Every time over the last one year that I have sat down to write about modern electronic security systems, I have suffered a metaphysical crisis — do we really need such a profusion of security measures? Why have our homes suddenly become so insecure? Is it that we have become insecure ourselves? Or have we made people around us feel insecure?
But then, let us elucidate these gadgetry, so designed to ensure our peace of mind.
The list of todays state-of-the-art stuff — all loaded with latest microprocessor chips, infrared detectors, magnetic sensors, etc., — is long; the common ones being burglar alarm systems, video door phones, access control systems, camera with controllers and digital video recorders.
There are quite a few manufacturers in the market, each offering several variants of every product type. So remember, its easy to get confused.
The system not just senses all kinds of unauthorised entries and dangers, but also reports it to you instantly. Some features:
Main control panel: A typical system will have a main control panel with sensors and accessories linked to it. In the event of a mishap, it is the panel, the real brain of the system, that alerts. It can immediately and automatically dial up to five telephone numbers, which you have pre-informed to the installers.
It is linked to the central control station (also called the alert service), where a panic alarm is struck instantaneously, and where the 24x7 service personnel immediately report the pre-notified person/s of the situation.
Of course, the panel also sets off a blaring alarm, loud enough to wake up the neighbourhood.
Linked to the control panel, a magnetic sensor is security against physical break-ins. Fix one such sensor onto each door or window where theres a chance of breaking in. Ensure that it is fixed securely to the door/window. The sensor will only get activated when the door/window itself — that is, its frame, shutter or glass — is tampered with.
These are normally required in likely points of silent, unwanted entries, as in non-grilled or a semi-open balcony, terrace, stairwell or verandah. Normally fixed to the ceiling or high up on a wall, a motion sensor can detect movements up to 25ft away, and within angular distances of 120 degrees.
Gas leak sensor
A very important add-on, this sensor can detect both LPG and CNG. The sensor is normally fixed as close as possible to the gas cylinder. These gases, being heavier than air, begin collecting at floor level, which is why the sensor should be fitted close to the floor. Dont forget to install an extra sensor with every extra cylinder.
Connected to the control panel, the hooter can sound an alarm, sometimes to above 140 decibels, to alert people around. Place the hooter with its face outwards, so that your neighbours can hear it.
This is used to arm the system when you are out of the house or at night, and disarm it otherwise. Also, most remotes are fitted with an additional distress button linked to the hooter. In case of emergencies, one can press it to alert people.
Dont get lured by the space-age gizmo looks of high-end stuff. Go for the easy-on-the-pocket ones. They are less convoluted and work just as well. A tip: The wired systems are normally cheaper than the wireless ones.
For your information, a mid-range burglar alarm system for a typical two-bedroom apartment can cost around Rs 6,000 to Rs 12,000. Large four-bedroom apartments with balconies and terrace can be secured over a budget of Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000.
However, you can always ask the vendor to customise a system suited to your apartment/house design, your lifestyle needs and the level of neighbourhood safety.
Every additional attachment does come at a nominal price: the average price of a magnetic sensor is around Rs 700. A motion sensor costs about Rs 1,200.
Most systems are covered by a minimum one-year warranty. However, you should add value to your purchase through an annual maintenance contract and renew it every year. This could cost about Rs 300 a year but ensures that your system stays vitally linked to the central control station.
This is purely personal opinion, which you might agree with. Go for small gadgets and conceal them. An overt display of security gadgets convinces a potential intruder that there is a lot to loot.
(The author is an interior design consultant, specialising in the design of corporate and residential interiors. As a senior faculty member at a Calcutta institute, she has delivered lectures, guided research and conducted projects in the field of Housing & Interior Design for over two decades. She can be contacted at email@example.com )