We are all focused on the safety and security of our family and property when we install a home alarm system. We set up the safety net of alerts and 24/7 monitoring to make sure that we have done all we can do to remain protected. Many families diligently use their alarm systems, always ensuring they are set and working properly in order to maintain the highest level of security possible, but break-ins and emergencies do happen. Do you know what to do when your home alarm system goes off?
According to the FBI, over 2 million homes get broken into every year in the United States, which accounts for 23.8 percent of yearly property damage crimes. These crimes add up to an estimated $4.6 billion in lost property or just over $2,000 per offense. [i] The National Fire Protection Association reports over 360,000 house fires a year with over 12,000 injuries and more than 2,000 deaths. [ii]
Staying safe is one part your alarm system and one part knowing what to do in case of one of these events.
There are three potential scenarios that will result in an alarm being triggered and an alert being sent to your alarm system company. By understanding these three possibilities, and what you should do in response, you will be prepared in the unfortunate event that your home alarm system goes off.
Being prepared is key to ensuring that your family and your property are protected. Included in these scenarios are suggestions for how to talk to your family about their response during an emergency.
1. The False Burglar Alarm
A door left ajar, a window not totally secured and a little bit of wind and, suddenly, one of the sensors monitoring an area of your home can be triggered. This results in a false alarm being set off. It is common as well if you have indoor motion detectors which can be inadvertently triggered by a pet or something as small as a leaf falling off a plant in the middle of the night.
The false alarm will still trigger the same response in your home alarm as an actual emergency and, when it happens in the middle of the night, in can be disorienting.
The first thing to do is check the status of your alarm to see what alarm area is sending the alert. You may be able to investigate, but it is really important that you don’t put yourself or your family in danger in order to do so. If you are sure it is a false alarm, you can simply disarm it from your keypad or device with access to your alarm controls. If you are unsure, then it is important to let the alarm do what it was made to do and alert your monitoring company.
With monitored home alarms, your alarm system company will then attempt to call you to verify the alarm status. Be honest with them and allow the operator to walk you through what to do if there is a possibility that an intruder has entered your home. Even if it turns out to be a false alarm, you have made a safe decision and used your alarm system wisely.
2. The Actual Burglar Alarm
When an intruder enters your home, your alarm alerts your monitoring company. The sensors on your doors and windows sends a signal to the company letting them know that something has happened and they, in turn, call you to verify that it was not an accidental alarm or a false alarm.
If you verify that it is a real alarm – either because you are not home and it is clear someone is entering your house unlawfully, or because you are aware of an actual intruder while you are home – they will then notify the authorities to report to your house because of the alarm. Stay on the phone with the monitoring company as they get a hold of the police and they respond to your emergency.
During the time it takes to get police response, it is important to keep your family safe if you are in the home. In many cases, the sound of the alarm will scare a burglar away and they will flee the scene. Wait until the police arrive before you begin checking through the house.
If at all possible, do not come face-to-face with the intruder.
In preparation for this possible situation, sit down with your family members and anyone living in the house and talk about your plan if the alarm is activated while you are inside. Make sure everyone understands the process of waiting for the authorities and are aware of ways to stay safe like potentially hiding in closets.
3. A Fire or Flood Emergency
Monitored home alarms include fire and flood monitoring among their services. These alerts can be extremely valuable in the case of an emergency because you will be notified of an incident right away, even if you aren’t home, and you are immediately backed up by your alarm system company in one of these events.
Talk to your home alarm system company about their procedure for responding to fire and flood alerts. Most use the same call-back method that is initiated in the case of a break-in. If yours does, you will receive a call when your fire or flood alarm is triggered and you will be able to verify the emergency in order to receive emergency response.
As with the burglar alarm, it is important to talk to everyone living in your house about how to respond to this type of emergency. For example, in the case of fire, everyone should know the options for escaping the house and where to meet together to ensure everyone is out safely. Talking about this procedure relieves a lot of confusion in the case of an incident. The same is true if you receive a flood alert and need to vacate the premises immediately.
In any alarm scenario it is important to plan ahead. Know how you will react when your home alarm system goes off and inform household members of their role and options in case of an emergency. The more preparation you do, the more likely you are to come out of an incident with the least amount of damage or loss and keep everyone safe.
If you have a question about how your alarm system company reacts when your alarm is triggered, call their customer service line for a step-by-step explanation. The more you know, the better prepared you will be if you have to respond to an alert.