Burglar Alarm Systems

There are a number of systems available. But you should know that there is no such thing as a burglar alarm system that will make your house burglar proof 100% of the time. However, a good alarm system can deter or detect most intruders and will afford an added measure of security when you are away from your house.

Some alarm systems are strictly perimeter protection and others use strictly interior protection. The best system is usually one that protects the perimeter of your home combined with some interior protection. The interior traps detect an intruder after he has entered the home or bypassed the perimeter system.

Preference for the desired level of security and type of system used depends entirely upon your budget and the design of your home. The cost of an alarm system varies greatly, not only because of the equipment, but also due to other considerations such as the distance to the alarm company, local telephone rates, the amount of wiring required, the construction materials of your home, etc. If it is connected to a monitoring service such as an alarm company central station, answering service, or other (telephone) facility, there is a monthly service charge plus telephone line and mileage rates.

NOTE: Many alarm companies offer services for a variety of emergencies such as burglar, fire, hold-up, medical, etc. However, some alarm companies do not have the capability to distinguish the exact nature of the problem when they receive a signal into their central station.

Following are some of the alarm components the company will probably discuss with you:

Perimeter Alarms The basic home system is a simple closed circuit loop system consisting of contacts or screens on doors and windows. Most are designed to ring a bell or activate a siren, and/or illuminate the area to scare off an intruder. This will usually scare away most residential burglars. There are several types of sensors used on perimeter alarm systems which include:

Magnetic Contacts One of the most widely used residential devices is an electro-mechanical contact consisting of a magnet in one sealed enclosure and a switch in another sealed enclosure. They are attached to doors, windows, transoms and other openings and wired to a central control box.

Screens These special screens have an unobtrusive, built-in alarm wire. They are usually custom made to fit the particular window to be protected.

Interior Alarms

Pressure Mats Basically, this is a flat switch operated by pressure from a foot step. They're usually installed under carpeting next to entrances, windows and stairways, and other areas where a burglar would likely travel through the home. The mat may also be used for spot protection on the interior of a perimeter system.

Photoelectric Beam Small, unobtrusive sensors are installed in hallways, large rooms, stairwells, and other similar areas. Any interruption of the beam by a person walking through it causes an alarm.

Ultrasonic (Motion Detection) Any movement within the protected area triggers an alarm. The unit should not be installed where there is likely to be normal traffic in the house at odd hours, or where it is subject to large amounts of wind turbulence from open windows or heater or air conditioning vents.

Microwave (Radar) This system is similar to ultrasonic - it detects motion in a specific area. The difference is that the unit operates at a higher frequency and does not use air as a transmission medium. Care must be taken in the installation to avoid accidental alarms due to the protection waves travelling beyond the required coverage area. It must be FCC approved. This unit is generally not recommended for home use.

Sound Units (Noise Detection) These systems operate by detecting noise. They are generally limited to use where there is low ambient noise.

Passive Infrared System This system is a detection system operating in a mode similar to the photo-electric beam and can be applied to cover a room or hallway.

Capacity (Proximity) This system is useful for protecting safes, files, cabinets, etc. The major drawback of this system is that it will only detect a person several inches in proximity to the object being protected.

Closed Circuit Television One system of some limited use to the homeowner is the TV camera. This can be manned so that the homeowner can view who is at the door, or with some sophisticated systems and adequate lighting, can view the complete exterior.

NOTE: You may also wish to consider having a fire alarm (smoke detection ionization) system installed along with your burglary system - have the company give you an estimate for both. It is often economical to take care of it all at once.

THINGS TO WATCH FOR Here are some ways to check the quality of your system:

  • Complete systems should operate on house current and/or battery back-up supplied current. (Self-contained, trickle-cell, battery-powered units are satisfactory if equipped with a reliable testing device.)
  • The system should have some monitoring device to alert the homeowner if any malfunction exists prior to operation.
  • The audible alarm features of the system should be heard in any part of the protected premise, and loud enough to alert neighbors and/or passersby.
  • Temporary losses of power, such as blackouts that cause the system to change over to battery power, should not trigger an audible alarm.
  • Any external components of the system should be made as inaccessible as possible so that intruders find it difficult to cut through wires or cables outside the home in an attempt to deactivate the system.
  • Main components of the system should meet the electrical safety standards set by Underwriter's Laboratories, Inc.
  • Internal wiring should be installed in conformity with the standards of the Electrical Code.
  • If you have a fire alarm installed with your burglary system, it should include a "test facility" for checking to see if it is functioning correctly.
  • Make sure warning decals are displayed advertising your home is protected by an alarm system.
  • Reset feature - every alarm system using an audible annunciator should have a reset feature to turn the bell and/or siren off after sounding for a maximum of 15 minutes.

READ YOUR CONTRACT The alarm company should make a written proposal and give you a copy of the contract you will be signing. Make sure you read it.

Remember that your property and perhaps your personal safety are at stake. What appears to be a "bargain" may actually prove to be an easily compromised or an extremely limited alarm system. In this regard, be sure that the sensor devices (magnetic contacts, motion detectors, pressure mats, screens, etc.) to be installed are Underwriter's Laboratory, Inc., approved for burglary protection.

YOU AND YOUR ALARM SYSTEM The effectiveness of your system depends on you. Understand how it works, and what it takes to keep it operating properly. Ask the company to give you written instructions for the operation and testing of your system. By law the companies are required to provide these instructions. When the alarm is installed try to have all the members of your family present for instruction. Be sure to let your neighbors know you have an alarm system and ask them to call the police if the alarm is activated.

NOTE: Panic Buttons and Hold-up alarms are frequently installed in homes or businesses for the purpose of summoning the Police in a life threatening emergency such as an attempted robbery or mugging. They are sometimes placed in foyers or dwellings or under counters in stores for individuals to set off in times of emergency. Unfortunately, this type of alarm system is sometimes abused and set off in situations that are not actual emergencies such as, observation of a suspected shoplifter, reciept of a bad check or motor vehicle accident. It is important when installing a hold-up alarm or panic button that all individuals at home or work be instructed in the proper use of such a device. Any questions about the use of this type of alarm system may be addressed to the Police department.

CHOOSE A REPUTABLE COMPANY Make sure you deal with an established firm with a proven history of service and performance.

All of the employees of the alarm company who sell or service alarm equipment, and thus have access to your home, should be bonded.

The company should be willing to supply a list of nearby homeowners or commercial installations who are satisfied customers and who may be contacted for references. You should select at least three local companies and make an appointment with their representative to meet with you to appraise your security needs and cost factors. Be sure to get the name of the person who will be coming from each company which you do not sign until you have selected the system you want.

You may check the reputation of alarm companies with agencies such as The Better Business Bureau, the State Department of Consumer Protection, and the Connecticut Burglar and Fire Alarm Association.