Home Security Systems Still a Cost Worth Considering

Editorial from Colorado Springs validates security system sales, praises reputable companies


Both men were adamant that when it comes to burglar alarms, you get what you pay for. Sure, you can get a cheap motion sensor for your house, but then the miller moths will set it off. Sure, you can get a system for a few hundred bucks, but you'll probably get bad installation and inferior equipment.

Stoker also said you must know how your alarms will be handled. Typically, when an alarm is tripped, a signal goes to the company's monitoring center; they call the homeowner to ensure it is not a false alarm and police are summoned.

Stoker said call centers for national alarm companies have hundreds of operators. However, many local companies have a smaller operation. American Bell is a local, independent company, but Stoker abandoned his own central station to route calls through a national company.

"Sometimes a little central station will have too few people," Stoker said. "If they have too few people and a lot of calls come in at the same time, and somebody left to go to the bathroom . . . there's a problem."

After four decades in the business, Stoker is a passionate booster for his product.

"The only burglaries we've ever had is when their systems are off," he said. "I'm a firm believer in it. It's the only way I know to keep something bad from happening."

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ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

What to ask when you're buying a burglar alarm:

_Do you have a city license to sell security systems?

_How long have you been in business locally? How many alarm systems of this type have you installed?

_Can you give me customer referrals? _Do your employees receive background checks and drug tests?

_What procedures does your company use to avoid false alarms? (A homeowner must pay the city a fine of $25 after a third false alarm, and a system may be shut down after four false alarms.)

_Who answers my alarm call? How many operators are on duty at this station in the middle of the night?

_What are my up-front costs?

_How much will I pay in monthly monitoring costs and how long is my commitment? (Many companies install alarm systems cheaply but then require a commitment of three years or more of monthly monitoring costs.)

_Does your equipment come with a warranty and free service?

_Will you work with my insurance company to reduce my rates? You might save 10-20 percent on premiums.

_Are there complaints for this company on file with the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado? (636-1155)

_If it's wired, does the system switch to battery power without activating when there's a power failure? _Is the noise loud enough for neighbors to hear?

_How much damage will installation do to my home?

_Will you educate me on how to use the system correctly?

_How many doors and windows will be covered by this system? How much does it cost to protect additional entry points?

_Can I upgrade my alarm system to include motion detectors, glassbreakage sensors or carbon-monoxide detectors?

SOURCE: Mike Blake of Alert Security; Cliff Stoker of American Bell Security Group; Dave Gilman and David Husted of the Colorado Springs Police Department; Consumers Union

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(c) 2006, The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.).

Visit The Gazette on the World Wide Web at .

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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