Home security systems vary almost as much as the homes they protect. Simple systems can be made yourself for little more than a few dollars, while elaborate systems provide extensive high-tech motion detectors and alerts for any possible emergency. The system which is best for you depends on the property you wish to protect, the means you intend to use, and the money you have to spend.
Before you purchase a security system, it's helpful to take a thorough survey of your home and consider what you may need. Homes with a large outdoor area may want motion detectors with floodlights, while those with more intimate settings might simply want coverage of all the major entryways. If you're renting rather than owning the property, you may want to consider a security plan with a lease, or get portable equipment that you can take with you when you move. A basic inventory should include a list of the doors and windows on the ground floor, large areas such as living rooms which may require a motion detector, and family members such as pets or small children who may inadvertently set off any alarms.
The ideal security system is one which has more than one deterrent. Burglar alarms with motion detectors can cover the basics, but you may want to consider an installed safe to protect your valuables within the home. In addition, inside locks on key doors (especially the bedroom door, which is the place burglars tend to target most frequently) are strongly recommended. The aim is first to deter burglars from targeting your home in the first place, and then to slow them down to the point where they are forced to flee before the authorities arrive.
When the time comes to choose a security company, shop around and get specifics. Large-scale companies such as Brink's and ADT are very effective, but smaller local companies may be better equipped to focus on you individually, as well as provide a cheaper price tag. Get specific information about services when you speak to the company. How much area does the company cover? Does the system automatically dial 911? Will it summon fire and ambulance services as well as the police? Every security company should send someone directly to your home to look over the area. Find out how easy it is to operate the system and whether it can be operated by every member of the household. Prepare a list of each company's services and prices (including ongoing monthly fees), and then compare to determine which one is best for you and your family.
Once you have a security system in place, take the time to learn every aspect of it and how it works. It sounds like common sense, but many burglar alarms fail simply because their owners did not activate them properly.
False alarms can do more harm than good. For example, in some principalities the police have orders to ignore burglar alarms from houses with a history of inadvertent activation.
For all the concrete deterrents you can install in your home, some of the best prevention methods don't cost you a thing. Once you have established your security system, apply common sense approaches on top of it, such as stopping newspaper service when you're out of town, or having friends collect your mail while on vacation. Keep your front yard well-lit at night and use timed lights which turn on automatically when you're away. Good relations with your neighbors are an invaluable part of any security system. If they know you and your habits, they will be better able to notice when something in your house is amiss. A neighborhood watch program is even better; the National Crime Prevention Council can give you information on starting one in your area (see Resources, below).
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