Keep up with technology when it comes to home security. Suvasini Sridharan discovers the easiest burglar alarms you can use

Growing up, we had a great burglar alarm at home – our dog. She would alert the entire neighbourhood with her incessant barking, even if it was just a cat strolling past. Years later, my first job took me away from home and I moved in with a friend into an apartment in a strange city. Not satisfied with the wispy looking watchman, we had a chain bolt fixed on the main door. This and a peephole made us feel secure.

Recently, though, I visited a family friend and was brought face-to-face with a true-blue, hi-tech electronic burglar alarm. Chennai-based Gopinath installed a burglar alarm a few years ago while constructing his home. “The front door, back door and windows are all connected by wiring to a burglar alarm control panel. There are sensors even in the bedrooms which detect movement and send out an alert,” says Gopinath. Sirens on either side of the house start screeching if anyone tries to get in through the main doors or windows.

Hi-tech security

As urban living gets more dangerous and crime rates increase, more people are getting extra-careful with home security. In fact, automated burglar alarms are something even the cops recommend, as policing becomes a challenge in crowded cities and far-flung suburbs. And it’s more than just alarms. You can connect the lights at home to the system when you are travelling, and they can be programmed to turn on and off at intervals, giving the impression that there is someone at home.

“It is not just commercial buildings, or the homes of the very wealthy getting security systems installed,” says Nanda Kumar, CEO, Active Total Security Systems (ATSS), Chennai. “Security is a concern for all.” Harshun, a Chennai-based software professional, installed an ATSS burglar alarm recently. “With my wife and I being out during the day, my elderly mother is home alone,” says Harshun. “We were worried about her safety and had a burglar alarm installed.” His system comes with an emergency panic button, a battery back-up in case of power-cuts and, if anyone tries to break in, a signal is sent to pre-programmed telephone numbers of contacts.

This is just the start when it comes to the features that can be incorporated into a home security system. “You can put in video door phones, CCTVs, fire alarms and even motorised gates,” says Balaji Gopalan, Partner, Tecnokrat. However, he cautions that all this should ideally be incorporated in the home during the construction stage itself. “A lot of wiring and installing takes place while setting up such a system and this can be expensive and complicated in a house that’s already built.”

Most people start asking about burglar alarms when there’s a break-in in the neighbourhood. “Then we start getting calls from people who want to know more about security systems,” says Nanda Kumar. It might be smarter to lock your stable doors beforehand.

Expert advice

When installing a burglar alarm at home, it’s important to get a security expert to survey the property. For instance, you need advice on whether a wired or wireless burglar alarm. For now, wired systems seem to have better service and after-sales support in India, according to Nanda Kumar.

Also, the kind of variety you get can be mind-boggling. You can have motion sensors, vibration sensors, panic switches and more. Depending on where you perceive the most danger, you might want a video phone to see who is at the door or a biometric lock to stop intruders. “There are more than 20 types of alarms,” says Nirmal Kumar, Project Manager, Honeywell. “The right alarm can be fixed according to the house, the needs of the customer and the features desired.”

Ask what you want to protect – the entire home, one room or the outdoor access area. You also need to know how much you want to spend and how high-tech you want to get. Thus, for instance, if you want to be alerted of possible intruders inside your compound wall, you could consider a weather-proof infrared system that is not triggered by small animals or pets. It will send a chime indoors if it senses intruders. Or you could protect only the access points at home. Mostly, an automatic system that calls the police or neighbours works very well. Panic buttons are a new and useful device. They can be placed all over the house and residents can run to the nearest button to alert the police immediately.

With an alarm at home, you don’t have to depend on a watchman who falls asleep or a dog whose bark is worse than its bite. But buy from a reputed dealer. “Low-cost varieties are available, but when it comes to security it is better to spend on a good quality product that is dependable,” says Balaji. You cannot afford to make compromises when it comes to home safety.

Panic buttons can be placed all over the house and residents can run to the nearest button to alert the police immediately.

BUYING TIPS

● Burglar alarms are priced from Rs. 6,000 onwards, not including wiring and extra features

● Make sure the alarm comes with guarantee card and after-sales service

● Install the alarm during the house construction stage to reduce cost

● Get expert advice to figure out the kind of alarm your home requires

● Opt for simple systems rather than over-complicated ones

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