Early one morning, the siren on our home security system sounded. I don’t think it would have mattered whether I was asleep or wide awake, the decibels of the ear-splitting alarm instantly reverberated my brain.

I jumped from bed in my usual grizzly sleeping attire, grabbed my eyeglasses, and I headed for the alarm panel just outside my bedroom door. I learned that a motion detector in our basement had activated the alarm. So, I headed toward the basement with a gun in one hand and a flashlight in my other.

My wife shouted, “Wait for the police.” I know it was frightening for her because it wasn’t a picnic for me. I shouted back, “Honey, I am the police.” I opened the door to the basement and bolted down the stairs. Lights on, basement searched, and I found that the door and all windows were secure. A child’s poster had fallen off the wall and activated a motion detector, so I called our alarm company, gave them the proper code and canceled the alarm.

After returning to bed, my wife put a sharp elbow into my rib cage and muttered, “Charlie, there is someone in our backyard with a flash light.” With gun, flashlight and eyeglasses, I sprang toward the basement and touched every third step on my way to catch a thief. Throwing open the outside basement door, I stepped into the backyard and stared directly at a darkly clothed figure carrying a flashlight. Suspecting that I had captured a hardened criminal, I knew that I would be called the hero of the neighborhood. I pointed my flashlight toward my gratifying capture, then I gulped hard when I realized that I was illuminating a shiny police badge.

To my dismay, our alarm monitoring company forgot to cancel the police department. I am confident that the police officer standing in front of me was more dismayed to witness my unintended vaudeville show. Police officers see more than their share of horrible and unsightly things. Fortunately, seeing a peeled redhead with eyeglass, a flashlight and a gun is rare. My vision of being called the hero of the neighborhood quickly transformed into my vision of being called the half-wit of the neighborhood.

Why did I have a home security system installed in the first place? We both share piece of mind when coming home, opening a door, and hearing an alarm chirp that signals that the house is secure. A home alarm system is no guarantee of security, but it can offer a huge level of comfort.

Home burglaries happen about 6,000 times each day, and that equates to one every 13 seconds. The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that only one in 250 that have an alarm system will be burglarized, whereas one in three homes that don’t have an alarm system will.

The million-dollar question is, “Does everyone need a home alarm system?” Many people don’t realize that an alarm system can also protect their home from a fire. It has been suggested that a home fire is reported every 20 seconds. Many alarm systems have the power to notify local fire departments of smoke or extreme heat inside a home. Certain alarm systems can even detect deadly carbon monoxide gas.

I haven’t done the math to determine the cost of my home security system compared to my insurance premium, but my insurance company offers me a discount. Some insurance companies offer up to a 20% discount. Even if it hasn’t been a money saver throughout the years, for both of us, it’s a frequent emotion saver.

Don’t get excited and don’t be misled, because some home security systems come with exorbitant monthly fees. The systems that don’t cost monthly may or may not cost huge amounts up front. Less expensive home security systems are available on the shelves at some retail stores. It’s all relative to how much security someone wants and how much they are willing to pay.

The average amount of time it takes a burglar to break into a home is less than a minute. In many cases, burglars can enter a home and be gone with prized possessions before law enforcement is even notified. Before anyone decides to install a do-it-yourself security system, or have one professionally installed, they should study the pros and cons. It might be what the doctor ordered, or it might be a financial disaster. The newfound knowledge is extremely powerful; use it wisely.

Charlie Sewell is a retired Powder Springs police chief. His book, ‘I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists Of Devilment, Devotion And A Little Danger Here And There’ is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.

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