitchen etc.  Also, when a sensor is triggered the control panel will let you know the zone number and name but not the sensor triggered. To help with this it’s a good idea to keep a table or spread sheet to keep a record of which sensors are in which zone when testing during the set up phase.

2.    Armed state – There is a choice of 3 settings. You can set the zone to be armed only when in away mode as you might do with motion sensors so you can move around the house without triggering the alarm. The next setting is home armed and usually window/door contacts are in this setting – as you want them armed when you are at home and away. The third choice is disarmed and the sensors will trigger an alarm at any time including when the system is disarmed – as you would want for smoke alarms and panic buttons.

3.    Siren – you can set this to be disabled by zone if you want a silent alarm and just want to be notified by phone call or text if a sensor is triggered in that zone. You can use it cover the situation if you wanted to know when the liquor cabinet is being accessed you could put a door/window contacts on the door and set the zone so you are notified but not sound the alarm.

4.    Delay – this allows you to set the time between when the sensor is triggered and when the alarm is sounded up to 99 seconds.
There are some good customizable characteristics for each zone. If you had more choice in naming the zones it would make it easier to know the area in the house that a sensor had been triggered, and even better it would have been great if the sensors could be named or identified by a number but you normally only see this functionality with more expensive systems that often comes with a monthly fee too.

Dimensions

The dimensions of the components

Control panel – 7.75 inches by 5.25 inches by 1.5 inches

dimensions

Features

FeauresThe features and components are the same as the Fortress S02-b system except for the control panel where the biggest difference is that the Fortress GSM-b system has capability to dial out over a cellular network when a SIM card is installed (bought separately).

Accessories

The system can hold up to 99 sensors (92 wireless and 7 wired) and up to 8 remote control key fobs.

accessoriessphere_siren

Pros

Can use a landline and cellular network to send out alert notifications, to monitor and arm/disarm the system remotely

If the land line is cut it can dial out using the cellular network when set up to do so

3 year manufacturer’s warranty on all parts

45 day return policy on their site

Very good customer service

Easy and quick to install and set up by yourself with great help available online or by phoning the company if needed

It is portable and can be taken with you when you move – makes this ideal for renters

It is customizable and flexible to your needs. You can add to it as you want and move sensors to new locations easily

Home and away settings

No fixed long term contracts or monthly fees

Will notify up to 6 phone number and send text messages up to three phones when SIM card installed

Can set on a timer to arm and disarm system

Delay timers for activating alarm and/or zone can be changed to suit your circumstances

Cons

It is not a fully interactive system that you control with a smartphone app or over the internet

Difficult to find a third party monitoring company to monitor on your behalf

Looks cheap and dated although this does not affect how well it works

When disarmed the door/window contacts do not chime to let you know they have been opened

Only one operation/user code for arming/disarming the system so if you give this code to visitors you’ll have to change it to keep the system secure

Motion sensors are not pet friendly but can be tilted to not cover below 4 feet or pet friendly sensors can be bought separately

Need to buy SIM Card separately and pay network charges for cellular coverage

Does not work with Verizon but you can buy old style SIM cards to install from AT&T, T-Mobile and Mobal Freedom

There is no duress code for getting a notification out that you have been forced by someone to disarm it

Only a small home owners insurance discount may be available when self-monitored

External siren does not have back up power so won’t work in power outage

Can’t add cameras to the system so need to be separately installed and controlled

Zone descriptions not very useful and can’t tell which sensor is triggered alarm in a zone

Internal siren is connected to control panel making it easy to locate the control panel

It is difficult to find a monitoring company that will monitor this system

Only one user pass code limiting how many people you can have use control panel to disarm system

Fortress Security Store GSM-B Wireless Cellular GSM Home Security Alarm System Kit Consumer Ratings

Fortress GSM-B ReviewThere are a lot of positive reviews for this system with most describing how much they are delighted with the customer service they received.

There are some people who are disappointed by the way it looks and the fact they can’t control it with their smartphone like you can with more expensive systems. When looking at this system it is important to realize this is a no frills alarm system that can communicate with text or phone call over the cellular network and can be relied on to notify you when you need it.

The description could possibly be improved by pointing out that the cellular network enables you to be phoned and notified by the system (and phone it) and emphasizing it does not give you the feature rich functionality you get with a system that works with the internet or a smartphone app.

This system is a no frills system that people rate  highly. It does what the customers expect and is easy to install and maintain.

Fortress Security Store GSM-B Wireless Cellular GSM Home Security Alarm System Kit Price

This is a very affordable alarm system that you can monitor yourself. You get a good number of intruder sensors and remotes that mean you can cover apartments and probably the downstairs of a home without having to buy additional sensors. Depending how many occupants you have in your home or business you may want to buy additional remote control fobs.

The components do look cheap and do have a retro look with the antenna but this does not appear to have affected the functionality of the system at all. Any problems are dealt with quickly by the system.

When comparing the price with other systems that offer cellular network phone calls it is important to include the cost of the SIM card and call charge plan to get an overall cost comparison.

The price on Amazon is slightly more than that on Fortress site but you have Amazon’s customer service to rely on and their reputation for delivering quickly.

If you want a system with less sensors because you have a smaller apartment or want to cover a boathouse or shed or something similar Fortress offer a smaller starter kit. They also have a kit with pet friendly motion sensors so you can set alarm in away mode so your pets won’t trigger the alarm. You can see their selection here: Fortress GSM-B Home Security System Kits

Summary

There are many different choices with home security systems. This system is an affordable priced system that covers the basics very well of securing your premises and notifying you when there is an intrusion. The reviews by customers are very positive.

It does not come with the ability to monitor over the internet or with a smartphone app or with third party monitoring.

It is easy to install in a few hours (one customer review said they did it all within 45 minutes). You get a very good selection of devices in the kit to cover up to 10 entry points and 3 rooms.

So, for many people this will mean the ground floor of their home is covered or full coverage for an apartment or small business. You do need to self-monitor the system but this means there are no ongoing costs or contracts to sign.

Filed under: Reviews

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