A Residential Security Solution

Security screens, connected to the alarm system, may be the answer for clients who want to open windows and enjoy fresh air while keeping the alarm system armed.

A residential break-in occurs in the United States every 14 seconds. The majority of these intruders enter through open and unprotected windows. Of course many of these residences do not have an alarm system and some have alarm systems which weren't activated at the time of the intrusion. Why...

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A solution I've used for several years are devices referred to as security screens. At one point in time, I fabricated my own screens. These screens were the residential equivalent to another security device which has essentially disappeared, the wood alarm grills. The wood alarm grills were constructed of grooved dowels into which fine solid wire was placed. The wires formed a circuit and if the grill was broken during a break-in, the alarm would go off. The screens used a non-metallic mesh which had fine wires woven into it which also formed a circuit.

I would obtain the various components required and either manufacture screens or modify a client's existing screens for a system.

The materials required were the screening itself, which came in several sizes to accommodate anything from a small window to a patio door, the wire, the tamper switches, the grommets, special rubber ribbing, assorted adhesives, and so forth.

If it was necessary to fabricate a screen, then I'd have to buy the aluminum extrusions and plastic corners from which screens are assembled. Back then, most serious alarm dealers made their own screens. The market for security screens had to do with your area of the country, if you were doing high –end systems, and your ability to sell.

We recently did an alarm project, and the client expressed a strong desire to enjoy the fresh air and birds singing. So I broke out my old screen sample and made a presentation.

The client was enthralled by the concept. Then I had to figure out what I would do to fulfill the order. Build or buy?

I hit the Internet and was grateful to locate a professional alarm screen fabricator who was alive and well and staying rather busy building screens for the residences of security conscious federal government employees in the metro Washington DC area. (See http://www.securityscreens.com .)

I did a phone interview and was impressed with the answers. They offered the range of options that I as a system designer, dealing with a moderate-to-severely picky client, needed.

We decided which screens we'd modify. After all, certain windows were inaccessible to attack, and in some rooms, the client didn't feel a need to open the windows.

I had the contractor remove the existing screens and bring them in to our shop. Unfortunately, even though they were brand new, the screens were low quality and poorly constructed, and I didn't want to invest money in having them modified.

You need screen frames with at least the physical integrity of typical replacement window screens, (which are, by the way, pretty decent).

The screen contractor again had a nice choice of extrusions, colors and options, and I was able to easily convince my client that it was a worthwhile investment, so we went ahead and measured everything carefully and ordered all new screens.

The alarm screens mount using a top track and a hook and bale at the bottom to hold them shut.

In our case we ordered the screens supplied with wires and plugs which connect to the wireless alarm transmitters. The screens could just as easily be connected to a hard-wired alarm system.

The screens also have concealed tamper switches. These are so if the screen is removed from the frame, it also cause an alarm. The screening material is laced with a fine wire. If the fine wire is cut or if the screen is dislodged from its frame, the alarm goes off.

These screens can remain “on” all the time. Additionally they can be easily removed for window cleaning. In an emergency, the screen does not pose an impediment to egress, as do metal grills and window guards I've used in the past.

I do not recall ever getting an objection to the appearance of these screens from a client. You need to study them closely to even notice they're modified, and there are no restrictions on windows treatments or decorating.

Many alarm system clients will not be interested at all in alarm screens. They probably expect you to give them the alarm system anyway. They hear that's how it ought to be by watching TV. This is not for them, and that kind of client probably isn't for you either.

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