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Safe and Secure

The latest on kid-friendly security systems to protect your house.

The Unterlack family has peace of mind that their customized home security system will keep them safe, night and day. A recent rash of daytime break-ins in their hometown of Cherry Hill, NJ has prompted mom Stacey to take 24/7 precautions to protect sons Caleb, 8, and Jake, 7. “I like the stay function, which allows you to be in the house while the alarm is on,” she says.

About a quarter of all homeowners have an active security system, according to Joe Parisi, president of the NJ Electronic Security Association. A study by the University of North Carolina Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology found that about 60 percent of burglars questioned indicated that the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek an alternative target altogether.

What Happens If the Kids Trip The Alarm?
If a home alarm goes off in error, and you don’t have remote capability to disarm it, the central monitoring station will call the house. If a child answers the phone and gives the appropriate password or code, the police won’t come. In situations where there is a false alarm but the police do come, there is generally no charge for the first instance. Costs for continued false alarms vary by county or town.

Modern home security technology

“Futuristic technology that keeps families secure and lets parents view cameras, get alerts and control thermostats and appliances, all through mobile devices, is being adopted even more quickly than the industry expected,” says Jennifer Bilotta of Xfiniti Home in Trevose, PA.
Cutting-edge though they are, today’s wireless systems are thoroughly kid-friendly. If children can operate an iPad and remember a four-digit code, they can arm or disarm the alarm. Here’s what you should know to create the best security system for your family.

Pick the right home security package

First, hire a reputable company to install your system. “Be sure the provider is licensed for security work in your state or township, including having the necessary background checks,” says Parisi. Also check that the staff has ongoing training in the latest technology, and verify the certification of the monitoring station. That company will then help you design your system.   

“We need to understand how you live your day-to-day life so that we can make the most appropriate recommendation,” says Art Miller, VP of marketing for the Philly-based Vector Security. Costs vary widely based on the size of the home and the extent of interactive services. Many companies offer a basic system for free, with a one-time activation fee of about $99, plus monitoring services that average $29.95 per month with a three-year contract. Costs to install all the bells and whistles can run $3,000, with monthly fees as high as $60.

Tom Hagenbach, vice president of Berley Security in Wilmington, DE suggests that a base package include:

  • Three door contacts, on the front, back and garage doors
  • A motion detector
  • A keypad and/or touchpad to turn the system on and off
  • An inside siren
  • A control panel with a battery backup

Other options to consider:

  • Remote access via cell phone or computer to monitor the system, adjust the thermostat, control lights and lock or unlock doors
  • Cameras that deliver live, real-time footage
  • Pet-sensor motion detectors
  • Medical monitoring for aging parents
  • Temporary codes for babysitters and service workers
  • Alerts about water issues in a basement or bathroom
  • Integrated fire, carbon monoxide and gas detectors

There’s one last low-tech must, insists Hagenbach: “Promote that you have a system by putting up lawn signs and window stickers to deter burglars.”

Terri Akman is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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