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Intruder Alarms - Confirmation Systems [Hardfacts]

Introduction

Various different types of Intrusion and Hold up Alarm Systems (I&HAS) exist - see ‘Hardfacts’ 3015: Intruder Alarms - Guidelines for Purchasers for an overview.

However, in order to obtain/retain a police response, I&HAS have to be installed, maintained and be remotely monitored - by an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), in accordance with police rules. These rules are contained in a document usually referred to as their Security System Policy (SSP) - see ‘Hardfacts’ Police Response to Security Systems for more information.

Systems that meet police rules are allocated a Unique Reference number (URN), and are then eligible for police response to ‘Qualifying Activations’ i.e. those that meet police rules for the type of system and the nature of the alarm event that occurs.

Many older I&HAS with a URN can only provide what are termed ‘unconfirmed activations’, i.e. a single piece of alarm information, but the police will still respond to such systems/events until such time that the number of false alarms results in police response being formally withdrawn. If this occurs systems must be modified (upgraded) to provide ‘confirmed activations’.

All new I&HAS requiring a URN now have to be capable of providing ‘confirmed activations’ - see below, and for such systems only confirmed activations will qualify for police response. Such systems may still generate an unconfirmed activation, but in such circumstances only the nominated keyholder is notified.

All other things being equal, if a confirmation system is to generate a police response at an early point in a break in, greater attention usually needs to be given to system design than was routinely the case with many non-confirmation systems.

What is Confirmation?
It is a means by which an alarm system, and related ARC procedures, operate together to ensure that police attendance is only requested if an ARC operator is confident that received alarm activations/signals (‘events’) are likely to relate to a genuine intrusion into premises.

Events which cannot be confirmed are termed unconfirmed activations or ‘false alerts’; but such events may nonetheless still relate to criminal activity, so prompt keyholder attendance at the premises will usually still be appropriate - and may be a condition of any insurance cover that is in force.


Rules for Confirmation
The rules relating to confirmation systems are contained in a British Standard known as BS8243: Installation and configuration of intruder and hold-up alarm systems designed to generate confirmed alarm conditions – Code of practice. This came fully into force on 1st June 2012 and replaces an earlier version called DD243.

These rules  deal with three main areas, namely:

  •      Types of Confirmation
  •      Means of Unsetting
  •      Types of Alarm Transmission System (ATS) – aka ‘remote signalling’

It is important to note that whilst BS8243/DD243 outlines various rules/protocols, these are minimum requirements. Therefore, the ability of a system to quickly and reliably provide confirmed activations, and thus elicit a police response at an appropriate point in any criminal intrusion, depends on the alarm company’s attention to system design. As such, a basic (low cost) system may be at risk of not fulfilling its intended function.

Types of Confirmation
BS8243/DD243 recognises three methods by which confirmation can be provided. These are:

  •      Audio - Premises microphones transmit sounds to an ARC. 
  •      Visual - Premises cameras transmit images to an ARC.
  •      Sequential - After any initial alarm activation, the ARC wait to see if a second alarm event occurs within a specified time frame (the Confirmation Time).

Notes.
i/ Audio/visual systems usually allow an ARC operator to decide if sounds/images relate to suspicious activity; but in case of equipment failure or inconclusive data, they also have a (back up) sequential confirmation facility.
ii/ Hold Up Alarm (HUA) devices can be added to confirmation systems without having a HUA confirmation facility. However, if too many false HUA do occur police response can be withdrawn and to restore it HUA confirmation (‘intervention’) will need to be provided.

Of the three types of confirmation technology outlined above, sequential confirmation is almost exclusively used. The remainder of this Hardfacts therefore provides additional guidance only on such systems.

Sequential Confirmation Systems

The ARC will deem a sequentially confirmed activation to have occurred when:

  • Two or more detectors activate within a 30-60 minute time window (Confirmation Time)
  • Reported loss of two signalling links (Paths) occurs within a 96 hour period
  • Alarm activation occurs followed by known loss of a signalling path, or vice versa

As the police cannot be called until a confirmed activation occurs, it is very important that systems are able to provide this during the early stages of most foreseeable types of intrusion. This also reduces the risk of keyholders being asked to attend premises without the police, i.e. after an unconfirmed alarm, with criminals possibly present within or at the premises.

To obtain the most secure sequential system design/options, adequate attention needs to be paid to several key areas, as follows:

Main Alarm Control and Remote Signalling Equipment
This should be sited where intruders can’t see it, nor reach it without creating a confirmed alarm. As regards the latter, such equipment should not be located in an area forming part of a timer controlled entry/exit route area - see below.

Detection
All areas containing ‘target items’ (items likely to be of value/attraction to thieves), need two forms of detection close to any expected entry point. Use of two movement sensors in each area, backed up by alarm contacts on doors and/or use of vibration or glass break sensors, is therefore advisable.

Means of Unsetting
Alarms need to be unset by users without creating false alarms. This usually involves users entering a premises via a designated Entry/Exit (E/E) door, the opening of which will be registered by the alarm system - as it will usually be fitted with an alarm contact.

The two ‘means of unsetting’ most used with sequential confirmation systems are shown below, and are referred to by their BS8243/DD243 clause numbers. They have different effects on the security provided by the system, as outlined in the related notes.

  •  6.4.3 – The E/E door has a lock electronically connected to the alarm system. Proper unlocking of the door is registered by the system and turns off the confirmation facility. Users can then enter the premises and fully unset the alarm at a keypad inside.

Note.Using 6.4.3 an intruder forcing open (i.e. not unlocking) the E/E door will, subject to detector coverage, immediately start the process of generating a confirmed activation. As such, and where the door can take a suitable alarm linked lock, this means of unsetting is to be preferred.

  • 6.4.5 – Opening of the E/E door is registered by the alarm system and turns off the confirmation facility on the E/E route. Users have a defined Entry Time (ET) in which to fully unset the alarm by presenting a token (‘Fob’) to a reader inside.

Note.Using 6.4.5 an intruder forcing open the E/E door will be treated by the system as a  legitimate system user, with confirmed alarms only possible if the intruder activates one or more (in DD243 compliant systems it is two or more), detectors not on the E/E route. In addition, as the non E/E route detectors may have been activated by a legitimate user straying from the E/E route, the system will hold any such activations until both the ET (max of 45 secs) and a further false alarm ‘abort time’ (max 30 secs) have expired. As such this means of unsetting, whilst simple (and thus used by many alarm companies as their default offering), is much less desirable than use of 6.4.3. This is especially so if the E/E route is in a part of the premises containing, or close to, ‘target items’ - as they may be long gone before the system sends any warning signal/activations to the ARC.

Alarm Transmission Systems (ATS)
I&HAS communicate with an ARC by means of an ATS, traditionally using a single communication path, e.g. a telephone line, to transmit alarm events to them. However, if an intruder breaks this path, e.g. cuts the ‘phone line, the ATS can no longer send signals to the ARC. Given that with confirmation systems the ARC needs to receive two events to generate a confirmed activation for police response, use of a single path ATS can negate the benefits of the confirmation system to which it is connected.

As a consequence, the use of Dual Path (DP) ATS, usually a ‘phone line combined with a radio (GSM/GPRS) path, is desirable with confirmation systems. DP ATS mean that either path can be used to transmit alarm messages, and known loss of both can also be treated as a confirmed activation.

Under the system of European Standards, ATS performance has to be measured against various parameters which are summarized by an expressed ATS value. This in turn is deemed suitable for use with a type of Notification Option of a particular Grade of alarm system. This sounds (and is!) complicated, so to simplify matters a common shorthand description is widely in used, whereby ATS products are commonly referred to as meeting a certain signalling ‘grade’.

These ‘grades’ primarily reflect the speed with which loss of either, or both, ATS paths will be detected at the ARC. A ‘grade’ 4 (ATS 5) DP signalling system is to be preferred, as this results in reporting of partial or total ATS failure (to the ARC) within a range of 3 – 6 mins, depending on the product and technology in use.

Note. ATS products that hold LPCB approval to Loss Prevention Standard (LPS)1277 version 3.0 and which meet its performance level ‘Enhanced ATS 5’ (‘grade’ 4), must report such failure within 3 – 3.5 mins. Partly as a result, such products are increasingly favoured by some insurers; and products certified under this scheme are the only ones that Aviva routinely recommends for new installations.

ARC Procedures
How an ARC deals with alarm events is a partly defined by relevant standards and partly by convention (expectation), but is essentially a matter of the ARC’s contract terms.

As an ARC is usually chosen by the alarm company, what has been agreed ‘behind the scenes’ may not be as you, or your insurer, may expect. As such it is important to check ARC procedures - which ideally should be set out in the alarm system documentation/specification.

Whilst most ARCs do inform keyholders of all alarm activations and system/signalling faults as they occur, it’s worth checking this. Without such notification keyholders will be unaware of the possible need to attend the premises and investigate the cause - which may be an insurer requirement.

The RISCAuthority have produced a useful document covering this issue, titled: S17 – Intrusion and hold-up alarm systems: guidance on event processing and handling.

Insurance
Insurers providing cover based on the presence of an alarm, may apply an ‘Alarm Condition’ that requires, amongst other matters, that:

  •   The policyholder  has a certain type of alarm with police response - with insurers promptly told if police response is reduced/withdrawn
  •   The alarm/signalling is fully functioning when premises are left unattended – with keyholders promptly attending the premises in response to all events.

Note. Failure to comply may jeopardise insurance cover

Key Action Steps

  • Beware a cheap quotation for a new confirmation system or upgrade, it may prove a false economy. A more secure option may cost a little more, but is less likely to disappoint in a crisis!
  • Check that the alarm company have considered all potential (criminal) entry areas to your premises, and that their system design is likely to generate an early confirmed activation following unauthorised entry to them.
  • Check that the ARC will inform keyholders of all unconfirmed activations/alarm faults, and as soon as they are received, i.e. not at the end of any confirmation time period.
  • Seek insurer advice beforehand, but otherwise check that they agree alarm company proposals for the type of Confirmation, Detection, Means of Unsetting and ATS. In addition, it may be necessary to check the underlying ‘Grade’ of alarm system, see ‘Hardfacts’ 3012: Intruder Alarms - European Standards for more information.
  • Check any property insurance policy for ongoing requirements (conditions) relating to alarm protection and then ensure you comply, as failure to do so may jeopardise your insurance cover.

Sources of Further Information
Other Aviva Risk Management Solutions Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our Knowledge Store’ at http://www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions/

Your alarm company

National Security Inspectorate (NSI) Tel 0845 006 3003 or see www.nsi.org.uk

Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Tel 0191 296 3242 or see  www.ssaib.org   

The RISC Authority (the UK insurers’ technical advice body) see www.riscauthority.co.uk
In particular, see these guides to intruder alarms:
S12 - http://www.riscauthority.co.uk/free-document-library/RISCAuthority-Library_detail.s12-police-response-intruder-alarm-systems-10-step-guide-for-purchasers.html

S14 - http://www.riscauthority.co.uk/free-document-library/RISCAuthority-Library_detail.s14-police-response-intruder-alarm-systems-summary-of-insurers-typical-requirements.html

The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) – http://www.biba.org.uk/

- In particular see their general guide to intruder alarms:

http://www.biba.org.uk/InsuranceGuides.aspx?heading=Intruder%20Alarms%20%20Guidance%20for%20Purchasers

Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) – See www.redbooklive.com

British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Tel 0845 389 3889 or see http://www.bsia.co.uk/

Next Steps:

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  • View our Tools and Templates
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  •  Email us at riskadvice@aviva.com

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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