Last week, the New York Times online ran an article in their business section titled: Weighing the Value of Home Security System (sic). The article opens with what the author no doubt hopes will be a shocking (and thus compelling) introduction: Security systems don’t work when you need them to. Alright, I’m hooked. I want to read and find out about when I will need a security system to work, and why it won’t (or may not) work in that circumstance.
So, when would you need your security system to work? Basically, you need it to work anytime that an emergency occurs: fire alarm, panic buttons, break-in, etc. And when, according to the New York Times won’t it work in those cases…precisely when you need it…..? Oh, right, when your power is out for longer than 24 hours. Really??? Well, thanks, Mr. New York Times for that brilliant revelation. What possible solution is there to this problem? If power’s out, you know you can’t get normal AC power (obviously), and you know that a battery has a necessarily limited amount of life before it uses up its power store.
So, yes, in the case mentioned, where power was out for three weeks, the security system was unable to call out. But, lets be honest, folks: did anyone expect it would do anything different? I know its not a huge deal, but the attempt to entice readers with what amounts to shady headlines is frustrating. For accusation one, Home Security Systems:1, NYT: 0.
The next gem of the article comes in the section on why security systems can’t protect you because of delays in police response. Apparently, police don’t take burglaries in an over-serious manner, and in some large cities can take up to 45 minutes to respond to a Central Station call notifying them of the burglary. Well, c’mon, this has nothing to do with the security system at all. Basically, the NYT attempted to dispel myths about security systems, but instead dispelled myths about certain large-city police departments. Current Score: Home Security Systems: 2, NYT: 0.
The last frustration comes with a general anecdote where the author relates the story of a man who had a monitored home security system. He was away from home, but a babysitter was there with his children. While away he received a call from his alarm monitoring
company alerting him that a smoke alarm went off in his house and asking him if it was a false alarm. He proceeded to ask if they had contacted his home. The monitoring rep told him that they had called, but since the babysitter wasn’t on the authorized list, they couldn’t speak with her. Not surprisingly, he was angry.
Here is where the NYT gets something right, but its only partial. The security monitoring company should have immediately contacted police and emergency personnel upon receipt of the news of a fire or health alarm. They didn’t, and they should be shamed for that. In the instance of a fire or health alarm, every second counts. This calling around baloney is insane. At the very least, they should have contacted emergency personnel as soon as they found out there was no authorized user at the home.
Lest you think I’m going to give the NYT a point for this one, rest assured…I’m not. You see, the thing is, I know a thing or two about central stations. And the good central stations don’t follow the bogus policies of the above-described company. If there is an entrance alarm, the central station will call your home in accord with national standards. If they don’t receive you, they will contact emergency personnel. In the event of fire or health alarm, as I stated, they will dispatch immediately. So, while its true that the company mentioned deserves a failing grade, its not true of most alarm monitoring companies…which means our friend should have done better research. Score: Home Security Systems: 3, NYT: 0
So, that’s all for today’s review of the Gray Lady’s thoughts on home security. But I will do a postscript. It was mentioned that alarm monitoring cost between $25 and $100. This doesn’t have to be the case. SafeMart, among others, offers UL-listed central station alarm monitoring for less than $10.
Full article can be found: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/01/your-money/household-budgeting/01wealth.html