Why should I have a burglar alarm system?
Answer :
It is debated whether having an alarm system decreases the chances of a burglary. In theory, if a burglar is aware a house has a system, he or she might move on to another home. Even if the alarm system does not keep a burglar from breaking in, the burglar has a tendency to stay a shorter amount of time. This may decrease the number of items stolen and the extent of damage done

What should a security alarm system include ?
Most systems rely on a combination of contacts placed at doors and windows and motion sensors. Motion sensors, however, do not detect someone until they are already in the house. Motion sensors should NOT be used as the primary means of detection. It is best that all exterior potential points of entry have contacts that sense when they are open. Glass break sensors are also available and recommended.

The basic elements of a standard home security system include:

  • Control Panel: This is the location where the system wiring terminates, the backup battery is located, and where it is connected to the phone lines if it is a monitored system.
  • Keypad: This is where the system is armed and disarmed. Additional keypads can be installed. For example, a keypad can be installed next to the homeowner's bed. If the alarm sounds in the middle of the night and the security system had the capability, the keypad display could indicate which door, window, or motion detector caused the alarm.
  • Siren: A loud siren sounds when there's been a break-in and it also lets an intruder know they've been detected.
  • Inside Motion Detector: Passive infrared, microwave, or photoelectric detectors sense changes in a room caused by human presence. Special motion detectors are available for people who have pets.
  • Door and Window Contacts: Magnetic contacts form a circuit between a door and doorframe or a window and a sill; when the door or window is opened (and the system is on), the circuit is broken and sounds the alarm.
  • A Central Monitoring Station (Company): If the system is monitored, in the event of an alarm, the control panel sends a message over a telephone line to a central monitoring station, which is manned 24 hours a day. After attempting to contact the homeowner, the central monitoring station will contact the police, fire department, or medics. There is usually a monthly fee for this service.
Additional items that can be added to the basic system are:
  • Smoke Detectors are required by many building codes. They can be wired to the security panel. If the smoke detectors go into alarm, the security panel will notify the central monitoring station if smoke is detected.
  • Glass Break Detectors recognize the sound of glass breaking and will sound the alarm.
  • Panic Buttons can be hand-held and should be located in strategic places such as next to beds and doors; just punching the button will send a message to the central monitoring station for help. Homeowners may choose to have the panic button send the alarm as a silent alarm or sound the alarms within the house.
  • Closed circuit TV is a private TV system which allows monitoring and/or recording inside or outside a home.

What are the advantages of a system monitored by a central station?

Monitored Systems
contact a monitoring company by telephone. The typical sequence of events is as follows:

  • The security system senses something.
  • The security system waits for 30 to 45 seconds before going into alarm allowing the homeowner a chance to deactivate the system to prevent false alarms.
  • If not deactivated, the security system goes into alarm and sends a message to the monitoring company over telephone lines.
  • The monitoring company receives the message, determines the nature of the alarm and verifies the alarm, generally by placing a phone call to the home. If they do not receive the proper password or do not receive an answer, they call the police.
  • The police receive the monitoring company's call and respond.
Caution: A monitored alarm uses the phone line to call the monitoring company. If personal safety were at risk when the alarm sounds, a homeowner would be unable to call 911 or call for help by phone while the alarm system is communicating through the phone line with the monitoring company.

The only way to keep this from happening would be to have more than one telephone line into the house or have a cellular phone available.

Unmonitored systems typically have on-site alarms and/or flashing lights that indicate the security system has been breached. It relies on neighbors as the eyes and ears to see or hear the alarms and then to call police. Neighbors or passersby should never investigate an alarm themselves.

With an unmonitored system, it is best to have a combination of strobe lights and alarms. They should be located on the street side of the house and in an as-inaccessible spot as possible. Because it can be difficult to determine the location of a siren, it is best to discuss this with your neighbors and to place the siren and flashing light on the house where it can be easily seen.

The advantage of this type of system is that a burglar's primary goal is to gain entrance to the house, remove property, and do so without being noticed. Many burglars will leave once alarms and strobes are activated. The disadvantage to an unmonitored system is it relies on neighbors who may not be at home or may not want to become involved. This system is appropriate for a typical suburban setting but might not work as well for a home out in the country without close neighbors.

How do I choose my security alarm company ?

Choosing an alarm company can be confusing and the technology complicated. Here are some suggestions:

  • Check with friends or neighbors for recommendations on reliable companies.
  • Find out how quickly the alarm company will install your system after purchase. See if the company sells systems faster than they can install them.
  • Determine how quickly they respond to requests for service after installation. Ask for references from some of their customers who have required service and call and talk to these people.
  • Ask about warranties.
  • Obtain quotes from at least three different companies.
  • Ask the alarm company what screening they do when hiring their alarm installers and salespeople. You want a company that screens for criminal backgrounds/records, etc.
  • Call your local police department and ask how long it takes them to respond to a home security system alarm.   Also ask if there are any fines for false alarms.
  • Ask each company if it is licensed.  Choose a company ULC approved as well as for the installation or central station.
  • Study each contract to ensure you know exactly what you are getting. Consider the merits of leasing vs. buying.
  • Lastly, when comparing prices remember to compare detection coverage and features. The least expensive system could be all you need, or a waste of money. Not all alarms are created equal.
What is a false alarm?
Answer :
A false alarm is an alarm which causes unnecessary intervention by public safety services such as the police  or the fire department and which is triggered by an event that results in no harm or damages. Some central monitoring stations urge their operators to dispatch the police as soon as an alarm signal is received even if it  is triggered by a user's procedural mistake. This policy is generally applied by large volume central stations which cannot afford to timely and carefuly analyze the event that resulted into an alarm signal.
It is therefore advised that you  check with your alarm company what actions are taken by local public safety services in case of a handled false alarm,
How do false alarms affect the quality of service?
False alarms with security alarm systems are a significant concern. It is estimated between 95 percent and 99 percent of the alarms received are false. Because of this, most  police departments require the system, if it alarms remotely by phone, to go first through a central monitoring station.
To combat the false alarm problem, some police departements are imposing fines for false alarms after a specified number of false alarms.For example, across the SPVM (Montreal Police Services) covered area, the maximum number  of false alarms allowed in one year is four.  A fine is imposed for  the second false alarrm one and the amount increases for  each new one.  After  four false alarms the police departement ceases to intervene at the alarm site, in which case you have to resort to private patrol services.

What should I do if I exceed the number of false alarms allowed by local public safety services?
Answer :
Your alarm company has the duty to notify you as you are nearing the number of false alarms allowed in your community.
If you exceed the maximum allowed you will  be advised to retain the services of a private security patrol company to inspect your property if you choose to do so when an alarm occurs.However,  we do emphasize that the best solution to avoid or at least minimize the number of false alarms is prevention by following your central monitoring station guidelines and maintaining your system.

What should I do if the alarm goes off when I am in the building?
Answer :
You should contact your central station as soon as possible, before the operator dispatches the police. If you are unable to call the central station because the line is busy transmitting alarm signals, please consider adding a second phone line or using a cell phone.
The operator will discuss with you whether the alarm was caused by accidental misuse or whether a technician should be dispatched to do a verification of your system.

What is a supervised DVACS line?
Answer :
A DVACS line is data transmission line that is used specifically for alarm signals
. If the line is cut, tampered with or experiences technical problems, the central monitoring station receives an immediate trouble signal and can act quickly to assure the continued security of the premises.

What are the advantages of a supervised DVACS line?
Answer :
A DVACS line is a highly efficient transmitter of alarm signals which cannot be neutralized by a burglar. Loss of signals is immediately detected and acted upon. These supervised lines are recommended in high-risk situations such as jewellery stores, furriers,etc. There is a monthly fee for this service.

What do I do if I have pets at home?
Answer :
Alarme Trans-Canada uses motion sensors that are calibrated not to detect small animals. You should advise your alarm company if you have pets at home that have the freedom of the house so that they can install the proper motion detectors and avoid false alarms.

Do I get a discount on my insurance premium if I have an alarm system?
Answer :
Yes, most insurance companies offer discounst for an alarm protection unit that is connected to an approved  central station, usually 5% to 20%. Some insurers even require alarm protection as a condition for insurance.

What is a ULC certificate?
Answer :
The Underwriters' Laboratories of Canada is a non-profit organization that regulates and supervises certain accredited alarm companies. ULC requires that these companies such as Alarme Trans-Canada meet its rigorous quality standards and it enforces them through periodic inspections. If the accredired company fails to meet these standards, it can loose its accreditation.
Thus, a central monitoring station with ULC certification provides a superior level of service to the client.
ULC certificates are awarded to commercial alarm systems which meet ULC standards for equipment and installation, and which are monitored by a ULC approved central station.
In many commercial insurance cases, a ULC certificate is required by the insurer as a precondition to the granting of insurance coverage.
ULC certificates are not issued for residential alarm systems, but the insurer often requires monitoring by a ULC station.

Extract from the magazine "PROTEGEZ VOUS" on residential security .

Install door locks that open with key on both sides preferrably a lock that uses a protected key such as MEDECO.

If your home has glass patio doors, install a metal bar at the bottom of the inside door that locks it closed. You should also install a metal plate on the outside door to prevent the door from being lifting from its channel.

Display your address with a large plaque so that neighbors or police can find the house quickly.

Advise your neighbors if you are going on vacation. Stop delivery of mail and newspapers or have someone collect them regurlarly. Your telephone answering machine should not say that you are on vacation. If you will be away for a prolonged period, have someone cut the grass or remove the snow.

Ask a neighbor, a friend or a relative to clear your mailbox of fliers and to park a car in your driveway from time to time.

If you have an alarm system, make sure that the alarm company has put up warning stickers on doors and windows.

Use timers to turn lights on and off at the appropriate times, specially when you are away.