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Tips on how to keep burglars away
Amit Shekhar, Outlook Money | May 17, 2007
Nonetheless, it is important to secure your house, what with it containing just about everything that matters to you. Almost every day, newspapers carry reports of break-ins and burglaries. What is worse is that the intruders often go to the extent of killing the people in the house to get to their goal. So, the onus of securing your home is squarely on you. The good news is there is a wide range of products in the market that does exactly that.
The postman always rings twice...ran the title of a crime thriller by James M. Cain. But not everyone who rings twice need have equally good intentions. Which is why you need to secure the main access point to your house - the front door. You could go for the age-old burglar alarm.
Starting at Rs 8,000 for a wireless version, it will sound an alarm if someone tries to enter after you have activated, or 'armed', it. The device can also be set up to sound the alarm outside the house to alert your neighbours.
For visual confirmation of who's at the door, you could use the somewhat more sophisticated wired video door phone. It will let you see - on your TV or a monitor that comes with it - as well as speak to the visitor.
Lower end VDPs come with fixed cameras. But Rahul Sharma of Mumbai, who paid Rs 20,000 for his VDP, got a camera that he can rotate from inside the house to get a 360-degree view of the area outside his door. You could get one from the grey market, but be warned that there may not be anyone to turn to if it goes caput.
Somewhere between the burglar alarm and the VDP is the audio door phone, which allows you only to talk to your visitor. For a security system connected to either a ADP or a VDP, you just have to press a button, which can be anywhere in your house, to open the door.
You can also decide on the number of receiver handsets or viewing monitors you want to install. If elderly people have to open the door for you, such a set can even be placed very conveniently next to the bed.
Delhi's Prem Sagar, who teaches Physics to engineering aspirants and lives with his mother in their three-bedroom home, says, "The ADP is very convenient for her as she can check who is at the door from her bed and also open the door when I return late in the night from my classes by just pressing a button next to her bed."
The device has receivers in both the rooms of the house. It would also call his mobile number and the local police station and deliver a recorded message in case someone tries to make a forced entry. Sagar got the system installed after there was a series of burglaries in houses in his neighbourhood about four years back.
She came in through the bathroom window...was a song written by Paul McCartney after an incident when a fan actually did such a thing to meet him. And while The Beatles may have found it reason to sing and dance about, you may not.
To stop them, you can use magnetic contacts on the window. On being armed, a transmitter gives a signal to a control panel every time the window is opened. You can also have acoustic sensors that pick up the sound of breaking windowpanes and trigger an alarm.
Motion sensors near windows can pick up movements in the area they cover and raise an alarm. You can disarm them when some activity is expected in the area. To ensure that your pet, whose movements are usually less predictable than yours, does not set off the alarm, you can install sensors that are activated by human movement only. All these sensors send signals to a control panel, which then raises an alarm.
Fire and brimstone...destroyed the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. And while it is unlikely to rain from heaven, you still need to secure your house against it. While you cannot install smoke sensors in places like the kitchen, the rest of the house is fair game.
One place which definitely needs a smoke sensor is the electrical panel. These sensors, like the rest of the ones in your house, can be connected to the control panel. For the kitchen, it is advisable to install LPG leak sensors for around Rs 4,000 a piece.
Hell's bells...is an expression of surprise that is supposed to have originated in 17th century pirate ships.
But what if there is reason for you to repeat that?
In the bedrooms, you can have panic switches which you can operate with your hand or foot even while lying in bed to set off alarms both inside and outside the house.
That apart, the control panel of the security systems in your house can be programmed to dial pre-fed numbers. It can also signal the central monitoring station of security companies such as Zicom, which has people monitoring the premises of its subscribers 24x7.
The CMS also has a video monitoring station.
"The CMS plays a very big role in security management," says Rajeev Bhumbuck, senior architect at Delhi-based Arihant Engineers. In his opinion, "users should choose systems which have this facility".
Closed-circuit television is another way of keeping an eye on your premises. You can view the images on your TV and also have the network connected to the CMS. The motion and magnetic sensors, CCTV surveillance and fire alarm can be armed and disarmed through a keypad.
You can divide the house into zones and arm the security products in particular zones through the keypad. In case the security is breached, the keypad will automatically display the breached zone(s). In a duplex house or bungalow, for example, your keypad will alert you about a security breach in any of the lower-floor rooms even while you are upstairs.
The addition of a phone module can give you remote control access to your home security system.
It will enable you to arm, disarm and check the status of your system from any phone. The home security systems come with a power back-up.
The duration of the back-up depends on the load of the system.
In Godrej's Eagle system, smoke detectors and magnetic, motions, vibration and glass break sensors are connected to a three-zone control panel. It also has panic switches. The control panel is connected to a hooter and paging speakers.
If you opt for the auto-dialling facility, pre-fed numbers will be dialled if there is a violation of security.
Neeraj Kapur, a jeweller in Delhi, controls intruder and panic alarms installed in different rooms of his bungalow through a keypad that can be operated through four different codes to sound an alarm both inside and outside his house. Kapur has got magnetic contacts on the doors and windows of his house that activate an alarm if someone tries to open them.
He arms these contacts when he needs to. Kapur also has CCTV surveillance outside his house and a VDP. In case of a security breach, a control panel which takes signals from the security devices in his house immediately calls up Kapur and a few of his neighbours.
Says Kapur: "There has been no intrusion attempt in my house so far, but the security gear sure gives me a lot of peace of mind." The entire package came for about Rs 30,000 in 2002.
M.S. Chugh, CEO of Alphasys One Security Systems of Delhi, who installed the security solution, says the same package would now cost Rs 50,000 now, but may be worth the investment.
The Zicomhome system from Zicom, too, can combine a number of devices and secure the house. They include a VDP, magnetic, motion and gas leak sensors, and hooters. Its main panel connects all the sensors to a CMS and you arm and disarm the system with a remote control.
Gadget happy...homeowners have a lot of toys to play with. While most of the systems will do the job, technology offers you some very smart devices. There are biometric access control systems that read fingerprints or the iris and open the door only when they match the ones fed into it. There can be codes, too, for entry. Those who keep late nights may not want to wake up in the morning to open the door for the maid. "Such people," says Chugh, "can have a system where the entry code changes after the maid enters using her code."
There is no end to the security systems available in the market. But, go for the ones that you really need. Someone living on the 21st floor, for instance, may not really need a window monitoring system.
Also, what you choose could depend on whether you are building it into a new home or an existing one. Wireless devices are more expensive but don't disturb the decor and, hence, make a better case for a retrofit.
Bhumbuck says: "If you want wired products, it is best to get it installed when the house is being built. To avoid false alarms, have separate conduits for the security and electricity wiring."
Most architects and security system experts advise in favour of branded products. Delhi-based architect Rajesh Dhingra of ARGROUP, a design studio, says, "Unbranded products are unreliable and it's difficult to find spares for them. Also, they lack the service that accompanies branded products."
Still, many opt for unbranded products, largely because they can be 25-35 per cent cheaper. Sinha, who's security system cost Rs 5,000, would have had to pay more if he had opted for branded devices.
To catch a thief...unlike Alfred Hitchcock's famous film, is not the primary objective of a home security system, reminds Chugh. The aim is to scare and drive away the intruder and not to confront him. In other words, prevent access rather than catch the culprit. The burglar may be armed and may not be alone, so you should avoid exposing yourself to him. A typical thief would rather make a getaway than dig in his heels and fight.