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Burglar Alarms - What You Need to Know


Following up on our previous article on physical security, a primer of burglar alarm systems is needed. Alarm system technology has changed, and you should be an informed purchaser of these systems.


Local or Monitored System?

A local alarm system will sound an alarm at the protected premises or alert the supervising party via a text message. A local system will not alert police or fire departments. The local system is the least expensive option for Do It Yourself (DIY) alarms.


A monitored system will report the alarm condition to the supervising party and also alert the local police and fire department of the alarm condition. This requires a communication path to the monitoring service. The communication path can be either cellular, phone line or a Wi-Fi connection via your internet service. Some local jurisdictions require a permit for a monitored system. There may also be false alarm penalties associated with monitored systems.


Monitoring System

If you are buying monitoring service, you should ask the questions.

  • What channel is used as the primary communication path? The choices here are cellular, Wi-Fi, telephone line or radio system. You should assess the quality and reliability of each of these options.

  • Is there a secondary communication path? If the first path is unavailable, is there a second path to send an alarm signal? This feature may be available, but it may also come at a higher cost.

  • Who is monitoring the system? Does the provider monitor the systems with their own resources or is it contracted to another provider? While both can be acceptable, you should know who is receiving the signals.

  • How many monitoring centers are available? You are looking for redundancy in this function.

  • Is the monitoring service UL listed? There are UL standards for alarm monitoring services that have provisions for back up power, redundant communication paths, facility security and operator training. You want your monitoring service to meet this industry standards.

  • Is there any supervision on the primary communication path? If the signal between your location and the monitoring service is lost, will you be notified? How often is the connection verified? If the connection is not supervised, you may not have the protection you expect.

Extent of Protection

If you refer back to our article on physical security, you will see our approach to alarm system extent. A good verification of the system design is called a walk test. If you enter through the identified entry points, can you walk more than 4 steps without triggering the alarm?


Systems also offer life safety protection with fire detection and carbon monoxide detection. This is a good addition to your protection. Make sure the detectors are in the proper locations to be effective. We have an article on smoke detectors to help with this process.


A third level of protection is temperature monitoring and water leak detection. Placing a leak sensor around the water heater, washing machine and kitchen can prevent considerable damage. The cost of monitoring is a fraction of the cost of repairs.


Cameras in your Security System

The modern security system integrates cameras into the alarm system package. Cameras can provide real time information to the monitoring station allowing the monitoring station to report a “crime in progress” versus an “alarm drop”. This can change the nature of police response. To allow off premise viewing of the video, a strong connection to the monitoring service is needed. Assess the type of connection and signal quality if you integrate video into your system.


Check the video images for clarity and quality. Also determine the image retention time in the system. If you desire longer retention times, there may be additional costs for the storage of the data.


Camera images can also be shared with law enforcement for investigation of events off of your premises. Check to see if your local law enforcement agency has a camera registration program for this purpose.


The Driehaus Difference

We want our clients to make informed decisions around security system purchases. We can help you identify any insurance discounts related to having an alarm system. If there are specific requirements to qualify for the discount, we can help you understand the requirements so you can find the system that meets these requirements. Reach out to us by phone at 513-977-6860 or on the internet at http://www.driehausins.com

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