Understanding pain points before hooking up a siren

So I’m new to all this, but have a ST hub and recently installed a EcoLink (ZWP) door sensor on my garage. I’d like to pair this door sensor with a siren (not yet purchased) so that it goes off when the system is armed and the door is opened. However, I’ve stumbled across threads which talk about difficulties getting sirens to turn off if ST is down or some other unexpected event occurs. And since I leave for business trips occasionally, I don’t want to leave and have my wife have to deal with this while she tries to manage the kids simultaneously.

What siren, and ST app setup, do I need to get so that I can set this up but be able to turn the siren off easily in the event that something goes awry? If something is going to go wrong, I want to have a plan that she can follow in the event that I’m not there and can’t do it myself. And if there are sirens that have easier shutoffs than others, I’d love to hear that too. Thanks!

Sirens are tricky things. You’re right, they tend to be finicky if the platform is running slow, the zwave mesh is not in great shape or the internet is acting up. It’s better to use a local DTH for your siren if possible since it’s a little faster to react than a custom DTH which runs in the ST cloud.

There are loads of Sirens out there, Utilitech, ZooZ, Vision, Dome etc. Each has it’s pros and con’s, you can check them out and see what works best for you. Most Siren’s will work with the local DTH (you can’t access their advanced feature though, which require a custom DTH). Some sirens like the Vison Siren turn off after 5 minutes by default. If you’re concerned about a Siren running continuously non stop then you can check out this Siren as it’ll stop by itself (you can adjust the setting using a custom DTH). If you’re using the stock DTH on this Siren it’ll stop in 5 minutes.
If you have a ZigBee Keypad (which you can use to control your security system), some of them have built in Siren (85dB to 105dB) which is actually more reliable than a Z-Wave Siren IMHO. These are fairly cheap to buy on eBay.

As for triggering it, same thing applies. Easiest option is to use SHM (Smart Home Monitor) Security Module. It has most of the features you’ll need to monitor sensors and trigger a Siren. You can also create your own custom rule using various apps like CoRE or WebCoRE etc to create a custom monitoring setup. You can also check out the Security System Intruder Alerts with Actions app which is a specialized security app and used to create various security monitoring rules, can also use a keypad, announce event and more. The plus is that your spouse can use the keypad to arm/disarm the system and turn off the alarms.

There are loads of options. You can start with the basic and work your way up or if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

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The major issue with using the official smart home monitor feature, and it’s probably the one you were reading about in the forum, is that if the smartthings cloud is not available (either because your Internet is out or because the cloud itself is down) Then the following will be true:

  1. you will not be able to change the armed state of smart home monitor. At all. So you can’t change it to disarmed.

That means if you have a local smart home manager automation set up so that if the armed state is “away” and the front door is open, the siren goes off, and you came home while the armed state was “away“ but your Internet was out so you were not able to change the armed state, then every time you open the front door the siren will keep going off. Because you have no way to change the automation or change the security.mode. :scream:

  1. you will not be able to use the app to turn the siren off because the app cannot communicate with the hub if the cloud is not available.
    :scream::scream:

So these are the situations where people talk about having to get to the siren (which they might have intentionally put in a hidden position so a burglar couldn’t break it) And then take the batteries out of it.

This is just an artifact of smartthings being a cloud-based system. They didn’t have to design it this way, but they did. You can only use the app when the cloud is available. You can only change the mode when the cloud is available.

Since there is literally no way to change the armed state unless the cloud is available, the only Plan B is to use a siren which is Mains powered, not battery powered, and have previously set up a local automation which lets you manually flip a switch to cut power to the siren. ( because you can’t create a new automation if the cloud is unavailable, even if they are automations which will run locally.)

How often would you need that? Probably not very often, but often enough that you do see multiple reports of the issue in the forums.

So the problem isn’t the siren itself. The problem is not being able to change the mode from away to home if the cloud is not available and not being able to use the app if the cloud is not available.

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Also note that no custom automations, including webcore and including all of rboy’s apps, can run locally. They all run in the cloud.

So again, if the Internet is out or the cloud is unavailable, none of the custom code will run. That might be your Plan B, but if it is, you will still need a plan C, even if it’s just taking the batteries out of the siren. :wink:

Not true for the Vision Siren. It will stop after 5 minutes (default config), internet or not.

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I installed a “secret” toggle switch inline so that I can turn off the siren should any of the above events occur.

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But if it’s being triggered by a smart home monitor automation, and you have no way of changing the security.mode because the cloud is not available, then the siren will keep going off again and again every time the sensor is triggered. If that’s just the front door opening, it may not be too bad, but if it’s a ceiling mount motion sensor, it’s a problem.

It can be limited to five minutes each time, but you can’t stop it from activating again in 10 minutes if the cloud is not available.

Actually it depends. Say your internet is offline and you can’t change the mode. If the security app (SHM) is running locally, then yes, it will trigger the siren again (for another 5 minutes).

This is there cloud custom security apps actually have a benefit. Since they run in the cloud and the internet is offline, sensors won’t trigger the app and hence the siren won’t be retriggered (assuming it was the first time and shut off by itself after 5 minutes). Infact when you change the mode, it’ll change and when the internet comes back online it won’t trigger on a sensor. This is probably one of the few scenarios where cloud DTH’s help, but then again it’s all in the design and what you want. Alarms being triggered without the internet or the Sirens not triggering when there’s no internet.

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Fair enough. It’s all details. As long as you understand what you set up, and how it will function if the cloud is unavailable, it’s just a matter of choice. :sunglasses:

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Thank you all for the really useful commentary. Obviously there’s a lot for me to learn (yay!), but reading the discussion here is helping me form the next list of things I need to learn about.

JDRobert’s mentioned local automations that one could have set up to solve this problem, but then mentioned manually flipping a switch. Is a local automation something that involves ST at all, or is it just a local manual process outside of the ST system (e.g., turning of the power, taking out the batteries, hitting it with a bat, having some other local processing engine that can bind to the device and turn it off). Is there a good example of a local automation with the ST system that would help me understand this, or are local automations always outside of ST?

RBoy, when you say the stock DTH, are you saying that the Vision Siren will work out-of-the-box with ST, but that if I want more fine-tuned adjustments I could do so with your app? Or is the ‘stock DTH’ actually your app, and a ‘custom DTH’ would be something else that I would do myself? Just trying to understand the terminology here, thanks.

In this context, a “local automation” is one which the smartthings hub can run without needing to communicate with the SmartThings cloud.

At the present time, this is only the official smart lighting feature and some bits of the official smart home monitor.

But only if all of the devices in the automation are also eligible to run locally. Which means they are using the stock device type handlers.

stock device handlers

In this context, “stock device type Handler” means one created by smartthings and distributed with the hub firmware to all customers in that region. But not all company created device type handler’s are eligible to run locally. So it can get pretty complicated to track it all down.

There’s no official list. But once you have a device type handler or a smartapp active in your account, you can check the IDE to see if it is marked as eligible to run lically.

A switch to turn off a siren

So in the example that I gave, you could have a siren which is eligible to run locally, and you could have created a smart lights automation which allows a switch to turn it off Which is eligible to run locally. The problem is how do you trigger it to run when you need it? You can’t use the app because the app doesn’t communicate locally. So you need to have a physical switch which you will press manually and have a local Automation so that pressing that physical device means that then the hub will tell the siren to turn off via the local automation. :sunglasses:

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Yes the basic Siren on/off will work out of the box (stock DTH) but you can’t change any settings / features. To do that you’ll need a custom DTH.

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Thanks for the detailed explanation and links for further reading. I’ll check them out.

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