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BLOG: Do you REALLY need a home security system?

The answer to most is obvious, yet many homes still are not equipped with what is proven to be one of the most valuable crime-fighting tools available. Although many people consider home security and safety to be a top concern, they are unwilling to spend the few dollars it takes to help keep them and their loved ones safe.

In 2009, Rutgers University developed the first ever (known) scientifically-conducted study that focused on alarm systems while ruling out other crime-impacting factors. The crime data in Newark, NJ was analyzed and compared to the registered home burglar alarms, and the study clearly demonstrated a decrease in residential burglaries with the increase in residential home alarm systems over a multi-year period. In fact, when focused on neighborhoods, the data also concluded that neighborhoods with a high number of burglar alarm systems had fewer burglaries than those with less. The deterrent effect is clearly present.

So what keeps people from installing and using a home security system and monitoring service? The primary factor for most consumers is cost. If you have looked at burglar alarm systems lately, you will find that the cost, service, and benefits provided are rarely the same. Alarms systems may be provided free by the alarm company (although this usually means you pay a LOT more over time), or you can pay upwards of thousands of dollars for a basic system (which usually includes a control panel, 1 keypad, 1 motion sensor, a siren, and 2 or 3 interchangeable door/window sensors.) Once installed, the actual monitoring can cost from $15.00 to over $100.00 per month, depending on the specific services provided. And the question most consumers have is, what are you really paying for?

The answer to whether or not you need a security system is obvious. But how much you pay depends on your individual needs, and the research you conduct to compare companies. You may find that one company provides the same level of service as another, but charges twice the amount. How much security is enough? Well, you can never have enough (in my humble opinion), however, one of my favorite sayings is that “security is a compromise between safety and inconvenience.” You can get REALLY safe, but it costs more. Or, you can determine what you needs really are, and then make a practical decision based on your actual needs.

For example, I recommend (as a minimum for the average homeowner) placing a sensor on every window (that can open,) every door, and every other possible point of entry (i.e., skylights.) Additionally, glass break detectors in every room and motion sensors that would cover the appropriate areas to catch intruders. The system should be monitored, and you should have a cellular back-up in case the phone lines are cut or otherwise unavailable (many people are now using the cellular service as their primary). There are other factors to consider as well, but to make my point, is your alarm representative making a commission on every single piece of hardware they sell you? If so, do you really need it, or are they just trying to make a little extra month at your expense?

If you really want to go all out, you could install microwave sensors, shock sensors, vibration sensors, flood sensors, fence protection sensors, panic buttons in every room, sirens with flashing lights in every room and outside the house, buried pressure-sensitive pads around your windows or under your carpets, and a host of other components. But are they necessary? The answer is…it depends on your threat. Are you worried about your average street thug burglarizing your home and/or coming in while you are there and assaulting you or your family, or are you worried about a professional assassin? What you need depends on your threat.

The bottom line is, choosing a burglar alarm company is serious business, and one that should be undertaken only with the right mindset. Ask your salespeople if they make commission on everything they sell. Ask if their monitoring station is UL-Certified (if not, don’t walk…run away!). READ the Terms and Conditions. Are you locked into a multi-year contract? Contracts are not necessarily bad in themselves, but what do you get for it? Does it protect YOU as well as the alarm company? What are the penalties if you want to close your account? There are many questions you should, but the most important one is whether or not your safety is of the utmost importance. If so, act like it.

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