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While alarm systems are of an advanced design, it does not offer guaranteed protection against burglary or other emergency.  Any alarm system, whether commercial or residential, is subject to compromise or failure to warn for a variety of reasons.  For example;

-         Intruders may gain access through unprotected openings or have the technical sophistication to bypass an alarm sensor or disconnect the alarm warning device.

-         Intrusion detectors (e.g. passive infrared detectors), smoke detectors, and many other sensing devices will not work without power.  Battery operated devices will not work without batteries, with dead batteries, or if the batteries are not put in properly.  Devices powered solely by AC will not work if their AC power supply is cur off for any reason, however briefly.

-         Signals sent by wireless transmitters may be blocked or reflected by metal before they reach the alarm receiver.  Even if the signal path has been recently checked during a weekly test, blockage can occur if a metal object is moved into the path.

-         A user may not be able to reach a panic or emergency button quickly enough.

-         While smoke detectors have played a key role in reducing residential fire deaths in the United States, they may not activate or provide early warning for a variety of reasons in as many as 35% of all fires, according to data published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  Some of the reasons smoke detectors used in conjunction with this system may not work are as follows.  Smoke detectors may have been improperly installed and positioned.  Smoke detectors may not sense fires that start where smoke cannot reach the detectors, such as in chimneys, in walls, or roofs, or on the other side of closed doors.  Smoke detectors also may not sense a fire on another level of a residence or have sensing limitations.  No smoke detector can sense every kind of fire every time.  In general, detectors may not always warn about fires caused by carelessness and safety hazards like smoking in bed, violent explosions, escaping gas, improper storage of flammable materials, overloaded electrical circuits, children playing with matches, or arson.  Depending upon the nature of the fire and/or the locations of the smoke detectors, the detector, even if it operates as anticipated, may not provide sufficient warning to allow all occupants to escape in time to prevent injury or death.

-         Passive infrared motion detectors can only detect intrusion within the designed ranges as diagrammed in their installation manual.  Passive infrared motion detectors do not provide volumetric area protections.  They do create multiple beams of detection and intrusion can only be detected in unobstructed areas covered by those beams.  They cannot detect motion or intrusion that takes place behind walls, ceilings, floors, closed doors, glass partitions, glass doors, or windows.  Mechanical tampering, masking, painting or spraying any material on the mirrors, windows or any part of the optical system can reduce their detection ability.  Passive infrared detectors sense changes in temperature, however, as the ambient temperature of protected are approaches the temperature range of 90 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, the detection performance can decrease.

-         Alarm warning devices such as sirens, bells or horns may not alert people or wake up sleepers if they are located on the other side of closed or partly open doors.  If warning devices sound on a different level of the residence from the bedrooms, they are less likely to waken or alert people inside the bedrooms.  Even persons who are awake may not hear the warning if the alarm is muffled from a stereo, radio, air conditioner or other appliances, or by passing traffic.  Finally, alarm warning devices, however loud, may not warn hearing-impair people or waken deep sleepers. 

-         Telephone lines needed to transmit alarm signals from premises to a central monitoring station may be out of service or temporarily out of service.  Telephone lines are also subject to compromise by sophisticated intruders.

-         Even if the system responds to the emergency as intended, however, occupants may have insufficient time to protect themselves from the emergency situation.  In the case of a monitored alarm system, authorities may not respond appropriately.

-         This equipment, like other electrical devices, is subject to component failure.  Even though this equipment is designed to last as long as 10 years or more, the electronic components could fail at any time.


The most common cause of an alarm system not functioning when an intrusion or fire occurs is inadequate maintenance.  This alarm system should be tested weekly to make sure all sensors and transmitters are working properly.  Installing an alarm system may make one eligible for lower insurance rates, but an alarm system is not a substitute for insurance.  Homeowners, property owners and renters should continue to act prudently in protecting themselves and continue to insure their lives and property.