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Do I Need a Security Alarm System?  A Guide to Security Systems

     It is debatable whether an alarm security system actually decreases the chances of a burglary. In theory, if a burglar knows that a house is equipped with an alarm, he or she may move on to another home. Even if the burglar does break in, the burglar has a tendency to stay a shorter amount of time knowing that the alarm has gone off. This may decrease the number of items stolen or the extent of damage inflicted. By far the most important aspect of any security system is balance. It does no good to make your windows burglar-proof when your doors can be easily opened with a pry bar. Choosing an alarm system and an alarm company can be confusing and the technology quite complicated.
     Modern electronics have improved our quality of life in many ways. For example, electronic alarm systems, once available to only the wealthiest, have become very popular in the last decade or so. The rising popularity is well earned since those systems are now both affordable and effective. They can make your home or business relatively secure, when combined with other options. However, if you rely exclusively on an alarm system, you will still remain vulnerable.
     Professional burglars know how to silence or incapacitate even the most sophisticated alarm systems. Fortunately, most home and car burglars are not really professionals and they can be deterred by an alarm system that has been correctly installed and maintained.
    Most alarm systems rely on a combination of contacts placed at doors and windows and motion sensors. Motion sensors, however, do not detect someone until they have already entered the house. Therefore, motion sensors should NOT be used as the primary means of detection. It is best that all exterior potential points of entry have contacts that sense when they are opened. Glass breakage sensors are also available and high recommended by most alarm companies.
     There are two primary types of systems available: monitored and unmonitored. Monitored systems contact a monitoring company by telephone if the security system senses an intrusion and is not deactivated within 45 seconds. The monitoring company receives the message, determines the nature of the alarm and verifies it, usually by placing a call to the home or business. If they do not receive the proper password, or no one answers, they call the police who respond as quickly as possible.
     Unmonitored systems typically have on-site alarms and/or flashing lights to indicate that the system has been breached. It relies on neighbors to see and hear the alarms and then to call the police. Neighbors or passersby should never investigate an alarm themselves. With an unmonitored system, it is best to have a combination of strobe lights and alarms. They should be located on the street side of the house and in a location that is as inaccessible as possible.
     The advantage of this type of system is that a burglar's primary goal is to gain entrance to the property and remove valuables without being noticed. Many burglars will flee once the alarms and lights have been activated. The disadvantage is the fact that the system relies on neighbors who might not be home or they may not want to get involved.
     The cost of the average system, which includes either motion detectors inside the house or sensors around the windows and doors, is about $1,200 plus a monthly fee for a monitored-type system. There several levels of alarm systems on the market and some are well-suited to the handy do-it-yourselfer to install, while the most effective are probably best left to a professional alarm company for installation.
     Whichever system you choose, remember: Security Systems, alone, do not prevent thieves from breaking into homes. A good security plan should also include strong, secure windows, doors and locks; good security habits such as always locking doors and windows at night or when the house is vacant; and human surveillance, such as a well-trained neighborhood watch program.
     With a little planning and a few financial resources you can provide safety for your family, your car and your business.
     Final tip: sliding patio doors are one of the most vulnerable entry points in your home. They can be secured inexpensively with a hinged bar that holds the movable panel shut.

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