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Someone to Watch Over You
by Barbara E. Cohen

Alarmed or video-monitored home security systems that can inform you if a burglar is trying to get inside your home or summon help in the case of a fire or medical emergency are no longer confined to science fiction movies or multi-million dollar homes.

Basic systems offer core security

Systems that let the homeowner see who's at the front door without getting up from a comfy home-theater seat or computer workstation are growing in popularity. An alarm system with window sensors also can alert the homeowner when a burglar or the wind pushes open a window from the outside. Fire and medical emergency assistance are welcome in homes with older or disabled occupants or people who live alone, as well as for people who leave their house empty for any length of time. Homebuilders such as Gunstra Builders offer a basic alarm package in mid- to upper-price range homes, while other builders provide security as an upgrade option.

"The basic first-floor alarm system is a staple of our company," said Bob Land, sales consultant for Gunstra's Hawks Landing and Crystal Lake at River Ridge properties.

Homeowners can choose to leave the security alarm inactive, activate just the in-home alarms or augment the system and have their residence monitored from a remote location. In Land's experience, homeowners upgrade beyond the basic wiring of exterior doors with a single alarm keypad at the main entry. "They usually go for additional keypads, window alarms and second-floor coverage, as well as monitoring," he said.

Monitoring provides additional assurance

External monitoring provides 24-hour response assurance should anyone or anything trigger an alarm in your home. Without monitoring, who will answer an alarm that sounds when you're asleep, incapacitated or not at home, for example? "It's hard to pinpoint one particular fear people have," said Bill Hassell, sales consultant for Brinks Home Security, which provides alarm systems for Gunstra properties. "People usually want monitored fire protection as a backup for standard smoke detectors, panic buttons for emergency medical assistance and carbon monoxide and sump pump detectors."

Hassell knows the value of life-safety security because his parents lost their home to fire eight years ago. "Your stuff is guarded by insurance if your home is burgled, but a monitored security system helps when something happens beyond your control," Hassell said. "If you're away and the sump pump stops working, monitoring can save you from coming home to a mess."

Design your own system

Customizing a home security system is easy no matter which provider you or your builder selects. A Brinks sales consultant will meet with you to discuss options and upgrades. Guardian Home Technologies' bundled security packages offer savings on additional keypads, motion or heat detectors and emergency call buttons. ADT provides an online advisor for new installations or a review of existing ones, as well as guaranteed savings on homeowner's insurance and deductible fees in the event of a burglary.

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