Step 1 – Locate the manual for your specific security system if you have inherited the system through a home purchase. If no paperwork was provided, examine the boxes on the walls for information regarding the manufacturer and the security company servicing the unit. Typically a security service will incur a monthly charge for yearly contracts. Contact the manufacturer of the system for the appropriate user manual.
Step 2 – Follow the guidelines in your user’s manual to test out each intercom location and each security system device. Usually you will work with your security system to test the windows, doors and sound and movement activation devices that are part of your system. This should be done annually. For regular testing call your service provider to test your panic button or other alarm systems.
Step 3 – Draw a chart and list all your devices as they correspond to your monitoring stations. Typically the company that installed the system will assign each device a number so that you can track which devices are activated. For example, if the window in your spare bedroom incorporates device 7 and you are unable to arm your system because 7 is active, meaning the window is open, you will know to check that window. Place a copy of the chart on the wall next to your master units or inside the unit lid for easy access as you learn to use your system.
Step 4 – Practice arming and disarming your system with each member of your family who can reach the keypad. Often residents of a secured home will have a general code for disarming the system. More advanced units will allow you to issue a code for each family member and service person who uses your home. This will allow you to track who has used your system. These non-master numbers should be changed regularly so they do not fall into the wrong hands.
Step 5 – Practice answering the door using the intercom. Create a list of the answers you want to use when a stranger rings your bell. Post this list for you and your children to read next to the master intercom units. Usually at least one a master intercom unit is located on each level of a home, including inside the master bedroom and in such rooms as family rooms, kitchens and other general gathering places. Many master units allow for hands-free answering.
Step 6 – Request a copy of the most common scams used by intruders to talk their way into your house. Most alarm companies routinely send these to customers to keep them up-to-date on scams in their area. Practice the scams on your family so that they are familiar with the words used and how to answer the questions offered by a stranger.
Step 7 – Practice safety. Show your children the panic button and teach them how to be ready to press it when a stranger tries to enter the home. Security companies will call your emergency number to ask if there is a problem. This allows children to ask for help from the adult at the security company if they aren’t sure what to do and a stranger wants to come inside. A good system will have a siren on the house, a flashing light to identify the house for emergency personnel and a hard-line phone line to direct-dial the security company when there is a problem. Many systems have features well beyond these minimums.
Step 8 – Arm your system and use it. Your security system should activate during a fire or other emergency. Your intercom is a feature that allows you to tell strangers to leave a card under the mat for you to review when the stranger is not present. Most intercom systems will allow you to speak within the house to other rooms if you know there is a problem and you want your children to run to a protected place. An intercom can also allow you to call for help if you have a hands-free system and are unable to reach the panel.
Step 9 – Test your system regularly. Work with your security company to test your units to ensure they are in good working order and ready to be used at all times. Keep spare batteries on hand for units that are not hard-wired. Most security systems have a backup battery to allow them to operate for one or more days after power to the house is cut off.