Tip 12: Alarm Systems
Alarm systems are the best deterrent against burglaries. According to a recent study of 6,343 residential burglaries in the city of Calgary, only 74 of them occurred in homes with an alarm system. And of 15,505 residential break-ins in Toronto, only 2% occurred in homes with alarm systems. Further, in cases where burglaries were committed in homes with alarm systems, the average haul was considerably less than when no system was in place.
Alarm systems are designed to both deter and detect intruders. A basic security system will consist of perimeter and space protection to secure your premises. Perimeter protection takes the form of door and window contacts, which are used to detect opening, and glass-break detectors that listen for the sound of breaking glass. Space protection is provided by motion detectors, which look for movement. When the alarm system is armed, any such detection initiates an alarm.
When choosing a system that is right for your needs, make sure to discuss both when and how you will use the system with your alarm company representative. If you intend to arm your system when you are home, a system based solely on motion detectors isn’t the proper choice for you. Similarly, if you have a pet, you need to be careful with the use of motion detectors, since their misapplication is often a source of false alarms.
With few exceptions, alarm systems should be monitored in order to be effective. When a system is monitored, alarms are transmitted to an alarm receiving station where they can be acted upon promptly by the appropriate response authority - police, fire or medical. Systems that are not monitored rely solely on a siren to attempt to scare an intruder away. In rural and industrial areas, this simply doesn’t work. And even in residential areas, people often ignore the sound of auto alarms completely.
When deciding on a company to install your alarm system, always check for the following qualifications:
- A qualified company should perform a site inspection and discuss your individual security needs. Every person and every home is unique, and the system should be tailored to fit your needs, lifestyle and budget. Deal only with companies that are licensed by the Solicitor General’s department. If you are unsure, ask to see their representative’s license.
- The company should give you an evaluation of your home, highlighting the measures that you can take to improve your security over and above the addition of a burglar alarm system. If they are only trying to sell you an alarm system, chances are they don’t care about your overall security.
- Find out who will be monitoring the alarm system. If the installing company contracts out the alarm monitoring to a third party, what is your recourse if the monitoring company were to make a mistake?
- Find out if the prices quoted are for purchase, rental or lease. When comparing quotes, be sure to make a true comparison by thoroughly reviewing the quantity and types of sensors recommended. If there is a discrepancy, make sure that you understand the impact that it will have on your home’s security.
- Find out who will be installing the system. Will it be the company who sold it to you, or do they simply sub-contract the installation to another company? Potentially, this can lead to service problems down the road, and that’s when the finger-pointing starts.
- Check the warranty on parts and labour. The industry standard is one year; however, reputable companies will extend the manufacturer’s warranty for up to five years.
- Find out if your system will be monitored locally or in another province. Out of province monitoring may lead to service problems.
- Look for companies that can provide you with complete protection including emergency response, holiday patrol checks, and 24-hour service.
- Look for established, reputable companies that are registered electrical contractors and members of CANASA (the Canadian Alarm Association).
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