About Home Security Alarms
Tips for selecting an alarm company
Why false alarms are a Problem
What if your alarm goes off?
False alarm reduction tips
With where computer technology is today, many homeowners are "computerizing" their homes. This home automation provides a lot of services which are easily controlled and scheduled by the homeowner. In a way, home automation can increase the security of your home and family by:
- Making your home look lived in while you are away.
- Alerting you and your family when someone approaches your home.
- Providing an "alarm" by flashing lights or making noise.
However this home automation does not replace a home security system. It only augments the security system and help provide a more secure environment. A security system will "know" if anyone is supposed to be at home (armed/disarmed), and it knows when the perimeter is violated (alarm). The security system may also provide multiple keypads, remote controls, or a telephone interface.
One drawback of a home automation system is that they are typically designed for less "life threatening" uses. For example if a light doesn't go on the first time you press a switch, you may be annoyed, but it won't cause damage to life or property. Conversely, a home security system usually provides extra levels of reliability (battery backup, for instance) and certification that are unnecessary for general home automation.
Home security systems generally monitor a building's perimeter and interior and are not usually connected to exterior motion detectors, beam break detectors, etc. because:
- Exterior (outside) detectors are much more likely to go off because of environmental changes (wind, animals, etc.).
- And most home security systems do not have the concept of a "warning". A sensor trips and, if armed, they go full-tilt into announcing the fact.
A good approach to take for your home is to have two mostly-separate systems: one for security and one for automation. These systems can interact in various ways but both can operate independently. The home automation system is responsible for controlling lights and appliances, providing video, audio, and telephone services throughout the home, etc. It can also be responsible for detecting and responding to events outside the home. This adds another layer of protection around the home. A burglar is likely to abandon a break-in attempt if he is warned while still in the yard that his presence has been detected. The home security system on the other hand responds to break-ins and/or fire.
Tips for Selecting an Alarm Company
The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), a national trade association, recommends these steps for consumers seeking the services of a reputable and experienced burglar and fire alarm installing company.
- Review a list of dealers in your area (telephone book, Police Department, your insurance company, etc.).
- Call several companies. Ask them if their employees are trained and/or certified by licensing or professional organizations.
- Ask the companies if they have appropriate state and or local licenses, if required.
- Ask the companies if they conduct any pre-employment screening.
- Contact your local Police Department's Crime Prevention Office, state licensing agencies, consumer protection agencies, and the Better Business Bureau about the company.
- Ask your insurance agent, friends, family or neighbors for referrals.
- After you have narrowed the field to three or four alarm companies, ask for the name of the person who will call on you. Consider planning the appointment time when all members of your household are present.
- When the alarm company representative visits, ask to see some company identification.
- Ask each alarm company representative for an inspection, recommendation and a quote in writing.
- Ask them for references of people for which they have installed systems.
When Interviewing Companies
Here are issues to consider when interviewing security companies:
- Most companies offer a "Basic System Package."
- Ask how much the extras cost. This is where there is the most variance between companies.
- Ask for references.
- Read all contracts carefully before signing them.
- Many dealers allow you to lease the system or buy it outright. Each has it's merits and you should review this with your alarm company (not all residential systems are purchased).
- Weigh the cost of a system that protects a few exterior openings to one that protects all exterior openings that could be used by burglars.
- Make sure the monitoring is provided by a UL Listed and FM Approved central station monitoring company. (NACC has been providing this service nationwide since 1978).
- Service - Who do you call? Can you reach them 24-hours a day?
- How long has a business been operating? All business, big and small, started one day. If they are new ask about experience and their background. Most small businesses are started by people who have been in the industry for many years and feel they can provide a more personal, higher quality service.
Why False Alarms Are a Problem
False alarms take police away from real emergencies.
False alarms are not merely embarrassing, they endanger responding authorities and your whole community. Setting off a false alarm is like dialing 9-1-1; the police will respond thinking there is an emergency. False alarms can lead neighbors to ignore your alarm if it goes off repeatedly; it's like "crying wolf".
In effect, your security system becomes less credible.
False alarms may make you reluctant to arm your system -- exposing your home to undetected theft or fire.
False alarms can cost you big fines in many U.S. cities and towns. In fact, in some instances, chronic abusers may even have police response suspended. 76% of false alarms are caused by user error .
To reduce that number, make sure anyone with a key to your home knows how to operate your system. Make special arrangements for guests or repair technicians.
Routine maintenance can greatly reduce false alarms. Have your security company check and service your system (including batteries) regularly. Also, call your security company immediately if your system doesn't seem to be working correctly or before you do any remodeling.
What if your alarm goes off?
Don't panic. Remember your security I.D. code.
Find out if there really is an intruder or fire and respond appropriately.
If the alarm activation was accidental, carefully disarm your system per your system's instructions.
After you've reset the system, wait for your monitoring station to call you.
Don't leave your home until you've spoken with your monitoring station and assured them there is not an emergency.
Rehearse alarm cancellation with everyone who might use your system.
Make sure everyone who has a key to your home or business knows how to operate the security system.
Give all system users the name and number of your monitoring station and a security I.D. in case the alarm sounds.
Keep your security system instruction book, monitoring station's name and phone number handy (but not in an obvious place where an intruder can find it!)
Call your monitoring station if you change your phone number, get a pet, plan to sell or remodel your house, or test your system.
20 False Alarm Reduction Tips for Consumers
Purchase a system only from a licensed alarm dealer.
Demand thorough training so you are comfortable using your system.
Keep a sheet with simple operating procedures for the system handy.
Everyone who has a key to your home or business must know how to operate your security system.
- Remind visiting relatives, kids returning from school, etc. how to use your system.
- Require all alarm users to use the system in a very responsible way.
- Be comfortable with how much time you have to arm and disarm your system.
- Request that all power consuming devices be point identified.
- Service and maintain system regularly before false alarms occur.
- Before leaving - securely close and lock all protected doors and windows.
- Make sure all doors and windows stay closed whenever your system is armed.
- Keep pets, fans, heaters, balloons, etc. away from motion sensor areas.
- Contact your alarm company if you are planning any home improvements.
- Contact the alarm company and tell them of any changes in your telephone service (call waiting or fax line) or if you get a new area code
- Contact your alarm company as soon as you obtain a new pet.
- Have all alarm system users practice the process to cancel an accidental alarm.
- When a false alarm occurs - Don't Panic! Enter your disarm code carefully to reset your alarm.
- If you set off your alarm by accident do not leave until you are certain that either your system is reset or your central station calls you and you give your pass or ID code.
- Understand that every time your alarm goes off, it is like calling 911.
- If you don't understand any aspect of your system, ask your dealer.
A Model Ordnance Governing Burglar Alarms Responded to by Law Enforcement