Residential safety and security systems

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Modern homeowners routinely contract for services such as cable TV and Internet, but with privacy becoming limited and security an international issue, perhaps an even more important service to consider is the home alarm/security system. Everyone needs to be confident that no thief will easily and quietly enter his home and steal valuables or threaten family members.

Alarm systems come in all varieties, from the simple to the complex. First defense is sometimes the simplest: the door lock. “It’s important to check your locks. An unsafe situation for any homeowner – or business – is to have a glass door with a deadbolt key on the outside and a twist knob on the inside,” said Rick Rodrigue, of Chandler Security Systems. “A better solution is to have the lock keyed on both sides of the door.” It’s also very important to have all entries re-keyed when moving into your new home.

An easy-to-install alarm is not monitored and will simply set off a very loud noise when an open door or window trips a sensor. This can be enough to unnerve would-be burglars. Home owners and neighbors can then call local authorities.

Monitored systems have a central control panel located in the home, and if a sensor is signaled by an unauthorized entry, not only do the alarms ring, but the company’s central service center is notified automatically by phone, from the home control panel, and security personnel will contact police if needed. These individuals will contact the home first, in order to be sure that it is not a false alarm.

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Security companies have 24-hour central service centers monitoring phone calls at all times, and tech support and repair service are also available 24/7. Larger security companies staff their own service center, while smaller companies contract this work.

Homeowners must be sure to arm their system as needed so that it is ready to go to work for them. Simple arming systems that work from a button on a keychain are available.

“There are several ways to arm or disarm an alarm system,” said Rodrigue. “There’s the keypad, or touchpad, or a wireless key fob. There’s also a remote way to arm or disarm or check the status of your alarm system – simply dial into the system. This is very popular with alarm system owners.”

Simply stated, that is how a typical alarm system works. But there are lots of additions that can personalize each system. Diane O’Connor, of Great Falls Security Systems, explained that differing devices can eliminate the need for many window sensors.

“We can run a wireless device such as a motion detector or a glass-breaking detector in each room instead of putting sensors on every window,” said O’Connor.

Note that motion sensors can be programmed to ignore your pets. “Technology has advanced so that motion detectors in the home can sense if it’s your cat or small dog walking by the sensor, or if it’s a person,” said Rodrigue.

There are many options available to upgrade a home security system. “If you have smoke detectors connected to your system, these will also signal the service center, which can contact fire departments. Also, carbon monoxide sensors can be part of the system,” noted O’Connor.

A newly popular addition to alarm systems is the low-temperature sensor. When residents spend winter months in a warmer climate, the knowledge that someone will respond if the home becomes too chilly is most reassuring.

“The damage done to a home when pipes freeze and burst and then thaw is incredible. Low-temperature sensors – ambient temperature senors located on each floor of the home – are tied into the security system.” Rodgrigue said, “Insurance companies reward homeowners with security systems by giving discounts on premiums. The couple hundred bucks you spend on the system more than pays for itself in savings to you.”

“We customize alarm systems for each home to customer preferences,” said O’Connor, “and these systems are purchased, not rented. When a homeowner moves, he can take much of the alarm system with him, or leave it in place as added value for potential buyers.” Also, it is often true that homeowners’ insurance costs may go down considerably after the installation of an alarm system.

A home-owners’ first line of defense should be secure, locked doors and windows. And, consider getting a dog. “Thieves, by nature, are lazy and look for easy targets. They may think twice about breaking into a home if they hear a dog barking,” said Rodrigue.

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