ensure you know exactly what protection each includes.
Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, see if the security company is a member of a trade association such as NBFAA. Members of this organization must maintain a standard of ethics and are monitored by the association. You can find a listing of NBFAA members on the organization’s Website (www.alarm.org). Also ask if the company’s employees are trained and/or certified by a trade organization and if the company conducts preemployment screening, since you don’t want unscreened employees inspecting and installing a security system in your home.
As a next step, check the company’s background. Find out if the company has appropriate state and/or local licenses. Also determine whether any consumer complaints have been filed against the company with the local police department’s Crime Prevention Department, state licensing agency, Consumer Protection Agency (www.consumeraid.org) or Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org, 703-276-0100).
Once the system is installed, make sure everyone in the household knows how it works. Most false alarms are caused by user error.
Lastly, consider the option of a trusty guard dog-preferably, one with a bite as big as its bark.
For a free copy of the NBFAA’s brochure, Safe & Sound: Your Guide to Home Security, and a list of NBFAA member companies in your area, call 301-907-3202 or log on to www.alarm.org.
MORE WAYS TO SAFEGUARD YOUR HOME
Get a good lock. Deadbolts, which range in price from $20 to $220, are considered the most reliable. Each of the exterior doors on your home should have one. A Consumer Reports test of various locks on the market found the Medeco 11-0100, which costs about $115, is the best high-security lock. Although it isn’t tamper-proof, Kiwkset Titan 780, a single-cylinder lock, also fared well. Make sure you strengthen the lock’s strike plate, which is the most vulnerable piece. Instead of installing this part with half-inch screws, use three-inch screws. You can also buy a heavy-duty strike plate or door reinforcer.
Secure your door. Get a solid wood door or one made of foam core with steel reinforcement. “All doors leading to the outside should have peep holes,” says security expert Chris E. McGoey. Secure your sliding doors by placing a wooden or steel pole on the inside track. You can also get a Patio Security Bar by Master Lock for about $27. And don’t forget to keep your garage door securely locked, especially if you have an attached garage. Lock your front gate as well.
Install motion-activated lights at entrances and other detectors inside the house. In addition to good locks and solid doors, position floodlights at the corners of the house. Inside of your home, use timers to turn on lights and/or the radio or TV when you’re not at home. And arrange furniture so that your valuables are out of view from windows. Also, consider installing a glass-break detector, which picks up either the sound of breaking glass or the shock wave it creates and should detect an intruder. Ademco Sensor Co. (800-467-5875; www.ademco.com) offers one for $125.