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Why Should I Have a Security Alarm System?
It is debated whether having an alarm system decreases the chances of a burglary. In theory, if a burglar is aware a house has a system, he or she might move on to another home. Even if the alarm system does not keep a burglar from breaking in, the burglar has a tendency to stay a shorter amount of time. This may decrease the number of items stolen and the extent of damage done.

What Should a Security Alarm System Include?
Most systems rely on a combination of contacts placed at doors and windows and motion sensors. Motion sensors, however, do not detect someone until they are already in the house. Motion sensors should NOT be used as the primary means of detection. It is best that all exterior potential points of entry have contacts that sense when they are open. Glass break sensors are also available and recommended.

The basic elements of a standard home security system include:

Control Panel: This is the location where the system wiring terminates, the backup battery is located, and where it is connected to the phone lines if it is a monitored system.
Keypad: This is where the system is armed and disarmed. Additional keypads can be installed. For example, a keypad can be installed next to the homeowner's bed. If the alarm sounds in the middle of the night and the security system had the capability, the keypad display could indicate which door, window, or motion detector caused the alarm.
Siren: A loud siren sounds when there's been a break-in and it also lets an intruder know they've 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 doorframe or a window and a sill; when the door or window is opened (and the system is on), the circuit is broken and sounds the alarm.
A Central Monitoring Station (Company): If the system is monitored, in the event of an alarm, the control panel sends a message over a telephone line to a central monitoring station, which is manned 24 hours a day. After attempting to contact the homeowner, the central monitoring station will contact the police, fire department, or medics. There is usually a monthly fee for this service.

Additional items that can be added to the basic system are:
Smoke Detectors are required by many building codes. They can be wired to the security panel. If the smoke detectors go into alarm, the security panel will notify the central monitoring station if smoke is detected.
Carbon Monoxide Sensors 
Glass Break Detectors recognize the sound of glass breaking and will sound the alarm.
Panic Buttons can be hand-held and should be located in strategic places such as next to beds and doors; just punching the button will send a message to the central monitoring station for help. Homeowners may choose to have the panic button send the alarm as a silent alarm or sound the alarms within the house.
Closed circuit TV is a private TV system which allows monitoring and/or recording inside or outside a home.
Alarm Screens are special screens for windows that have a special wire woven in the mesh that will activate an alarm when cut or removed.
Wireless Backup Radio If the system is monitored, in the event of an alarm, the control panel sends a message over a wireless radio  transmission to a central monitoring station.


Monitored Systems contact a monitoring company by telephone. 
The typical sequence of events is as follows:

The security system senses something.
The security system may wait for 15 to 45 seconds before going into alarm allowing the homeowner a chance to deactivate the system to prevent false alarms.
If not deactivated, the security system goes into alarm and sends a message to the monitoring company over telephone lines.
The monitoring company receives the message, determines the nature of the alarm and verifies the alarm, generally by placing a phone call to the home. If they do not receive the proper password or do not receive an answer, they call the police.
The police receive the monitoring company's call and respond.


Caution: A monitored alarm uses the phone line to call the monitoring company. If personal safety were at risk when the alarm sounds, a business or home owner would be unable to call 911 or call for help by phone while the alarm system is communicating through the phone line with the monitoring company.
The only way to keep this from happening would be to have more than one telephone line into the business or house or have a cellular phone available.
Unmonitored systems typically have on-site alarms and/or flashing lights that indicate the security system has been breached. It relies on you or your neighbors as the eyes and ears to see or hear the alarms and then to call police or fire department. Neighbors or passersby should never investigate an alarm themselves.

Helpful Security Tips:
Remember to lock all doors and windows when you leave the home.
Keep all valuable items out of sight.
Install proper lighting around your home to keep it well lit at night.
Introduce yourself to your neighbors and get to know them. Also, take the initiative to start a Neighborhood Watch group.
When you are out of town, do not lure burglars with stacks of newspapers and an overflowing mailbox. Either have a trusted neighbor pick them up daily or have the post office and news carrier hold them for you.
Set timers for lights and a television so it appears that someone is home while you are traveling.
Do not hide spare keys in obvious places such as: under doormats, in the mailbox, etc.
Install a peephole in your front door to make it possible to see who is there without having to open it.
Monitored alarm systems are effective at deterring burglars.
Do not give out your alarm code to just anyone. Only a family member or trusted friend should know the code in case of an emergency.

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