Alarm systems are designed to provide warning of safety and security threats within a protected premises; these threats typically include intrusion, such as burglary and home invasion, in addition to smoke and fire. The system does this by using detectors to monitor zones within the premises; zones are designated points, such as rooms and entrances.
When a detector registers a threat within its zone, the system goes into alarm and takes appropriate action, typically in the form of running local sirens and flashing lights that warn occupants and neighbours of danger, in addition to sending a report to monitoring parties, such as the premises owner/caretaker and/or a remote monitoring centre.
Benefits of an alarm system include:
Deters intruders by bringing attention to their intrusion and causing a nuisance with high-pitched sirens.
Provides local and remote warning for returning occupants when their premises have been compromised by intrusion or fire.
Provides early warning for occupants of home invasion or fire when they are most vulnerable (e.g., sleeping).
Provides a way for family members to remotely monitor the homes of elderly relatives in addition to simplifying the process of emergency calling.
Basic Components of an Alarm System
Control Panel: The control panel is the primary processor of the system, usually housed in a discreet location inside a metal or plastic enclosure, approximately 30 x 30 cm. All accessories are linked to the control panel, either by way of wiring or radio communications.
Interface: The interface is the terminal where the end-user interacts with the alarm system by issuing commands and viewing system status and events. Historically, interfaces have taken the form of button keypads, but nowadays touchscreens are becoming more common.
Detectors monitor the zones of the system for threats such as intrusion and fire. They come in many different specialised types, providing a large range of solutions for detecting almost any conceivable threat in any environment. The most common type of detector used in an alarm system is the motion detector, which monitors the electromagnetic radiation in the room for signatures that a congruent with a human presence, effectively detecting intruders.
Sirens & Strobe are typically triggered when the system goes into alarm. They emit loud wailing sounds and high-pitched tones designed to alert nearby neighbours and annoy intruders within the premises. A blue strobe light on the outside of the building continues to flash long after the sirens have stopped in order to warn late-arriving occupants or first-responders of a possible threat to safety or breach of security.
Battery: The alarm system receives supplemental power from a backup battery that will keep the system running in the event of mains power loss.
Alarm systems are very versatile with a diverse range of applications: they can rouse you in the dead of the night to life threatening danger from an intrusion or fire in your home, or jingle at the arrival of customers to your store; you can know the moment an intruder breaks into your home whilst you are out, or when staff have opened or closed the business for the day; you can open your door or gate to let the kids in when they get home from school without keys, or cancel a staff member’s access card when their employment ends.
Thus an alarm system offers a very comprehensive electronic security package, covering intrusion, fire and access control, providing the basis for many electronic security systems in homes and businesses. We highly recommend an alarm system as the starting point for anyone considering having electronic security installed on their premises.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What’s the best alarm system?
Our personal recommendation is the Solution 6000: Australian designed and manufactured; expandable up to 144 zones, expandable up to 37 outputs, 16 access-controlled doors, a variety of communications options including the incredible iFob Control app. It is a very flexible alarm system that serves both big and small, but within the same price range as a standard bare-bones 8/16 zone home alarm system. It is very difficult to justify spending your money on any other system, unless you are really counting your pennies.
What are the Main Residential Brands & Models?
Bosch Solution Series (2000/3000/6000)
Hills Reliance (R8/R12/R128)
Ness Corporation (D8XD/D16XD)
Paradox SP Range (5500/6000/7000)
Are alarm systems reliable? Do they false alarm?
There is not a single product in the Universe that is perfect — imperfection is the nature of reality.
If you are thinking of your neighbour whose alarm goes off frequently, most likely there is a specific fault or issue with the system that is not being addressed (which the neighbour may not even be aware of). Alarm systems are made up of electronic devices, and whilst we typically replace other electronics, such as phones or TVs within a few years, many people will trust that their alarm system will operate perpetually and pay no attention to its age or maintenance.
Additionally, there are some environments that are more likely to produce false alarms, such as an external shed or garage that may be exposed to extreme temperatures and wild animal or pest activity. And whilst a mouse running across the floor is unlikely to trigger a false alarm, a large spider crawling over the face of the sensor, or a cat jumping up on the bench in front of the sensor, quite possibly will. In some circumstances, special provisions may be required.
But, overall, if your alarm system is set up correctly, you should find that it provides many years, even decades, of reliable service with minimal maintenance, and we think you will find it to be a very worthwhile investment.
If the alarm is triggered, how long do the sirens run?
Sirens are typically programmed to run for 5 minutes, but they can be programmed to run longer, up to 15 minutes. The blue strobe light will flash for several hours, or can be programmed to flash for even longer. So, whilst the sirens won’t annoy your neighbours for hours on end, the blue strobe light will continue flashing to signify an alarm has occurred.
If the alarm is triggered, will it remain armed once the sirens stop?
Yes – only an authorised user can disarm the system. The alarm system doesn’t work based on a tripwire principle, i.e., an intruder can’t false trip the alarm and then return a few moments later to an open house, the alarm will remain armed and greet the returning intruder with another round of screaming.
Will the alarm continue to work if the power is turned off?
Yes, the alarm system has its own backup battery that provides a good amount of reserve power to allow the alarm system to continue operating in the event mains power is lost.
Will the alarm system notify me if the phone line is cut or the internet is disconnected?
In short, yes, however, it depends on your setup; some services will notify you of a ‘poll fail’ when communications is lost from an IP setup, or you might receive a call for a comms fail with an old phone service setup. If you are particularly concerned about your landline service being disconnected, you may prefer to use a wireless GSM module which operates independently of landline services to communicate over the mobile phone network.
Will the alarm trigger if one of the system’s wires is cut?
Yes, provided that the installer has done all tamper wiring correctly, the alarm will trigger if a system wire is cut, or if a device or the control panel enclosure is removed or opened. However, from personal experience, most installers tend to exclude tamper-proofing from residential installations.
Can the alarm system be pet-friendly?
Yes, there are pet-friendly motion detectors that can accommodate pets weighing up to 45 kg (100 lbs), and even standard non-pet detectors can have a few kilograms tolerance for small animals. Pet-friendly detectors mostly ignore what is happening at waist height and below. Some other considerations need to be made when catering for pets, however, that ridiculous scene from The Hangover III would not work… 😆