by Allison Gunkel
Remember when you were a small child with monsters in your closet, trolls under the bed, and you swore you saw someone’s eyes watching you while they lurked surreptitiously in the darkest corner of your room? You would have to turn on a light, poke under the bed, peek into the far corner, and send someone you loved into the closet armed with an umbrella and growing impatience. Only when your umbrella-wielding knight tucked you into bed once more did you uneasily close your eyes, holding tightly to his sworn pledges that all of this evening’s monsters had been thoroughly vanquished.
Now if only those fears had stayed in your childhood. At any age people find themselves pawns of their hyperactive imaginations, fearing small noises and large shadows, questioning the practicality of their home as a refuge. Outside of investing in that large German Shepherd to guard the front door, many families are combining intelligent safety precautions with home security systems to ease their nerves. These home security systems range from do-it-yourself kits to professionally installed whole-house security networks. And with a new house plans, it will be easy to install a system so your very first night in your dream home will be free from stress.
Each system shares a similar, basic set up despite make, model, or cost. To have an effective home security system, the following should be invested in:
- Door/window contacts: These sound an alarm when the door/window is opened while the system is on.
- Motion detectors: Intruders actions are highly unpredictable and motion detectors allow us monitoring and response to unknown movement. Sensors send out ultrasonic sound waves that reflect back in a specific pattern. When that pattern is disrupted by an intruder’s motion, the sensors alert the control panel that sets off an alarm.
- Control Panel: The control panel is the brain of the system. Whether wired or wireless, the control panel receives all the signals from door/window contacts and motion detectors and interprets how to respond. The control panel often allows 30-45 seconds to pass after a sensor is triggered, allowing homeowners to type in deactivation passwords, warding off false alarms. If a password is not entered, alarms sound, lights may flash, and the panel may auto-dial the police or the monitoring company if so programmed.
If an outside third party does not monitor your home security system, the alarm sounding and lights flashing should prompt neighbors or passersby to alert the police. There is no guarantee that they will do so, which is why other safety precautions should be taken to protect your home and family. A very important precaution to take is getting to know your neighbors and what is common and uncommon within your neighborhood. Good rapport within a community encourages people to look out for one another, including their homes.
This is especially true when planning extended time away from home. A trustworthy neighbor to watch the home and do a few simple tasks to disguise your absence is invaluable to a homeowner.
When away from home, keep these tips in mind:
- Timers on your lights, blinds/curtains, and radios can simulate presence within a home.
- Have someone collect your mail and wayward newspapers. Do not have either service stopped, if possible so information about your absence does not pass to strangers.
- Make arrangements for the lawn to be mowed or the snow shoveled.
- If neighbors are being trusted to go in and out of your home, be sure they are provided with alarm passwords so they can shut off and reset your home alarm as they come and go. Notifying your home monitoring company that you will be out of town and a neighbor will be looking in is also a good idea.
Other daily common sense security tips should be followed as well:
- If you move into a new home, replace the locks.
- Parking in the garage and keeping the door closed consistently will prevent a noticeable pattern when you are away.
- Motion detector lights on the outside of your home prevent night prowlers.
- Eliminate hiding spaces outside the home by strategically placing bushes (not near windows or doors) and use bushes that produce thorny branches.
- Display the decals of your alarm system in your yard and window-most burglars will not bother if they see a chance of drawing unnecessary attention.
- Lock all doors and windows with key locks, dead bolts, and door strikes as appropriate.
- Do NOT hide spare keys outside the home!
- Do not leave notes on doors that can tip off burglars.
- Do not leave valuables lying in plain view from a window.
- Discuss safety and security with younger members of the household so they can participate in making smart choices.
When considering home security, you can never ask too many questions. It is great to ask around and see what others in your area are doing to prevent crime from pervading their homes. Recommendations of alarm companies and systems should be gathered from people you trust who have had experience with the companies they advocate. Find out why they did or did not like a certain system–every company has pros and cons. Ask about prompt installation, response times, false alarm fines, references and warranties. Inquire as to how they screen their installers and sales associates so the people you obtain to work on your home security are able to respect it. Compare coverage, features, and rate quotes from multiple companies – they all require the basic setup, but not all alarms are equal.
Most burglars look for homes with something worth stealing, easy access, low visibility, and usually will not work a home that is occupied or will take longer than four minutes to get into. Do not forget that burglars know how alarms work too, but installing a home security system and following the previous safety guidelines should help eliminate your home as a target for theft. Though there are no guarantees in home security, being proactive and intelligent about protecting your home will ease your nerves inside your dream home and let you use that umbrella for rainy days rather than sleepless nights.
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