How Does the Burglar Alarm Work?

Written by kristy martz
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How Does the Burglar Alarm Work?
(Bart Groenhuizen)

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A burglar alarm consists of a central panel, door and window contacts, motion detectors and a siren. Each component is hard-wired to the central panel. There are several zones in a burglar alarm system. A zone can be an entire room or a specific burglar alarm component. The panel receives signals from each zone and forwards these signals to the monitoring centre. The panel is connected to the phone line. This enables the burglar alarm to communicate with the monitoring centre.

Setting the Alarm

You set a burglar alarm by entering a numeric code on the keypad. You then have a set amount of time (usually several seconds) to exit the building after the alarm has been set. When you enter the building, you enter the code again to disarm the burglar alarm. If the code is incorrect, the burglar alarm's panel sends a signal to the monitoring centre. The monitoring centre will then notify the authorities.

Tripping an Alarm

A person can trip a burglar alarm by opening a door or window or by activating a motion detector. Within seconds, the component sends a signal to the central panel, which causes the burglar alarm to go off. A siren usually sounds when an alarm is tripped; however, a silent alarm can be installed. People who are hearing-impaired can opt for a flashing light that will alert them to an intruder. If the alarm system is monitored, the panel places a telephone call to a monitoring centre when the alarm is tripped.


When the monitoring centre receives a call from an alarm system, it can see which zone caused the alarm. The monitoring centre then notifies the authorities and alarm system owner. The police are then dispatched to the location of the alarm system to investigate.

Other Monitoring Options

If the alarm is tripped, the monitoring centre can call any telephone number you specify. You can have them call your cell phone instead of the authorities. You could also choose to have both a telephone number of your choice and the authorities notified when the burglar alarm goes off. Some monitoring centres will call the location of the burglar alarm to verify that it is not a false alarm before alerting the authorities.

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