Crime news affects everyone else. At least that’s the attitude the vast majority of us have. We don’t worry about the house because we live ‘in a nice area.’ Our neighbors keep an eye on the place (infrequently and from a distance) and there hasn’t been a house robbery that anyone can remember. So why get a security alarm?

Those alarms, sometimes seen on the TV, can actually offer a lot of protection. But let’s talk about alarm systems in general. Many homes have security systems installed during construction. These systems may be connected to a community service as part of your monthly association fee, may be connected to an individual company that monitors the system, or may be a standalone system that only alarms inside the house and does not call anyone. The first two are referred to as ‘monitored’ systems because a station employee is keeping track of its status.  The ‘un-monitored’ system is really nothing more than a last hope if someone breaks in. You hope the noise scares them away.

So a monitored system sends signals to a security station via two primary means: regular telephone lines or cell phone. One uses your phone line while the other has it’s own cell connection to the station. (No, there is no monthly cell-phone bill, it is a one time installation with no recurring payments for the cell.) The advantage of the cell phone connection is that burglars cannot cut the phone line to the house and disable the ‘calling’ function of the system.

Monitored systems have several advantages and a few limitations.

The first advantage is the ‘perimeter monitoring’ that ensures the ‘envelope’ of your home is not broken without an alarm. If a door or window opens and the alarm is set, someone will be notified. The monitoring company will call whoever you put on the their list. If they are unable to get a response, the monitoring company calls the police. if you have a smoke alarm wired through this same system, the monitoring company will call the fire department if you (or those on your list) cannot be contacted. Where a battery powered smoke alarm is only intended to get occupants out of the property, a monitored system can actually save you AND the property. A valuable consideration when the house is unoccupied.  While a house with just a battery powered smoke detector may burn for quite some time before an outsider notices, the fire department has already been called if a monitoring comp0any is involved.

The limitations of a monitored system do not remove the overall benefit. You just need to recognize what they are. For example:

-without a home watch service, there may not be anyone to respond when the alarm sounds. The monitoring service will try to call you but chances are you are thousands of miles away. If you have your neighbors on the list, you can only hope they are available and nearby. Remember: hope is not a plan.

-any alarm system only protects the perimeter and certain other threats. It cannot detect mold, roof or plumbing leaks, insects, noxious odors, refrigerator and freezer operation, power failure impacts, etc, etc. You need someone to periodically go into the property to survey all the systems and evaluate the safety and security of the premises.

-the monitoring company does not physically respond. You may have seen security vehicles while driving in town. they are hired by commercial companies for after-hours work. They only respond to residential if you have hired them to do so- and this is expensive and rare.

-Local authorities have put fees in pace when they are repeatedly called out for false alarms. A good Security Service should step up and immediately fix a problem when this happens. But if you are out of town, you may be between a rock and a hard place.

Home Security Systems can help with peace of mind when you are gone for the season as long as you know their limitations. One added benefit is that your home owner’s insurance may have a credit for a ‘monitored’ alarm system. Give them a call to see.