Sunday, February 19, 2012

For the right price, you too can be `safe'

     If you view your home as a castle, should you be thinking about putting up an electronic "moat" to protect yourself?
     Nowadays, people are taking home security extremely seriously. In the new suspense film "Panic Room," we get to hide out with Jodie Foster in an impregnable chamber that looks a whole lot like a bank vault, to avoid the wrath of some predatory creeps.
But so-called safe rooms are no mere movie fantasy. Costing $100,000 to $500,000, they've become increasingly popular additions to the homes of financiers, political figures and movie stars who fear kidnapping, robbery and worse.
     Even everyday folk are feeling the need for more home security in these semi-paranoid times, according to a recent survey done for the Home Internet Alliance.
Given a list of all the possible goodies they could have in a thoroughly modern, "connected home," consumers chose security features ahead of cool options like remote-control sound and video systems, kitchen appliances and heating/air conditioning.
Let's consider some of the options now available.
     HOME SAFE HOME: If money is no object and death threats are regularly appearing on your answering machine, you should probably be calling Karl Alizade at City Safe Inc. in New Jersey (212-809-7799). His Safe Rooms (from $400,000 to $2 million) aren't just hideaways, they're also counterattack weapons that would do James Bond proud.
     As described by Alizade, "The Safe Room is totally self-sufficient, with food, water, emergency communications, medical supplies, offensive-defensive weapons, self-contained air supply and purifying system, sound and visual monitoring systems including closed-circuit TV and infrared, emergency power, and an outside broadcasting-intercom system ... for instructing the intruders to vacate the premises within 15 seconds." At which point an automatic taped countdown broadcast would start, "while countermeasures actually begin far sooner."
     To put a total freak on the bad guys, a Safe Room occupant could flip a switch to automatically seal all building doors, confining the intruders,and then go into offensive-defensive modes.
Such as?
     Try "high-intensity light attack, creating vertigo and nausea." Or "release of thick, sticky spray into all areas surrounding the room, holding any person captive in the mass." Or "electrical discharges that render people immovable or unconscious as well as causing the ammunition within that area to discharge (illegal in the United States)."
How about this tactic? "Various surfaces generating electromagnetic energy immediately attract and hold any metal such as intruders' weapons."
    Or "ricochet surfaces" that "establish cross fields of fire, incapacitating chemical sprays and gases as well as flash bang charges."
     Then there's "total smoke generation, which does not harm furniture or personal effects while blocking intruders' vision."
And, saving the best for last, try the "collapsing sectors," which dump intruders into "holding pits until released by authorized personnel."
Touche, Mr. Alizade!
     Not everyone needs a 21st-century bomb shelter capable of withstanding atomic assault.
For a whole lot less moolah ($3,000 to $5,000), American Saferoom Door Co would be happy to convert an existing closet or bathroom into a safe enclosure using a maximum-strength sliding pocket door that's opened and closed with an electronic keypad (and backup battery) and electromagnetic locks.
The door and walls can be lined with bullet-resistant Armortex, a man-made material that withstands attack by a .357-caliber Magnum or a 9 mm automatic.
     CLOSER TO HOME: For those of us who lead less desperate lives, the most pressing home security issue might be resolving who's stealing magazines out of the mailbox. Or how to get safely to the bedroom without tripping over Junior's far-flung toys.
Security cameras come in all shapes and sizes these days _ like the spy cams ($300) sold by Los Angeles' Bollide International that can be hidden inside books, radios, wall clocks and tie clips, but still need to be wired to a video recorder to capture the guilty party on tape.
     A sly alternative is the new MemoCam (about $1,200 retail) from Crow Electronic Engineering. Looking like a wall thermostat, this nondescript box is actually a closed-circuit TV system complete with a black-and-white camera and video compression engine that clicks on when triggered by an internal motion detector or external alarm. It can nab and record up to 6,000 still images on a single multimedia card. The card can be removed from the MemoCam and its contents reviewed at a computer terminal.
     For spying on your vacation home from your city home (or vice versa), Panasonic offers a line of cameras that you can call up remotely on a computer. Totally self-contained, the cameras boast their own Web addresses!
     Whole house control systems like the HAI OmniPro  that interface with voice command software like HAL 2000 can perform all sorts of magical things to make you feel safer in your abode. Depending on your wants, prices could easily reach the $10,000 range.
     With one spoken command or button press, this computer-based system can be programmed to click shut all your solenoid piston-controlled door locks, turn off the house lights, arm the alarm system, turn on outdoor security lights and light up a trail from the keypad to the the master bedroom.
     But because most of the controls are hard-wired to the OmniPro central panel, this solution is best applied in new construction homes, before the walls go up.
For retrofitting in existing homes, Lutron Electronics  offers RadioRa, a wireless, radio-controlled lighting (and more) system. It can trigger all the light bulbs in your house to start blinking whenever the home security system senses a trespasser _ sure to scare the bejabbers out of the interloper and alert all the neighbors. (Ofttimes when a house alarm goes off, neighbors and police are slow to determine exactly where the noise is coming from.)
     A new car visor control accessory for RadioRA lets you control the garage door and house lights (with RA switches) or selectively set one of five lighting "scenes" for your entry or exit.
     GM is testing a variation on this theme that works with its voice-command OnStar car navigation system. Miles away, from the comfort of your driver's seat, you'll be able to check that the house security system hasn't been breached, turn on welcoming lights, alter the heat or air conditioning and even unlock the door, if you've misplaced the key.
Now, aren't you feeling better?

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