Don’t be alarmed

Arms loaded with groceries, you unlock the door and make your way into the kitchen. But before you get there, sirens start to sound. You just set off your new home-security system. Once the noise stops and you square things away with your monitoring service or the police, you probably don’t give your little goof another thought. After all, it happens to everybody.

Unfortunately, this is too true. False alarms happen far too often, according to police chiefs and alarm industry experts. They say that between 90 and 95 percent of all alarms that are reported don’t indicate a break-in or attempted burglary. Falling prices and an increasing interest in home protection may be bad news for burglars, but also add up to more false alarms than ever before. If you own or are thinking about buying an alarm system, you can prevent false alarms. The National Fire and Burglar Alarm Association says 76 percent are caused by user error. Here are some tips to avoid accidentally tripping your own security system.

Get into the routine

The most important step to avoiding false alarms is getting used to your alarm system. After your whole family is trained by the installer, it will take some time to get used to the added step of turning the alarm on and off. Many families post notes inside the door to remind each other that the system is armed. You might also try tying a red ribbon to the doorknob as a more subtle reminder.

Training is critical

Anyone who has a key to your house should also be trained to use your home-security system. Using the system will become second nature for you, but not for the neighbor who brings in your mail while you’re away for a few days. Give detailed instructions to anyone who has a key to your house, and also give them a mini training session. Call your monitoring company to tell them you’re training a new user, then watch over the person’s shoulder as he or she practices arming and disarming the system.

Changing your life

A change to your lifestyle may also make you more prone to accidentally setting off your alarm. If you change work hours, for example, you’ll have to fit the alarm into your new routine. Cats and dogs can set off some security alarms, too, so if you get a pet, be sure to call your installer before you set your alarm. Your installer may have to adjust the motion sensors or replace them with pressure sensors that pets won’t be able to set off. An elderly parent who comes to stay with you may also need help getting accustomed to using your alarm system.

Check the system

Finally, have your alarm installer come back and inspect the system once a year or any time you think it might not be working correctly. Generally, the electronics are very reliable, but now and then a system will be installed incorrectly or will simply wear out. Both are causes of false alarms that can be easily avoided.

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