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ALARMS : Feel Secure About Protection Systems

July 24, 1993|From Associated Press

A home alarm system can deter thieves and detect break-ins, but shopping for one can be an alarming process.

There are many different types of home alarms--and it usually requires a house call by a security salesperson to determine the right match for your house.

All alarm systems include sensors that detect intruders and sound an alarm inside or outside the house. Perimeter sensors detect entry through doors and windows. Area sensors work inside the home by detecting motion, sound, body heat, shock, vibration or footstep pressure.

Monitored systems are hooked up either directly to the police, which is illegal in some places, or to a monitoring firm that charges a $20-$30 fee. The company calls you to verify or cancel the alarm with a password before calling the police.

Alarm systems are operated by a control panel, where sensors are turned on and off with a code.

Useful additional features include:

* Window screens, which allow you to leave the windows open. The alarm is tripped when the window screen is touched.

* Cut-phone alert, which will sound an alarm inside your home if your line is cut. Monitored systems often have a private phone line installed that, when cut, alerts the company to call the police.

* Backup power, which allows the system to work in an electrical blackout.

* Pet alley, which prevents your pet from triggering the alarm by setting the motion detecting system so it does not pick up movement within two or three feet off the floor.

Before you shop for an alarm system, ask your local police crime prevention unit for a free security analysis of your home. Ask for advice, including the names of reputable and experienced companies in your area. Also ask friends and your insurance agent for referrals.

Invite three dealers to your home for inspection, recommendations and price quotes. Ask for references. The companies you consider should be licensed, if applicable in your state, have no complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau and have certification from Underwriters Laboratories.

"Don't respond to ads or to salespeople who contact you," said Temple University's Simon Hakim, an expert on burglary patterns and electronic alarms. "And hang up when a caller asks you if you have an alarm system--it could be a burglar casing your house."

A professionally installed system costs about $1,369. Wireless systems or a combination of wired and wireless may be cheaper because they take less time to install.

Install-it-yourself systems may be much less expensive, but usually require wiring expertise. Hakim advises installation by a security professional for quality installation and effective choice and placement of sensor types. The simplest alarm units sold in electronics stores cost under $100. Because they are easy to install, they also are easy to disarm.

Hakim added that an alarm deters thieves only if you post the alarm company's yard signs and window stickers, and it detects thieves only when you turn it on.

Other ways to protect your home include pick- and jimmy-proof locks and a deadbolt lock on exterior doors. You can prevent sliding glass doors from being opened by placing a sturdy metal rod inside the track that holds the sliding door.

Make sure pet doors are smaller than six inches across, because some burglars bring along children who climb in and unlock the door.

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