Consumer Guide for Choosing a Home Alarm System
The basic elements of a standard home security system are:
- Control Panel:
The location where your system wiring terminates and your backup battery is located.
To arm and disarm your system.
A loud siren will alert you when there's been a break-in and it also lets an intruder know he's been detected.
- Inside Motion Detector:
Passive infrared, microwave or photoelectric detectors sense changes in a room caused by human presence. Special Motion Detectors are available for people who have pets.
- Door and Window Contacts:
Magnetic contacts form a circuit between a door and door frame or a window and a sill; when the door or window is opened (and the alarm is on) the circuit is broken, and this sounds the alarm.
- Central Monitoring Station:
Emergency signals from your home are electronically transmitted to the 24-hour monitoring station, which summons help from police, fire or medics.
The best home security system will be customized to your lifestyle - it will take your schedule into account and will specifically protect the things you value the most. It has been proven that user education is the best defense against false alarms. It is very important that the installer teach you and your family how to properly use your security system, including false alarm prevention measures.
In addition to the basics, there are some additional devices you should consider incorporating in your home security system. These include:
- Smoke Detectors:
These provide an early warning of fire and should be installed throughout your home.
- Glass Break Detectors:
These devices recognize the sound of glass breaking and will sound the alarm.
- Panic Buttons:
These buttons can be hand-held or may be be located in strategic places such as next to beds and doors; just pushing the button will sound the alarm.
- Pressure Mats:
These mats can be placed under rugs and they react to pressure from footsteps to activate the alarm.
- Closed-circuit TV:
This is a private TV system which allows you to monitor and/or record inside or outside your home.
- Alarm Screens:
These are special screens for your windows which have a wire woven in their mesh which will activate your alarm when cut or removed.
Check with your homeowners insurance company! Typically they offer a discount between 2% and 20% on your insurance when you install a security system. Ask your agent which type of system will qualify you for the greatest savings.
Arizona Burglar & Fire Alarm Association Members
Listed below are the 2009 regular members of the Association. The Association does not endorse any individual company.
Basic Operation of an Alarm System
If your alarm system is monitored, it will send a signal to the central monitoring station each time it is activated (i.e.. the door or window contacts are broken when in the alarm is on, or the motion detector senses a human presence in the building). This signal will usually be sent over your phone line (in some systems, cellular phones may be used as a backup). In many cases the central monitoring station will call your home or office prior to calling the police to verify that this is not a false alarm. If they do not get an answer at your home or office, or if the person who answers the phone does not give the proper password, the central monitoring station will then call the appropriate authority (police, fire or medical services). They will also try to contact you or another one of your representatives so someone can meet the authorities at the building.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Arizona Burglar & Fire Alarm Association at (480) 831-7318 or by fax at (480) 944-0442 or www.azalarms.org
Why Do You Need A Security System?
- A burglary is committed every 10 seconds in America. This adds up to almost 13 million homes - one of every 20.
- There is an average loss of $1,300 worth of property per burglary.
- According to the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association, burglars attack homes without a security system 3 times more often than homes with a system.
- Today about 1 in 6 homeowners have invested in an electronic security system - more and more Americans are saying that they feel safer with a home security system.
- Over the last 5 years the number of homes with a security system has increased by almost 40%
- Your chances of a break in are highest right after you move into a new home - Burglars know that most people don't install security systems until 2 to 4 years after they move in.
- Burglars are more likely to break into your home between 9:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., while you are at work, as opposed to breaking in at night.
- Nearly half of burglars break-in through the front door, 32% choose the back door and 22% through a first floor window. The rest break in through a basement, garage or second floor window.
Selecting an Alarm Company
Following are some tips for selecting a home security alarm company:
- Contact several different companies. Ask if they are members of the Arizona Burglar & Fire Alarm Association. Our members agree to maintain a high level of conduct under state and national codes of ethics.
- Ask each company if it is licensed through the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. Call the Registrar at 602-542-1525 to see if there are any unresolved outstanding complaints.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau to find out if any complaints have been flied against the companies.
- Narrow the field to 3 or 4 companies. Arrange an appointment with each company when all members of your household will be present. Be sure to ask for the name of the person who will be calling on you, and verify his or her identification upon arrival.
- Ask for an inspection, demonstration and a quotation in writing. Also ask for and check references.
- Study each contract to ensure you know exactly what you are getting. Consider the merits of leasing vs. buying.
Proper Use of Your Alarm System
An alarm system is only as good as its user. Be sure that the system installer explains how the system works thoroughly and answers all of your questions. Everyone who will be using the system should be present during this educational process.
Many municipalities are now charging fines for excessive false alarms, as they cost taxpayers thousands of dollars a year by taking police officers away from other duties to investigate the alarm. For this reason, you should be very careful in arming and disarming your system.
If your system develops any problems or you have further questions regarding it, contact the installer.
The Arizona Burglar & Fire Alarm Association is a non-profit organization representing alarm installers, manufacturers and monitoring companies throughout the state. Our goals include:
- Educating alarm consumers through written materials and seminars
- Improving the quality of alarm industry members through education and legislation
- Working with municipalities on issues involving alarms
For more information, contact the Association at 602-277-2500 or 800-330-7749 or www.azalarms.org