Security Systems: The Right One For Your Home

Keeping Your Home Safe and Secure

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In 2004, 12 out of 100 homes were victimized in property crimes (mostly theft). The number is more likely 24 out of 100 when you take into account that an estimated 50 percent of home burglaries are not even reported. The good news is that home theft is down from a decade ago, mostly due to proactive measures taken by the public, given that law enforcement agencies don't have the budgets to patrol effectively. A recent study by Rutgers School of Criminal Justice confirms that electronic security systems act as a primary deterrent against criminal activity.

The following tips and information in this article are based on articles and research from AARP, the City of Rockford, Illinois, the National Crime Prevention Institute and the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (a non profit).

How do I Select an Alarm System?

The best alarm system is a perimeter system, supplemented with one or more interior traps that can be turned on or off independently.

The problem with an interior system used alone is that it allows the burglar (or robber) to enter the home before an alarm is sounded, which poses an obvious danger to those in the home. For this reason, the perimeter system is the better choice of the two, but for added protection, consider internal alarms that can be individually controlled so you don't have alarms going off when family members move about.

The most popular perimeter security system uses magnetic contacts, electro-mechanical devices attached to windows and doors. When the door or window is opened, the magnet moves away from the switch, sounding the alarm. Other devices can sound alarms when a window's screen is removed, which is a good preventative measure for when a window is broken rather than opened. There are several other options as well, but these are two of the most effective.

1) Your Security System's Hardware Should Include:

  • Pressure mats - placed under rugs, etc
  • Photoelectric beams - sets off alarm when infrared beam is crossed, but needs to be adjusted for pets and small children
  • Passive infrared - measures body heat of person passing through room
  • Motion detectors - false alarms can be a major problem because even things like a/c can trigger the system
  • Proximity device - good for protecting specific objects
  • Panic button - locate near beds and doorways — hit the button and emergency assistance is summoned

Again, interior systems can be good or troublesome supplements to your perimeter system, and having a professionally installed perimeter alarm system is your best protection.

2) Warranty, Service, and Intruder Alarms

Not all alarm systems or alarm system companies are created equally. Here are some important things to look for:

  • A decent warranty covering parts and labor.
  • A company that will provide prompt service.
  • Written and verbal instructions on the operation of your system.
  • The alarm should alert everyone at the same time: the intruder, home occupants, neighbors, and if connected to one, the monitoring agency. Silent alarms do not scare off the intruder and therefore offer little protection. An alarm heard by the intruder is likely to scare him/her off before the home is entered.
  • A visual or audible signal that alerts you to system malfunctions.
  • Every component that can turn off the system needs to be thoroughly tamper proofed.
  • Your security system is only as dependable as the power supply it runs on, so be sure to have emergency back-up power. If your system is powered by batteries alone, make sure to choose a system that alerts you to battery failure.
  • Avoid a DIY installation. Such systems often provide a false sense of security because they ordinarily do not provide full coverage of the home, the quality is usually less than that of a dealer-installed system, and they are prone to false alarms.

3) Don't Get Scammed

The Better Business Bureau (reported to AARP) warns its readers against alarm system scams. What to look out for:

  • Those who provide a cost over the phone without actually seeing your home.
  • Those who advertise free alarm systems in exchange for a sign on your lawn. The equipment may be free, but the monthly monitoring charges may be hundreds of dollars, while a legitimate company's monitoring charges run under $100 per month.
  • Door-to-door and phone sales people who lie, saying things like your current alarm company is closing (it may be but you need to check).
  • Criminals posing as door-to-door salesmen hoping to check out your place and your current security.

A security system should be customized for your family. It should take into account factors such as your home, lifestyle, your feelings about security and your budget. Remember when getting estimates on your security system that you are shopping for protection of not just your home, but of your family. A well-established contractor should be able to provide this type of system for a reasonable budget.

Is Your Home at Risk?

Much of the U.S. population seems to believe that unless their homes obviously contain expensive jewels and art collections, they are safe from the man in the black stocking cap. However, it's not the calm, cool and collected professional burglar you likely need to worry about.

As the National Crime Prevention Institute reports, most home burglaries and robberies are committed by unpredictable amateurs, and it is these who pose the most danger — often young people living nearby, including thrill seekers and vandals, as well as addicts looking for items they can quickly sell on the "black market."

Protect your Home and its Inhabitants

The best way to protect yourself and the ones you love is to use a combination of crime prevention tactics from installing solid doors with good locks and windows to having a security system professionally installed.

Quick Tips for Preventing Burglary

While a security system is the best deterrent against home break-ins, a combination of prevention tactics will bring you even more peace of mind and security. These include:

  • High quality dead bolts on exterior doors, as well as locks on windows and sliding glass doors. The lock must prevent the easy removal of a window or door. Don't hide keys outside; instead, leave keys with a trusted neighbor.
  • Keep possible means of entrance in full view. Branches and shrubs should be trimmed away from your home. Porches, yards, driveways and entryways should be well-lit with lights mounted up high so they can't be easily removed.
  • Because many criminals enter into homes by breaking through hollow core doors and flimsy frames, have solid core doors installed. It's also a good idea to have wide-angle peepholes or view grills installed in these doors.
  • Before leaving on vacation, ensure your home will appear to be occupied. You know the routine — newspaper delivery put on hold, timers on indoor lights and radio. Also ask a neighbor to park in your driveway.

Security Systems: The Bottom Line

With the recession, home property theft is on the rise and is expected to spike during the holidays. Consult with one or more of our security alarm system professionals to learn how you can better protect your home and family.

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