Alarm Systems

Built for a variety of specific applications, alarm systems are made for cars, homes, businesses and other property as well as for fire protection. Alarms may be carried in a bag or attached to a belt to deter personal attack. Anything that needs a measure of security not fully provided by door locks, fences or gates will likely benefit from the installation of an alarm system. Homes, businesses and vehicles are probably the possessions most commonly equipped with an alarm system. Alarms are equipped to provide a basic level of security, but most if not all are expandable.

Home Alarms

Many homeowners opt to install a home alarm system to protect their families and their property. Property crime happens everywhere, and alarm systems effectively deter most perpetrators. Full-house alarm systems include wireless, hardwired and hybrid units. Wireless alarms are the easiest to install, for there is no retrofitting, running of cable, drilling or cutting involved. Equip each zone with a sensor or detector, configure the transmitter and receiver and the system is in place. Hardwire systems have a more extensive installation, as hundreds of feet or more of wiring must be laid in order to connect each zone with the control panel. Hybrid systems combine elements of wireless and wired technology.

Alarm Components

A basic alarm setup consists of a control panel which is the nerve center of the system. The panel determines the systems maximum support capability, allots power to the various satellite components and receives signals from them. Other components include door and window sensors, audible indoor siren, motion detector, power transformer, backup battery pack and various phone line accessories.

Another vital part is the keypad, the interface through which system programming is accomplished. The keypad is the device into which a user access code is typed to arm or disarm a system. Keypads often have various communicators built into them, from 2-way voice systems to digital dialers. Wireless systems may feature a control panel, keypad, siren, dialer and speakerphone in a single unit. The control panel is typically stored in a lockable metal enclosure to remove the risk of alarm tampering.

Zone Capacity

Alarm systems are designed with an initial zone capacity. A zone is an area or an entry point that is securable with a sensor or detector of some kind. Home alarms typically feature an initial capacity of 4 to 40 zones. Without expanding the system, that number indicates how many areas or points of entry can be monitored. Expansion is possible with output ports, allowing a homeowner to add sensors and increase the overall scope of the system. Some home alarm systems are capable of supporting 200 or more zones with expansion modules.

Alarm Support

An alarm system is designed to support certain devices and communications systems to augment its ability to secure a premises. For instance, X10 device support is common. X10 is a computer language that allows an alarm system to feed into the home's circuitry and control lights, appliances and other fixtures. Alarm systems can thus be programmed to turn on lights, open the garage door or other actions when the system is disarmed or when the alarm goes off. Other support capability includes multiple output devices and relays for expansion, smoke detector integration and ethernet compatibility.

Alarm Monitoring

Alarm monitoring is the coordination of a third-party agency tasked specifically with monitoring the state and functionality of a home or business alarm. Alarm systems are typically built with a system phone line and automatic dialer. When the alarm is activated, the alarm phone line seizes the property's main phone line so no other calls can come in. The dialer contacts the central monitoring station to notify the operator of a breach. Alarm monitoring facilities offer more advanced forms of communication depending on what the alarm is capable of. Video monitoring, Internet monitoring, mobile access monitoring and radio/GSM monitoring are all readily available. VoIP support capability provides for a fully-secure line of communication that is tamper-resistant.

In addition, many alarm systems feature a 2-way voice setup. Communicate directly, person to person with such a system. The operator will help to reduce panic in the event of a break-in, keep in constant contact until the responders have arrived and can even warn an intruder that the authorities are on their way.

Alarm Features

Depending on the system in place, an alarm may be able to support multiple keypads, each of which can arm or disarm the system. Remote control via touchtone phone is a feature of many systems as is a viewable event log, allowing a home or business owner to track the movement in and out of the building. Multiple user access codes with differing levels of authority can be programmed, one for each member of the house or each employee.

Other Alarm Systems

Other alarms found in homes are full self-contained devices such as door or window magnetic sensor alarms, door stopper alarms or driveway alarms. Door and window alarms usually feature a built-in siren and operate wirelessly with a battery. When the door or window is opened, the alarm sounds, alerting the occupant. Door stopper alarms work in a similar fashion, although they sit on the floor and sound the alarm when a door makes contact with the wedge-shaped sensor. Driveway alarms operate with an outdoor transmitter and an indoor receiver. Using an infrared sensor, a buried metal probe or a pressurized air hose, these alarms sound a bell or tone inside when a car enters into or exits from a property. Infrared units can also detect human movement.

Car Alarms

New car alarms provide the owner with remote monitoring ability and control from up to a mile away. Advanced car alarm systems let a vehicle owner know when the car's engine is running, if the doors have been opened, even what the cabin temperature is. Among the features of a remote car alarm, remote start, failsafe starter kill, trunk release and keyless entry add security and convenience.

Fire Alarms

Last but not least, fire alarm systems are found in buildings of all sizes. Conventional fire alarm systems are designed to control and monitor a small number of zones and work in smaller structures such as schools and apartments where the source of the fire is easily ascertained. Addressable fire alarm systems are capable of controlling up to 2,000 zones. They can isolate the exact sensor that sounded the alarm so firefighters can be dispatched directly to the zone and seal off the area to prevent the fire from spreading.