When considering a burglar alarm it is important to remember that there is no such thing as a completely burglar-proof alarm system. No national standards specify required levels of performance, and the best protective device cannot compensate for a lack of basic common sense.
Through ways, such as the appearance of your house, you can deter burglars. If you decide on an alarm system, check with the Better Business Bureau for a reliability report on the company, ask friends and neighbors for references and always comparison shop.
1. Some companies will offer a "free" alarm system. While the equipment and installation may be free (make sure this is in writing), there is a monthly monitoring fee. When you compare costs, make sure you compare all the costs.
2. Find out about local building codes and regulations regarding burglar alarms (including costs for false alarms).
3. Check out the company that will be monitoring your system. Ask if it is the same company you are signing a contract with. If not, make sure you obtain the name, address and phone number of this company.
4. Consider advantages and disadvantages of each system and decide which will be best for your particular situation.
a. Does the company call you first before notifying the police?
b. Does the company call the police first?
c. Does the company have a security patrol car that will check out the alarm and if necessary call the police?
d. How soon after the alarm sounds will you be notified?
e. What happens if the alarm company is unable to reach you when the alarm is sounding? Is the alarm reset? Are the police called? Are alternate numbers called?
f. Ask for procedures in writing, so you are aware of the steps and can anticipate how you can best handle the situation.
5. Deal only with reputable firms and check out the company at the Better Business Bureau's website, www.bbb.org.
6. Don't be pressured into buying something you don't want or need. A reputable company will let you check out the offer and compare bids from several installers.
7. Make sure it includes all promises made by the sales person. If the promises are not in the contract do not sign the contract.
8. Study the contract carefully. Confirm information such as:
a. Installation price
b. Monthly price
c. Length of the contract (most contracts are for at least two years)
d. That any free or discount offers have been added
e. Cancellation time frame to cancel the contract. The Federal Trade Commission requires that at least three days be provided (www.ftc.gov, three day cooling off rule).
9. If you are planning on moving ask what happens with your contract, and get that information in writing from the sales person.
10. After your purchase, make sure you check the system routinely to be sure it is in working order.
11. If you are having problems with your alarm, make sure you document dates, times, who you talked with, who came out and what was fixed.