Considering the statistics above, it's no surprise that monitored security systems are popular with homeowners trying to keep families and possessions secure.

But today's systems are a far cry from yesterday's door and window contacts.

"Home security has gone beyond the basic window and door monitors of the past," says Tony Westerfield, president and CEO of Safe & Sound Systems in Blue Ash.

"Now we have systems with fire, heat, smoke and motion detection, glass breakage alerts, open window monitoring. They can all be programmed and monitored into one system."

Most basic systems today include a keypad and control panel, contact alarms on entries and windows, an audible alarm and a monitoring system.

"But the biggest thing I've done is to save more houses from burning down after we put in smoke alarms," he says. The monitored alarm alerts responders, unlike basic store-bought smoke alarms.

Though most homeowners choose contact alarms on doors and windows, smoke monitors and perimeter monitoring, many take advantage of the technological giant steps and cutting edge wireless cameras available to monitor their homes while traveling, to keep an eye on the kids in the backyard from computers inside, to remotely turn on TVs or devices periodically to make it look like the house is occupied or even check on the babysitter through a PDA.

Some systems include panic buttons at strategic spots like next to beds. Others might include closed-circuit TV cameras or window screens with wire woven into the mesh that activates if cut or removed.

The new wireless systems can be installed and taken along if a family moves. "I just put a wireless system in my condo and I'll take it with me when I move in about a year or so," Westerfield says.

"We're doing a lot more wireless now because it's so much cheaper "” for the installer and the homeowner "” than running wire everywhere," he says. They are an ideal option for owners of historic plaster-walled homes who want to avoid the hardwire installation as well as those concerned about drilling through windows and ruining warranties. Hardwiring is best done during home construction.

Cost depends on the home's size and what the owners want after a security analysis. "It's all custom," Westerfield says. "We talk to the customer to determine whether they've had a break-in, do they want to make sure the kids aren't sneaking out, do they want something that will tell them if a window is left open? Is fire a concern or is there a special collection they want to guard?"

Many companies install the equipment and have a time contract for the monitoring. Westerfield has a flat $15.95 monthly fee instead because "people are more comfortable without contracts that can't be canceled."

Tips on Choosing an Alarm System