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A complete guide to burglar alarms

We’ve come a long way from only relying on the bark of a guard dog to alert us of intrusions. Home and burglar alarms have saved millions of households from unwanted burglaries and have acted as very effective crime deterrents before someone has a chance to set foot in your home.

But with quite a few to choose from and many advancing in technology - some being able to alert you of other threats - it can be quite a confusing area to navigate! Each system will come with its pros and cons, so it’s a good idea to see what kinds are out there and what would work best for your property. To help you make the right choice for your home, below is a breakdown of the different types of burglar alarms and what you need to consider.

Types of burglar alarms

From traditional, automatic diallers to monitored and smart security setups, burglar alarm systems have advanced so much today and offer a wide range of options. So, what’s there to choose from?

Bells-only alarms

This is the most traditional alarm system where they audibly alert the household and surrounding area but aren’t programmed to contact you or the police.

Is this right for you?

As this relies on you being able to hear the siren, you can’t be afraid of waking up the neighbours with this one. You should also be confident in your neighbourhood watch system because if the alarm is triggered when you’re away, you’ll have to rely on neighbours to inform police or check out the scene. If you have friends and family who live close by, you could test the siren out to see how far it travels and what they need to listen out for.

Professional alarm monitoring

This system is split into two types: keyholder monitoring and police monitoring. As well as the homeowner, nominated keyholder or the police (in a visually verified event) will be alerted when the alarm goes off. Let’s break down the two.

Keyholder monitoring alarm system

If the alarm goes off, nominated keyholders are alerted and they typically must live within 20 minutes of the house - be able to drive there easily - and have access to the house. You must remember to keep the alarm company updated with keyholder details if you change them.

Police monitoring alarm system

If the alarm company is registered with your local police, this can be a great one to have as if an alarm is triggered, no matter where you are, the police will be notified. You can also have this type in addition to a keyholder alarm system.

You should make sure that the monitoring alarm system is robust enough and will not set off any false alarms. Many require more than one trigger and some are able to detect and react only to the unique heat signature of humans, meaning pets are safe from triggering any sensors.

Best of both worlds

The most sophisticated systems out there - like SimpliSafe - will contact both the keyholder and the alarm receiving centre will request police response to ensure that all bases are covered. Need more info? Here’s a complete guide on how SimpliSafe works.

Is this right for you?

These are especially suited for those who can’t rely on neighbours, friends or family living on the same street. Whichever type of monitoring alarm system you opt for, you can rest assured that someone will be notified immediately should a break-in occur. When going for the keyholder option, you can have a nominee list and put them in priority order but if you’re short on nominees, a professional alarm monitoring system may work better.

Dialler alarms

Also known as an auto dialler, this alarm system will contact you or nominated friends or relatives when the alarm is triggered, where you can decide whether to contact the police or ask a nominee to investigate.

Is this right for you?

Usually, dialler alarms will allow between three and ten contact numbers which will be dialled in an order of priority you set up. If the first dial is unsuccessful, the system continues through the dial list in priority order and if one is successful, the system will stop the rest from being dialled.

Some smart dialler alarms can also detect and alert you of fires and floods in the home. You can have a dialler alarm that uses your landline or one that works by using mobile network signals if you don’t have a landline. If you opt for using mobile, make sure you have a working SIM card and enough minutes to make the calls. If your home doesn’t have a strong mobile signal, then you may need to consider other options.

Smart alarm systems

Using smartphone apps, if an alarm sensor is triggered, you’ll be notified as well as the police if automatic police dispatch is enabled. Being a smart alarm system, you can also control your alarm system and security camera from your phone wherever you are.

Is this right for you?

With a smart alarm system, you can add a whole host of alarm sensors and gadgets to be connected via WiFi. Gadgets such as burglar alarm sensors, water sensors, glass break sensors, smoke detectors and panic buttons can be connected - making the alarm system multifunctional and covering many potential dangers.

Having a smartphone also means you can check in on the house using a surveillance app connected to a home security camera wherever you are. A great asset too, if you need to check in on kids in another room or if they’re at home with an uncontactable babysitter.

Wireless alarms

Whatever alarm system you opt for, a wireless one means alarms and sensors are battery-operated.

Is this right for you?

As wires aren’t a problem, these are perfect for those who don’t want the fuss of added installation as devices are battery-powered and good to go. They are easy to set up, provide smart and neat arrangements and are easy to transport if having to move house. Just remember to keep on top of batteries.

Wired alarms

Sensors and alarms are connected by wires and these are usually installed by a professional to neatly tuck and hide wires.

Is this right for you?

Hardwired alarms require professional installation in order to hide and tuck away wires around the house. These systems may be cheaper to buy over wireless ones but the costs come from installation labour.

Dummy alarms

Fake outdoor deterrents used to scare off and fool potential thieves.

Is this right for you?

Often coming in box forms, they are usually placed in high and clear positions to deter would-be burglars. You can also opt for dummy box alarms with LED flashing lights to make them a little more realistic. However, do be mindful that many burglars can often spot decoys from the real thing and they may not be accepted on home insurance claims. Aside from not giving off any alert signal if your home is burgled, you are vulnerable to other threats and miss out on smart detection.

Where does SimpliSafe fit?

SimpliSafe is different to the other systems out there. Rather than just ticking one of these boxes, the SimpliSafe system would actually fall under monitored alarm, smart alarm and wireless alarm.

That way you can rest assured that you, your family, your home and your belongings are receiving the best possible protection.

Whatever home alarm you go for, make sure you’re keeping up to date with crime in your area so you’re aware of what types of crime are taking place and at what rate. In addition to installing burglar alarms, it’s always recommended to join or set up a neighbourhood watch scheme to add another level of crime deterrent. If you have found yourself a victim of burglary, find out how to recover from a burglary here.