should I have a burglar 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
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:
Additional items that can be added
to the basic system are:
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
the central monitoring station will contact the police,
fire department, or medics. There is usually a monthly
fee for this service.
- 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
- 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.
are the advantages of a system monitored by a central station?
Monitored Systems contact a monitoring company by
The typical sequence of events is as follows:
Caution: A monitored alarm uses the phone line to call
the monitoring company. If personal safety were at risk when
the alarm sounds, a homeowner 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 security system senses
- The security system waits for 30 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
they call the police.
- The police receive the monitoring company's call
The only way to keep this from happening would be to have
more than one telephone line into the house or have a cellular
Unmonitored systems typically have on-site alarms and/or flashing lights that indicate the security system has
been breached. It relies on neighbors as the eyes and ears
to see or hear the alarms and then to call police. Neighbors
or passersby should never investigate an alarm themselves.
With an unmonitored system, it is best to have a combination
of strobe lights and alarms. They should be located on the
street side of the house and in an as-inaccessible spot as
possible. Because it can be difficult to determine the location
of a siren, it is best to discuss this with your neighbors
and to place the siren and flashing light on the house where
it can be easily seen.
The advantage of this type of system is that a burglar's
primary goal is to gain entrance to the house, remove
and do so without being noticed. Many burglars will leave
once alarms and strobes are activated. The disadvantage to
an unmonitored system is it relies on neighbors who may not
be at home or may not want to become involved. This system
is appropriate for a typical suburban setting but might not
work as well for a home out in the country without close
do I choose my security alarm company ?
Choosing an alarm company can be confusing and the technology
complicated. Here are some suggestions:
- Check with friends or neighbors for recommendations
on reliable companies.
- Find out how quickly the alarm company will install
your system after purchase. See if the company sells
systems faster than they can install them.
- Determine how quickly they respond to requests for
service after installation. Ask for references from
some of their customers who have required service
and call and talk to these people.
- Ask about
- Obtain quotes from at least three different
- Ask the alarm company what screening they do when
hiring their alarm installers and salespeople. You
want a company that screens for criminal backgrounds/records,
- Call your local police department and ask how long
it takes them to respond to a home security system
alarm. Also ask if there
are any fines for false alarms.
- Ask each company if it is
licensed. Choose a
company ULC approved as well as for the installation
or central station.
- Study each contract to ensure you know exactly what
you are getting. Consider the merits of leasing vs.
- Lastly, when comparing prices remember to compare
detection coverage and features. The least expensive
system could be all you need, or a waste of money.
Not all alarms are created equal.
do false alarms affect the quality of service?
What is a false
A false alarm is an alarm which causes unnecessary
intervention by public safety services such as the
police or the fire department and which is triggered
by an event that results in no harm or damages. Some
central monitoring stations urge their operators to
dispatch the police as soon as an alarm signal is received
even if it is triggered by a user's procedural
mistake. This policy is generally applied by large volume
central stations which cannot afford to timely and
carefuly analyze the event that resulted into an alarm
It is therefore advised that you check with your
alarm company what actions are taken by local public
safety services in case of a handled false alarm,
False alarms with security alarm systems are a significant
concern. It is estimated between 95 percent and 99 percent
of the alarms received are false. Because of this, most
police departments require the system, if it alarms remotely by
phone, to go first through a central monitoring station.
To combat the false alarm problem, some police departements are imposing fines for false alarms after a specified number
of false alarms.For example, across the SPVM (Montreal
Police Services) covered area, the maximum number of false
alarms allowed in one year is four. A fine is imposed
for the second false alarrm one
and the amount increases for each new one. After
four false alarms the police departement ceases to intervene at
the alarm site, in which case you have to resort to private
should I do if I exceed the number of false alarms allowed by
local public safety services?
Your alarm company has the
duty to notify you as you are nearing the number of false alarms
allowed in your community.
If you exceed the maximum allowed you will be advised to
retain the services of a private security patrol company to
inspect your property if you choose to do so when an alarm
occurs.However, we do emphasize that the best solution to
avoid or at least minimize the number of false alarms is
prevention by following your central monitoring station
guidelines and maintaining your system.
should I do if the alarm goes off when I am in the building?
You should contact your
central station as soon as possible, before the operator
dispatches the police. If you are unable to call the central
station because the line is busy transmitting alarm signals,
please consider adding a second phone line or using a cell
The operator will discuss with you whether the alarm was caused
by accidental misuse or whether a technician should be
dispatched to do a verification of your system.
What is a supervised DVACS line?
A DVACS line is data transmission line that is used
specifically for alarm signals.
If the line is cut, tampered with or experiences technical
problems, the central monitoring station receives an immediate
trouble signal and can act quickly to assure the continued
security of the premises.
are the advantages of a supervised DVACS line?
A DVACS line is a highly efficient transmitter of alarm
signals which cannot be neutralized by a burglar. Loss of
signals is immediately detected and acted upon. These supervised
lines are recommended in high-risk situations such as jewellery
stores, furriers,etc. There is a monthly fee for this service.
do I do if I have pets at home?
Alarme Trans-Canada uses motion sensors that are
calibrated not to detect small animals. You should advise your
alarm company if you have pets at home that have the freedom of
the house so that they can install the proper motion detectors
and avoid false alarms.
Do I get a discount on my insurance premium if I have an
Yes, most insurance companies offer discounst for an
alarm protection unit that is connected to an approved
central station, usually 5% to 20%. Some insurers even require
alarm protection as a condition for insurance.
is a ULC certificate?
The Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada is a non-profit
organization that regulates and supervises certain accredited
alarm companies. ULC requires that these companies such as
Alarme Trans-Canada meet its rigorous quality standards and it
enforces them through periodic inspections. If the accredired
company fails to meet these standards, it can loose its
Thus, a central monitoring station with ULC certification
provides a superior level of service to the client.
ULC certificates are awarded to commercial alarm systems which
meet ULC standards for equipment and installation, and which are
monitored by a ULC approved central station.
In many commercial insurance cases, a ULC certificate is
required by the insurer as a precondition to the granting of
ULC certificates are not issued for residential alarm systems,
but the insurer often requires monitoring by a ULC station.
from the magazine "PROTEGEZ
VOUS" on residential security .
Install door locks that open with key on both sides preferrably
a lock that uses a protected key such as MEDECO.
If your home has glass patio doors, install a metal bar at the
bottom of the inside door that locks it closed. You should also
install a metal plate on the outside door to prevent the door
from being lifting from its channel.
Display your address with a large plaque so that neighbors or
police can find the house quickly.
Advise your neighbors if you are going on vacation. Stop
delivery of mail and newspapers or have someone collect them
regurlarly. Your telephone answering machine should not say that
you are on vacation. If you will be away for a prolonged period,
have someone cut the grass or remove the snow.
Ask a neighbor, a friend or a relative to clear your mailbox of
fliers and to park a car in your driveway from time to time.
If you have an alarm system, make sure that the alarm company
has put up warning stickers on doors and windows.
Use timers to turn lights on and off at the appropriate times,
specially when you are away.