Shelley Bridgeman

Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: Ban those screeching house alarms

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Do you manage to deactivate your house alarm before it starts screeching?
Photo / Thinkstock
Do you manage to deactivate your house alarm before it starts screeching? Photo / Thinkstock

There's a house alarm in our neighbourhood that sounds a couple of times each week. It never goes off for more than a few seconds and it's always during daylight hours. I figure it's caused by operator error - specifically, that it's a result of the house-owner being too slow to deactivate the alarm upon arriving home. It's surprising that he or she doesn't learn from this frequent occurrence and try to hasten the speed of deactivation but perhaps they're drama queens who don't mind announcing their arrival to the entire street.

Or maybe the timeframe allowed for deactivation isn't generous enough. The last time I had a house alarm installed I asked the man programming it to allow me a leisurely 90-seconds between entering the house and punching in the code on the wall panel. But he persuaded me that this was enough time for a burglar to break in and escape with the family silver. So now we have 20-seconds to do the job. It's a bit of a tight timeframe and I always hope I don't trip up in my haste to deactivate the alarm.

But if I did fail to switch off the alarm in time my neighbours certainly wouldn't be alerted to the fact, because I don't approve of external sirens and I've never had one installed. I think it's the height of rudeness to expect your neighbours to act as your unwilling security guards. And really, does anyone actually pay attention to a screaming alarm these days? False alarms are all too common and people justifiably ignore them.

One night we were woken up when a house alarm in our street started screeching. A red flashing light identified the house in question. It was several houses away from us and we sure wouldn't have been the only household inconvenienced. The siren continued for a few minutes, had a rest and then started again just as we were almost asleep. We were kept awake for hours. And burglars in the vicinity were alerted to an unattended and unmonitored property ripe for the picking. Nothing says "Nobody home and nobody cares" more clearly than an alarm shrieking throughout the night.

I reckon external sirens should be banned. They're an inconsiderate and intrusive form of noise pollution. If homeowners aren't content with internal sirens to scare off intruders, they should have the system monitored by a security company who'll send guards when the alarm is triggered.

It's a shame more homeowners don't take a leaf out of my book. While I'm being public-spirited and neighbourly by eschewing external alarms and contributing to the overall peacefulness of our 'hood, they're shamelessly inconveniencing locals for their own selfish purposes - which is not nice at all.

What do you do when you hear a house alarm (or car alarm) in the middle of the night? Do you call the police or do you put a pillow over your head and try to get back to sleep? Are external alarms the height of rudeness or is inflicting noise pollution on unwitting neighbours perfectly fine?

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