Although Spain is a relatively safe country, home burglaries are rising (20 per cent increase between 1996 and 2001) and there is a growing market for home protection devices and services. Should you wish to contract the services of a professional security company and invest in an alarm system, here are a few points to consider.
Choosing a Company
As police are overwhelmed with false alarms from home security systems, Spanish lawmakers are preparing to prohibit the companies backing these systems from alerting the police in certain circumstances.
This is important news for consumers, who must be careful only to invest in security systems that are not only connected to a "central de alarmas" - or alarm headquarters - but also backed by a team of security guards. For as the new law requires companies to send a representative to your home in order to confirm the incident is indeed a burglary before calling police, only those companies with sufficient resources will be able to provide adequate service.
Unprepared service providers either will not be able to answer an alarm, or they may choose to ring the police anyway thus incurring heavy fines for the client.
Also of prime importance is that the security guards who monitor your home system are known by thieves for turning out in record time, every time their alarms sound.
Selecting an Alarm
A professional will need to assess the area you wish to secure in order to advise you regarding appropriate options. However, you might need to decide whether to buy or rent the system. In either case there is an additional monthly service charge and the latter might be the best choice if the alarm company agrees to upgrade your equipment regularly at no cost.
You might also be offered a silent system rather than the more traditional acoustic version. Don't let this alarm you. It is well known among security professionals that sirens have lost their shock effect. To quote information provided by one major service provider: "Unfortunately, the proliferation of acoustic alarm systems, with a considerable percentage of false alarms, has greatly reduced the reaction not only from neighbours, but also from police. Thieves know very well that there are silent and semi-silent systems connected to alarm centres. These are the ones they truly fear."
Many alarm systems now use mobile phone technology as this avoids the problems of the burglars cutting telephone wires which in some locations is quite easy to do.
Some alarm systems also allow you to create an activation and deactivation code for each person who will access the building. An individuals movements can be monitored. It will recorded which member of staff returned in the evening. The other advantage of individual numbers is that the codes do not need to be changed each time a member of staff leaves the employment.
These days many of the systems can be monitored from any computer in the world connected to the internet. This includes the surveillance cameras.
As far as actual detection systems go, expect to meet with magnetic alarms for doors and windows as well as special systems that detect movement or alert of broken windows. Volume detectors come highly recommended as they require both heat and movement in order to activate, and this reduces the chances of a false alarm.
If you are given a choice between using a key or a digital keypad to activate your system, choose the latter as it is much more secure than the former.
Any professional security company worth its salt will offer you a wide array of additional services such as: panic buttons, safes, property inspections during holidays, secure key "check out" programmes and even the possibility of calling in to remotely activate the alarm you forgot to turn on before leaving home.