By Michael Chotiner
What do you think of when you hear the phrase “home security system”? Most folks picture a bunch of gadgets fastened to doors and windows that go off with a piercing sound when that door or window is opened. A lot of people consider a “sophisticated” home security system to be one that automatically sends a signal to a central monitoring station when an alarm is triggered. But frankly, that perception is now largely outdated.
To be genuinely secure, a home needs to be protected from more than just break-ins that occur when nobody is home. An effective security system is one that takes into account your neighborhood, your household makeup and lifestyle, the nature of your possessions and how they are stored, local weather patterns and even the condition of your home’s plumbing, heating and electrical systems.
While not all homes are prone to all of the risks in the list that follows, consider how a home security system can be designed to address these risks:
- Home invasions
- Unauthorized access to valuables, firearms, drugs and alcohol
- Challenges to supervising children
- Challenges to monitoring, communicating with infirm, house-bound loved ones
- Fire and smoke emergencies
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Power interruptions
Chances are that your household is subject to more than one of these risks. The good news is that a wide variety of security devices are available to guard against or at least provide early warning for them all. The most useful devices are described in the table below. Experts advise picking and choosing among them and deploying the ones that best address your risks in layers within your security system.
The concept of layering can be applied in two ways:
- Identify the general risks and layer the security system to address all of them. For example, if you suspect your house is at risk for break-ins/burglaries, life/safety issues, and flooding, you’d want to layer your system by incorporating:
- Perimeter protection, e.g., window and door contact sensors
- Life/safety protection, e.g., smoke and carbon monoxide alarms
- Flood protection, e.g., a flood alarm near the basement sump pump
- Identify an acute, specific risk and build up layers of protection against it. For example, if you fear intrusions and your kids are frequently at home unsupervised after school, you might layer your system by incorporating the following:
- Perimeter protection in the form of:
- Deadbolt locks on all entry doors
- Window locks on all accessible windows
- An IP surveillance camera at the front door that enables people inside to see and talk to individuals at the door
- Interior protection in the form of IP cameras that enable you to communicate with the kids and monitor what they’re up to when you’re away from home
- Point protection in the form of alarm contacts on the liquor and gun cabinets
By the way, you might want to enhance protection by adding layers of deterrence. Yard signs advising passersby that your home has a security system can discourage would-be intruders. Large surveillance cameras mounted outdoors in plain sight are known to have the same effect. A dog with a deep, scary-sounding bark can work, too!
Many of the latest security devices are interoperable with laptops, tablets and smartphones. That means that you can use them to receive security alerts, view surveillance-camera data and arm and disarm the system from remote locations. It also means that when your contract with the central monitoring station expires, you can ditch the monthly fee and nuisance phone calls you get when a steak you’re pan-frying gives off a little too much smoke!
Michael Chotiner is a former construction manager who provides advice and how-to instruction for The Home Depot. Michael writes on a variety of topics ranging from 'how to install kitchen cabinets' to 'the best home security systems for your home.' Visit The Home Depot to find a variety of alarm systems like the ones Michael talks about in this article.