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The keyfob that comes with this alarm allows users to arm and disarm the system from up to 75 feet away from the keypad.
In fact, the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association says that 76 percent of false alarms are caused by user error. In an effort to simplify the alarm system and make it more attractive to homeowners, ADT Security Services, one of the country's largest providers of electronic security services, is launching a new product that it says is convenient and easy to use. The lure of the new Safewatch E-Z system is that the standard method of punching in codes when you leave and enter your house is eliminated. Instead, the arming and disarming functions are linked to the deadbolt on the front door. "We believe our new product strategy will revolutionize the way consumers think about home security systems by easing common hesitations surrounding cost and complexity of use," says Mike Snyder, president of ADT. Another benefit of the new alarm, which is rolling out in regions across the country and will soon be available nationwide, is a lower likelihood of prompting a false alarm, a mounting problem for law enforcement agencies across the country. In some regions, alarm calls account for 10 percent to 30 percent of all calls for police services, according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. "Unchecked, the problem will snowball, along with the steadily increasing number of alarm system installations," the IACP says in a report on the topic. "Populous cities already typically experience tens of thousands of false-alarm calls annually; the largest cities dispatch police to hundreds of thousands of false alarms each year." ADT's new product has built-in motion sensors that know when someone is operating the system from inside the house, automatically placing the system in "stay" mode. The Safewatch E-Z basic system and installation will start at $99, with monitoring services starting at about $27 per month. Meanwhile, Brink's Home Security also has introduced a device to make arming and disarming the system easier. Called the Smart-Key Wireless Remote, this wireless device can arm and disarm up to 75 feet away from the receiver. The device, which looks like a keyring remote car-alarm device, can also serve as a police or medical panic alarm by transmitting a signal through the control panel to the central monitoring system. Smoke and Fire Alarms While burglar alarms will help protect your home from intruders, smoke alarms will help your family escape a house fire. Fire is the second leading cause of unintentional death in the home, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Although 90 percent of homes in the United States have smoke alarms installed, the CPSC has found that about 20 percent of the alarms were not working, primarily because the battery was dead or missing. "Smoke alarms can save lives, but they won't work if they are not maintained," says CPSC Chairwoman Ann Brown. "They should be tested monthly, and the batteries should be replaced at least once a year or when they make a chirping sound."
There are also three new-construction code provisions (Council of American Building Officials' One- and Two-Family Dwelling Code) for smoke-alarm installation:
1) Smoke detectors are required in each sleeping room, outside of each separate sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms, and on each additional story of the building, including basements and cellars.
2) All detectors shall be interconnected such that the actuation of one alarm will actuate all the alarms in the individual (housing) unit and shall provide an alarm which will be audible in all sleeping areas.
3) Smoke detectors are to receive primary power from the house wiring system and a battery when power is interrupted. There are several types of fire- and smoke-alarm technologies on the market. Photoelectric sensor technology relies on an electric current that produces a beam of light. It can quickly detect slow, smoldering, smoky fires. Ionization technology contains a small amount of radioactive material encapsulated in a metal chamber. It quickly detects fast-flaming fires that give off little smoke. First Alert's Double Sensor alarm, which contains both sensors, won a 2001 Good Housekeeping Good Buy Award, was rated a Best Invention by Time Magazine, and was rated Best by Far by Popular Mechanics. It costs $30 to $35. The National Fire Protection Association and other experts say you should replace your smoke alarm every 10 years because they accumulate dust, dirt and debris. And alarms consistently improve. "Ten-year replacement provides an opportunity to upgrade smoke alarms. Ten years ago there weren't the variety of options and safety innovations in smoke alarms that are available now," says Doug Kellam, vice president/general manager of health and safety of Sunbeam Corporation, the parent company of First Alert. First Alert has several new features on its alarms - a silencer button to quiet non-threatening alarms, a 10-year battery, and a remote flashlight that lets you test the alarm by shining a flashlight beam at a test button. First Alert's SA302 model allows homeowners to test or silence the alarm with most any TV remote control; no extra programming is required. "These features help make it easier to properly maintain smoke alarms, which in turn helps keep families safer," Kellam says. "The silencer button, for instance, will quiet alarms from cooking smoke, while continuing to provide protection from fire.
This discourages dangerous behavior like removing batteries from smoke alarms to quiet a non-threatening alarm, which unfortunately sometimes happens," Kellam says. The NFPA offers the following smoke-alarm safety tips: Replace the batteries once a year, when the alarm chirps, or when the battery is dying. Test your alarms monthly. Clean the alarms according to the manufacturers' instructions. Do not use an open-flame device for testing because of the danger the flame poses. Alarms should be placed outside each sleeping area and on each level of your home, including the basement. Alarms should be mounted on the wall 4 to 12 inches from the ceiling; ceiling-mounted alarms should be positioned 4 inches away from the nearest wall-vaulted ceiling.
Carbon Monoxide Alarms Carbon-monoxide poisoning will present symptoms similar to the flu - headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea and dizziness. In order to avoid tragedy, the CPSC recommends appliances be installed according to the manufacturer's instructions and building codes. You should also have your heating system inspected and serviced annually. Be sure the inspector checks your chimney and flue closely. The second thing you should do is install a carbon-monoxide detector-alarm that meets the requirements of the current UL standard 2034 or the IAS 6-96 standard. Install the alarm in the hallway near every separate sleeping area of the home. "The most important thing in preventing carbon-monoxide poisoning is to check the furnace and chimney every year before turning it on," says Ken Giles, a spokesman for the CPSC. "Have a professional heating contractor check the furnace for cracks or leaks, the chimney for blockages, the vent piping for separations. Do this before turning on the furnace in the fall. If the carbon-monoxide alarm sounds, call 911. If you feel sick (nausea, headache, fatigue), get out of the house and get fresh air." Carbon-monoxide detectors are designed to alarm before life-threatening levels are reached. Once the alarm sounds, you should press the reset button, call 911 and then go outdoors. If you're in the market for both a smoke alarm and a carbon-monoxide detector, First Alert offers a combination smoke and carbon-monoxide alarm. The advanced-technology alarm warns of fire and carbon monoxide with distinctly different signals.
In conjunction with different audible alarms, lighted symbols flash - flames for a fire, and dots for an elevated level of carbon monoxide. The combination unit also has a unique octagonal stop-sign shape to differentiate it from smoke alarms and from carbon-monoxide alarms. The alarm costs about $50. Whether you go with a combo-style detector or with two separate alarms, the important thing is that you have both smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms. Says Giles of the CPSC, "Bottom line, consumers should have a working smoke alarm on every level of the home, and consumers should have a CO alarm near the bedroom." And just as important as your alarm systems, your family will need to develop and practice escape plans so your children will know how to get out of the house quickly in an emergency. n Michele Dawson is a freelance writer based in Elk Grove, Calif.