Glossary of common alarm terms

Control Panel / Box

This is the heart or nerve-centre of the system and, in a domestic residence, is often situated in a cupboard or under the stairs. The control panel is connected to the electricity mains but also has a battery back-up facility.


The keypad allows you to input numbers/codes thereby activating or de-activating the alarm. Often placed in the hallway, not far from the entry/exit point. Mainly used to switch the alarm on and off.

Magnetic Contact Sensors

These are sensors that are generally used to detect the opening of a door or window. There are two parts to them: a magnet and a contact and are usually fitted to the surface of the window or door. Flush fitting types are also available.

Movement Sensors/Detectors

Many types are available, PIRs (Passive Infra-Reds) being the most common. They are normally installed in the corner of a room near the ceiling and detect a rapid change in infra-red energy e.g. by the movement of a person. Other types include microwave, ultrasonic and combinations of each (dual technology).

Vibration and Acoustic Sensors/Detectors

Vibration sensors detect physical vibrations e.g. where a door or window is banged in a hard manner. Acoustic sensors detect airborne vibrations e.g. where glass is broken. A dual technology sensor incorporating both is also available.

Personal Attack Button

Also called a panic button and has one or two recessed red buttons that, when pressed, causes the alarm to activate immediately and may also transmit a further signal to a remote monitoring station if connected.

Internal Sounder / Bell

This is fitted inside the home and provides a very loud audible warning noise.

External Siren / Bell Box

This is the ’box’ that you will see on the outside of homes and other buildings. It is normally sited quite high up, generally just under the eaves, and should be tamper-proof.

Strobe Flasher

Fitted to the external siren/bell box to give a visual warning of the alarm activation. Can be programmed to continue flashing after the audio sounder/bell has stopped.

Remote Signalling

With this facility, your alarm activation is transmitted to a remote monitoring station.

Zone The alarm installation company will, for the purposes of identification and convenience, divide your home into zones when installing your alarm system. These zones are managed by the control unit and can be utilised to de-activate certain areas of your home at particular times, to alert you to open zones when setting your alarm and also to provide information when an alarm activation occurs etc. Issued by the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2.

Issued by the Garda National Crime Prevention Unit, Harcourt Square, Dublin 2.

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