For most dads, there’s no more fundamental desire than to safeguard our homes and families—hey, it’s part of that provider-protector thing we’ve got goin’ on. It’s why we install smoke detectors, wear seat belts, and deadbolt the doors when we leave (or stay) home. We feel like we’re doing everything possible to keep from becoming a crime- or accident victim.

Yet even our best efforts don’t always seem like enough. All you have to do is read news accounts about crime rates and house fires in our communities, and you’ll realize that there are plenty of people out there who’ve done everything they could, but who still end up getting hurt one way or another.

The helplessness that comes from being a victim or from knowing someone else who is can be almost paralyzing, especially if we aren’t able to take concrete steps to protect ourselves from whatever happened to our neighbors. Fortunately, technology can help. As you’ve probably noticed, there are a growing number of high-tech alarm systems out there—many that you can install yourself.

These aren’t your grandfather’s alarms. Alarm Relay and other alarm systems perform an amazing array of functions that go far beyond scaring away intruders or waking up sleeping occupants in case of fire. Here’s a brief look at what’s available.

Video Surveillance

Back in the day, burglar-alarm systems were designed mainly to make a lot of noise and scare off any prospective thief. And unless there was a sharp-eyed witness, it was rarely possible to identify any intruder. Today’s systems, however, often integrate video monitoring that does a great job of both deterring and identifying thieves. It may even help solve crimes that don’t typically activate alarms, such as the growing problem of packages being stolen off of porches (which happens a ridiculous amount in my neighborhood).

Video may also help alert you to other home problems while you’re away. Imagine that a water pipe bursts during your vacation. A regular check-in using your alarm system’s smartphone app could let you see the problem and notify a plumber or your utility company so the damage can be minimized.

Protection From New Hazards

Fifty years ago, no one talked about carbon monoxide poisoning—and for good reason. Many homes were so drafty that the gas couldn’t accumulate, and much of the heat was provided by wood that burned inside a fast-drawing flue, ensuring that the byproducts of combustion were properly pulled out of the home.

But with so many gas-powered appliances and the popularity of attached garages, carbon monoxide poisoning is a growing issue. And the improper use of backup generators, which can force CO into the home, is making things even worse. CO detectors that tie in with the rest of the home’s security system are saving lives.

Home Function Integration

If you’ve ever headed out of town for a couple days during an extremely cold or hot period, you’ve probably experienced a condition we might call “thermostat panic.” You’re hundreds of miles away, the house is empty, it’s 95 degrees back home, and all you can think about is whether you turned off the AC or at least set it to come on at a higher-than-72-degree temperature. Worrying about the electric bill that will be waiting for you at home can ruin an otherwise perfectly enjoyable vacation.

Many alarm systems now integrate into home climate control (such as Nest) and can relieve the symptoms of thermostat panic for good. Using your handy smartphone app, you can check in on your thermostat and adjust it any way you want. The same technology can also help you minimize garage-door panic, light panic, and are-the-kids-home-yet panic by letting you monitor these and many other home functions.

Multi-function home alarm systems can do more today than we ever imagined. The list of features goes on and on, but at the end of the day, they really do only one thing: give us the peace of mind that comes from being confident that we’re doing everything we can to protect our family, home, and belongings.


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