Alarm systems in your house are good and bad. Boy, they can be a pain in the butt. I had one in the first house we bought, monitoring and all. When everything worked, the alarm was just there and we didn’t think about it. When something went wrong, it was a pain. I was away one time and my wife was home alone. She set the alarm when she went to bed and was awaken by the alarm in the middle of the night. She didn’t know what to do, so she called 911 and the dispatcher sent a car. Turns out that some how the phone lines in the entire neighborhood where cut by mistake and all the alarms went off when the phone line was cut. She was one of dozens of people calling 911 that night.
My default answer is for you to have an alarm if possible. If you never use it, it’s just there. But we had one that we could set for home and away. I would set it every night to home. It would be a great wake up call if someone broke a window or opened a door down stairs. If you have an alarm, you should be using it, even if it’s not monitored.
Monitoring can be the biggest down side to an alarm system. First, it’s generally way more expensive than it should be and it doesn’t give you half of what the sales company tells you it gets you. I would look for pricing around $20 a month. I’ve seen some as high as $100 a month and they have the same list of benefits. Second, don’t do long term contracts. Alarm contracts are the most predatory contracts ever written in today’s society. If you don’t believe me, just ask an alarm company for their complete contract and read it. There are a million gotchas in there to keep you paying them. My favorite in the first (and only) one I signed was that they reserve the right to change the pricing at any time. Nice huh?
On the actually monitoring service, you want one that will have fire hooked up to the monitoring service and a cell connection instead of a hard line. Your house is far more likely to experience a fire than a break in. If you get the monitoring hooked up, not only will the monitoring company know, but one alarm will set them all off. That can be a down side because the system I had, when one had a dead battery, they all beeped. And the battery always went dead at about 2am.
I already said the monitoring won’t be half of what the company promises you. To their defense, something like 99% of all alarm activations are false alarms. You’ll find that the company treats every alarm like you accidentally set it off. If they do call the cops, the cops know that same information and will put you last on their list of priorities. I talked to my company about this a couple of times and they always said they would put a note in my file to have the company call right away, but they didn’t.
I actually had to fight with them once to get them to send the police. We had just left home for a church function and I was about to walk out the door with my gun on when my wife asked me not to carry because the person’s home we were going to may not like the fact that I was carrying a gun. So I left my full size 1911 in a gym bag on the floor and put my pocket gun on and left. The alarm company called before we were even out of the neighborhood and said the back door had been opened. I told her we were not at home and it wasn’t us, we had just left. Then she asked me to go back and check on the house and call them back. I told her no, call the police. Then she asked three or four stupid questions before I finally said, no we are not home call the police and have them meet us out front.
We waited three doors down parked out front for the police. When the cop arrived, I flagged him down. He wasn’t too concerned until I handed him the keys and asked him to check the house. I then told him the gym bag just inside the door had my loaded 1911 in it. If it was open, you could have a problem. He looked at me with a little fear in his eyes. I told, I’d do it myself but my gun is in the house and that’s what you get paid the big bucks for.
To his credit, he cleared the house and came back to talk to us. I went back inside and put my gun on before we went to the church event. That conversation was typical of the phone calls with my alarm company. After doing a little research, that is about what you can expect from them and the police that show up. They all think it’s a false alarm. It turned out that I had a faulty back door sensor.
After all that, I still think an alarm system is a good idea and that you should always leave it on audible. So, if someone breaks in, the alarm goes off. That way, you will know if someone is in the house and hopefully the thief will just grab what ever they can and be gone.
The alarm can also be a good deterrent. If you have an alarm system (or even if you don’t) get a yard sign or the alarm company sticker to display in a prominent spot outside your home. Now, it looks like you have an alarm system to people passing by.