Technologies changing home security systems

Your home is not just your castle; it's probably your fortress, if you're using the myriad new security technologies.

Alarm companies are providing an arsenal of equipment that protects residences from would-be intruders and puts your standard security system to shame, such as property sensors and digital video intercoms.

A general concern over security, greater use of wireless and wired technology and dropping prices all are driving the use of more elaborate options.

Harvey Cohen, president of Response Ability Security, an alarm firm based in Commack, said he sees surges in interest in high-tech systems after press reports about incidents.

"When it hits the headlines, the phone rings for a day or two," Cohen said. "And when it's not in the headlines, it goes down. Then it hits the headlines. (It's) the same cycle. People have a short memory. They think it can't happen to them. "

But he said the biggest obstacle, a belief that security equipment is very costly, is based on myth. Companies such as Slomin's and ADT provide and install basic systems free, but it's possible to get an elaborate alarm system for a little more than $1,000, as suppliers vie for market share, since stiff competition is driving down prices. "It's [the alarm system business] pretty steady; nothing gangbusters," Cohen said.

Residents are opting for systems that give them security or at least alert them to people on their property well before those visitors even reach the front door.

"What's new in the industry is companies such as ourselves offering full perimeter protection - not only an entire house, windows and doors - but property," Cohen said.

Property sensors alert residents that a person or vehicle has entered the driveway or the yard.

"It rings a more pleasant sound than a siren," Cohen said of these systems that often cost about $1,500. "But anyone at home will know someone's on their property. "

Digital video intercoms, activated by pushing the doorbell, let residents see who's at the front door without having to peer out a window or through a peephole.

"It immediately shows on a wireless monitor," Cohen said. "Mostly people put it in their kitchen. "

When residents return, they can retrieve freeze-frame pictures of who rang the doorbell along with a time stamp.

Amityville-based alarm maker Napco Security Systems touts video that can be accessed over the Internet, so residents and executives can see "their home or business while they're away. "

Through Napco's i-See Video, residents can obtain access to video through the Internet on their computer or cell phone. Digital video - available over the Internet, according to the firm's website - puts access to images of a home or business "in the palm of their hand. "

Cohen said many people don't activate alarms while at home, because motion detectors will set off the alarm while you're still there. But settings that let residents activate window and door alarms without motion sensors allow the systems to be used while at home.

Convenience is also becoming a big selling point in alarm systems. Forget the rush out the door after you activate the alarm or the dash to deactivate the alarm before the siren rings. Residents can turn alarms and lights on and off with a remote control equipped with a mini keypad and built-in panic button.

Noah Lam, vice president of medical products distributor CWI Medical in Farmingdale, pointed to one key point.

"It only works if you turn it on," Lam said. "Who thinks about turning on the alarm system when they are at home?"

Lam said a burglar tried to break into his house while his wife and two sons were home and the alarm was off.

"Thank goodness that the person was too big to squeeze through the basement window," said Lam, who now has a system that can be activated even his family is home.