A building is only as secure as the alarm system protecting it – and how well that alarm system is used. If you’re going to invest in a high-quality, professionally installed alarm system – whether for your home or business – following the best practices and procedures for operating and maintaining your alarm system is integral for keeping your home safe and secure. Here are 6 best practices for installing and operating alarm systems, and how you can employ them to keep your home or business safe.
1. Keypad & Control Panel Placement
When installing an alarm system, proper placement and location of the control panel and keypad are integral to keeping the building as secure as possible. A keypad or pin pad should never be placed within a burglar’s line of sight from outside the building or home, meaning it needs to be moved away from windows and entrances. Placing it within a burglar’s line of sight allows them to see whether the system is armed or disabled, as well as helps them form a plan for breaking and entering; knowing where the alarm system and control panel is located allows them to disable it faster and easier. If the keypad has a cover for concealing the keys, it should be kept closed whenever not in use.
2. Program An Alarm System Duress Code
While alarm systems will be programmed with the primary code for everyday use, it’s also a good idea to program it with a duress code in case of emergencies. A duress code is used when there is a break in, and you need to immediately alert the authorities, or if the burglar forces you to enter the code and disarm your system, to prevent the monitoring company or police from responding. In such situations, a duress code will, instead of disarming the system, alert the monitoring company to the emergency and allow them to bring the situation to first responders immediately. The burglar, however, will not be aware that the false code was entered.
Also bear in mind that many alarm systems come pre-programmed with standard duress codes, and many manufacturers use the same code for every alarm – meaning the information could be found online.
3. Place Sensors In The Right Places
An alarm system is only as good as the sensors and devices comprising it and placing these sensors in the appropriate and most-effective locations is integral. Door and windows – both the most commonly used and those rarely opened, such as those on the second floor – should be equipped with door and window sensors; window sensors should be set to go off when the windows open more than four inches.
Likewise, it’s important to place motion detectors inside the home, covering main entrances, rooms with lots of windows, garages, and stairs. Make sure they are equipped with fail-safe anti-tamper switches, triggering the alarm when tampered with or removed.
Hardwired and wireless sensors are both viable options but remember that wireless sensors need to have their batteries checked and replaced regularly. Also bear in mind that their communication signals can sometimes be tampered with by resourceful burglars.
4. Arm Your System At All Times – No Just When You’re Gone
It’s commonly believed that an alarm system should be armed only when you are away from home or the business is closed for the night. But alarm systems generally come equipped with two modes – Away and Stay. Away is the general armed mode, which you switch on when leaving the house and locking the doors for the day. This activates both the exterior perimeter security (door and window contacts, glass break detectors, etc) as well as interior motion detectors; the customary use of an alarm system.
Stay mode, on the other hand, is used when you are home, activating perimeter security but deactivating interior motion detectors, etc. This will allow you to move freely at home or in the building without triggering the alarm. As you leave for the day, activate Away mode behind you.
5. Have Backup External Connections In Case of Emergency
Alarm systems with external monitoring use either a landline, cellular or wireless Internet connection to communicate with the monitoring service. These connections are often susceptible to burglars, however, and can often be easily cut, rendering the alarm system useless. If this is a concern, opt for a cellular connection, which cannot be tampered with as easily from outside the building. An even better idea is to multiple connections, ensuring redundancy in case of a cut line, or any other kind of communication failure. For your home, this would likely mean both landline telephone and cellular connection.
6. Don’t Rely On Just The Alarm
Finally, remember not to rely solely on your alarm system to protect your entire home or business. Security is best done when comprised of multiple aspects – video surveillance, access control and alarm systems – in addition to carefully-implemented security protocols and procedures. Use CCTV cameras to keep a watchful eye over your property, deterring burglars and preventing trouble before it arises. Train employees and teach home residents about proper security procedures and how to use the alarm system, to avoid leaving the building unsecured and unwatched when it matters. Preparation and vigilance are the first step – and often the most effective – to keeping any building safe.