When it comes to home safety and security, customized protection is the new trend. The main purpose of a residential alarm system, of course, remains the same: dissuade intruders as well as detect and report—loudly and clearly—any anomaly. But these days, alarm systems do much more than that.

Reporting several different types of problems
With today’s alarm systems, indoor motion detectors, smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors usually “come standard.” Increasingly popular options that can be added to a basic installation include sensors to quickly detect basement water leaks caused by a defective water heater, sump pump or home appliance. State-of-the-art sensors for detecting low temperatures (for example, during a power outage) and broken glass are also becoming common.

Monitoring comings and goings
With modern technology, monitoring and even controlling access to your home remotely has become a relatively simple matter. You can receive alerts by e-mail or text messaging of comings and goings in your home—i.e., every time the alarm system is armed or disarmed. If you are a parent, you can be reassured that your child has returned home safely when he or she keys in a dedicated access code. If you are away and a contractor is doing work in your home, you can know how long he was there by noting the times at which he entered his temporary code to disarm the alarm, and then re-entered it before leaving. And if you’re not comfortable giving out access codes, you can opt to arm and disarm the system remotely.

Ensuring occupants’ safety
In a home-care situation, an elderly person or somebody with serious health issues can enjoy greater peace of mind (as can their loved ones!) if their house is under remote surveillance (even while they are at home), and/or they carry a device with an alert button that they can use to summon medical help in an emergency.

The key element: remote surveillance
To guarantee a proper and timely response—whether by the police, firefighters or ambulance technicians, for example—the alarm system must be connected to a central monitoring station. If there is no such connection, help will come only if the occupant or a neighbour hears the alarm go off and reacts.

The system can be connected to the monitoring station by a standard phone line, using mobile phone technology (i.e., a transmitter patched into the alarm control panel), or via the Internet. And using two out of those three connections (with one acting as a backup) will make the system even more secure.

Some alarm companies monitor their clients’ systems themselves. Others entrust that part of the job to a specialized centre. This is common practice, and should not be viewed as a negative aspect; the alert will still be transmitted without delay to the appropriate resource.

Choosing a surveillance system
Ultimately, when the goal is worry-free sleep or peace of mind when you’re away from home, choosing a competent, responsible security company is the key. Here are some tips to make sure you choose wisely.

 

  • Contact two or three specialized companies and ask for detailed written estimates so that you can compare their services. If a representative isn’t willing to come to your home to evaluate your needs and those of the building, don’t choose that company.
  • Ask for a detailed description of the proposed system (control panel, type and number of detection devices, etc.).
  • Ask questions about the cost of purchasing versus leasing the system, the installation fees, and what guarantees are provided.
  • Ask about remote monitoring: how much will it cost, and who will be doing it?
  • Make sure the company AND its technicians have the mandatory licence from the Bureau de la sécurité privée. To check licence validity, call them at 514 748-7480 (or toll-free, 1 877 748-7483).
  • Demand proof that the company has insurance that covers errors or omissions.
  • Find out how long the company has been in business, and ask for information on its installers’ technical competencies (type and level of training).
  • Check whether the firms involved (installer and remote monitoring company) are members of the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) by calling 514 990-2349 (toll-free number: 1 800 538-9919).
  • Ask for references.

Notify your insurer
To benefit not once but twice, be sure to notify your insurer once your alarm system has been installed. It’s very likely that they’ll be reassured to the point that they lower your premium!

Our thanks to Groupe Intégral, a member of CAA-Quebec’s Network of Approved Residential Suppliers, and to the Canadian Security Association (CANASA) for their contributions to this instalment of Tips & Tricks.