Alarm System Options Alarm System Options
Modern electronics has improved our quality of life in many ways. For example, electronic alarms have become very popular within the last decade. Their popularity is well earned, since they are both effective and affordable. Be careful, however, to not put all of your faith into them. When combined with other safety measures discussed in this chapter, they will make your house relatively secure. But if you rely totally on alarm systems, you will be vulnerable.
Professional burglars know how to silence or incapacitate even the most complicated alarm systems. Most home burglars are not really professional. Remote alarms - alarms that ring only at the police station or at a private security office - often allow burglars time to get away before help arrives. Also, false alarms are becoming so common that a lot of alarms are ignored. Local Bells or sirens, mounted both inside and outside the house, are preferable in conjunction with remote alarms.
There are several different types of alarm systems on the market. Some of these are well suited to the do-it-yourselfer, while others are best left to a professional alarm company. You need to consider seriously your family's lifestyle when you choose an alarm system. Motion sensor detectors will not work well if you have pets. If you have several children, overnight guests or other visitors, alarm systems that demand you enter codes upon entering and leaving your home may not work. I remember visiting my brother and entering the house alone late one night The soft buzzer went off on the alarm system, indicating that I had ten seconds to enter the code before the alarm would blast. I had forgotten the code and stood there helplessly in the hallway as the alarm woke my brother's family as well as all the neighbors. If the police's or security company's response time is too slow, you will need an alarm that rings at the house, thereby warning the neighbors.
As you review the different types of alarm systems, determine which one will work best for you. Be sure to buy a high-quality system. Hopefully, you will never need it, but, when you do, you will want it to work properly.
All systems have three basic components: the alarm itself, the sensor that senses the intrusion, and the control that causes the alarm to engage once the intrusion has occurred. These systems can be either battery operated or operated off the electrical currents in the house. The battery-operated units, though easy to install, often are not sophisticated enough to satisfy all your needs.
Self-Contained Alarm Systems
These have the alarm, control, and sensor all in one unit. They are mostly used in small houses offices, or apartments where there are a limited number of doors and windows. Sometimes these are as simple as a cigarette box-size alarm that hangs on the door or chain guard and that activates in the case of an intrusion. Others can be plugged into any wall outlet and are activated with a simple motion detector. The more sophisticated models may work off a change in air pressure (as when a door or window is opened) or off high-frequency sound waves.
These units are less expensive and easier to install than some others. Their drawbacks are that burglars can quickly locate them (since the alarm is with the control). Also, the ones that work off of air pressure or sound waves can often give a false alarm resulting from noisy upstairs neighbors or high winds.
Alarm Systems with Separate Components
These units separate the sensor from the control and from the alarm, and work well where you want to guard several rooms at once. Individual sensors (often a metallic tape with a current running through it) can be placed at the windows and doors, and the alarm and control hidden from the burglar. This makes it much more difficult for the burglar to dismantle the system.
These units often have several control stations around the house so that you can activate or deactivate all or part of your sensors. Some units even tell you which doors and windows are open or closed. They also have panic buttons that can be used when you think you hear someone prowling around outside. These systems are usually activated and deactivated by a code, and can sound an alarm at the house or the police station (or security office) or both. Also, some alarms can be wired to automatically dial a number and give a recorded message. You can change the number it dials and be reached wherever you are, in case the house is burning or you have been robbed. If you are installing an alarm, put decals on your doors that tell burglars your house is alarm equipped. They will probably go away.