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Police Response to Security Systems [Hardfacts]

Introduction:

UK police forces will provide a pre agreed response to certain types of remote monitored electronic security system, i.e. Intrusion and Hold up Alarm Systems (I&HAS), detector activated CCTV systems plus some Lone Worker and Vehicle Tracking and Immobilisation systems; but only where the system and the centre that monitors it, e.g. an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), Remote Video Receiving Centre (RVRC) or System Operating Centre (SOC) complies with a formal set of rules. .

Note. Special SSP rules apply to Lone Worker and Vehicle Tracking and Immobilisation systems, so the remainder of this Hardfacts provides information mainly relevant to I&HAS and detector activated CCTV systems.

Development of police rules

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland police forces now follow the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) "National Policy on Police Response to Security Systems" (for simplicity referred to hereafter as "NPCC SSP"). This was formerly known as the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Security System Policy (SSP). 

In Scotland a similar SSP has been adopted by Police Scotland (formerly known as the ACPOS SSP).  

Prior to the creation of these policies, the problem of false calls from alarm systems had led to individual police forces bringing in their own rules governing how and when they would respond to alarm activations.

Variations between different police force's rules created practical difficulties, especially for the security and insurance industry, and so ACPO decided to introduce a 'national' alarms policy in 1990. This initial policy has been substantially revised (and expanded to cater for systems other than intruder alarms) over the years to become todays NPCC SSP.

Based on the ACPO SSP, ACPOS issued it's first "national" security systems policy for Scotland in 2002.

Periodic SSP updates help to ensure that the policies remain in tune with technological developments and police operational requirements.

SSP - Force Adoption

The national versions of the NPCC SSP is made freely available to their member police forces, each adopting force having the option of making changes to certain parts of it which are then set out in a policy section referred to as "Appendix A".

With Scotland now having a unified police force, the national policy is followed as published.

NPCC & Police Scotland SSPs - Main Features

Within the SSP's, two fundamental types of electronic security system are described:  

Type A systems

These are systems that comply with SSP rules, and as such can apply for a Unique Reference Number (URN). Systems with a URN have their details stored on police control room computer systems, and are the only ones where a monitoring centre can directly contact the police's control room and ask for police attendance to 'Qualifying Activations'.

Qualifying activations are those types of activations/events that the police have agreed to attend - which in turn depends upon the type of security system involved and when it was 1st installed and applied for a URN.

Type A systems must:-

  • Be designed, installed, maintained and monitored by companies subject to inspection by a police recognised inspection body, i.e. for I&HAS and detector activated CCTV the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).
  • Be installed in accordance with a recognised and appropriate Standard, e.g. a British/European Standard
  • If a new system/URN application, be able to provide a 'Confirmation' of criminal activity before the police will attend.
  • If an I&HAS /detector activated CCTV system, have at least two keyholders appointed; these being persons having their own means of transport, being telephone subscribers residing within 20 minutes travelling time of the protected premises and having access to all parts of the protected premises.

Type B systems

These are systems that do not comply with SSP rules, and thus are not eligible for a URN.

Police response to Type B systems is only provided if someone at or otherwise viewing the premises can confirm that suspicious activity is underway, and then requests police attendance via the 999 emergency telephone system.

NPCC & Police Scotland SSPs - Other Features

The SSPs cover a wide range of issues, those likely to be of most interest to Type A I&HAS system owners/users being outlined below:

Police Response Levels

The SSPs set out three levels of police response. These are: -

  • Level 1 - An Immediate/Priority Response.
  • Level 2^ - Police response is desirable, but attendance may be delayed.
  • Level 3 - No police attendance, i.e. police response has been withdrawn.

^ Note. No longer provide by most NPCC forces.

Confirmation

ll new applications for a URN must relate to security systems able to provide (except for Hold Up facilities) what is termed ' 'Confirmation' ', i.e. an indication that the activation/event notified to the monitoring centre is likely to relate to criminal activity rather than equipment failure or a false alarm. Only Confirmed Activations qualify for police attendance, all other forms of activation (unconfirmed) usually being notified solely to the customer/keyholder(s).

With detector activated CCTV systems, 'confirmation' of criminal intent is usually evident from the camera images coupled with the failure of suspected criminals to leave site when the ARC operator issues an audio challenge - via the required site loudspeakers. Similarly, with vehicle tracking systems a crime is usually evident, as a tracking device is usually only activiated after an owner reports a vehicle as missing/stolen.

With confirmation I&HAS the positin is a little more complex, as outlined below:- 

A confirmed activation is regarded as one where, shortly after the ARC receives an initial alarm event, further information is received that leads the ARC operators to conclude that it is more likely than not that a criminal event is in progress or imminent. This further information can be provided by one, or a combination of, the following :-

  • Audio confirmation - Sounds are transmitted by site microphones to the ARC
  • Visual confirmation - Images are transmitted by site cameras to the ARC.
  • Sequential confirmation - Two or more alarm detectors activate.
  • Known loss of two remote signalling links (paths)^.
  • An alarm activation followed by known loss of a remote signalling link (or vice versa).

^ Note. Police Scotland will, where dual path signalling isn't available/reliable, still respond to loss of a single signalling path.

The key difference between Confirmation intruder alarm systems and those commonly referred to as Non-Confirmation systems is as follows:-

Non Confirmation alarm systems - These  comprise many of the past installed Type A I&HAS. The 1st activation of the alarm electronically 'locks' the system and signals this fact to the ARC, who then ask the police and keyholders to attend a keyholder needing to reset the system before any further signals can be sent..

Note. Older Type A systems, i.e. those installed before a requirement for Confirmation was introduced, will retain* police response to unconfirmed activations from those systems unless response is possibly lost due to excessive false alarms.

Confirmation alarm systems - These do not 'lock' themselves after sending an alarm signal to the ARC. Instead, they remain able to provide further signals in an effort to indicate whether the initial alarm signal is likely to relate to a genuine break in. ARC's only request a police response to Confirmed Activations. In the event of an unconfirmed activation, keyholders will usually be notified and should (but by virtue of an insurers policy requirements may be required to) attend the premises to investigate the cause/ remedy any security defects.

See 'Hardfacts' 3022: Intruder Alarms - Confirmation Systems for more detailed information/advice.

Hold Up Alarms (HUA)

Unconfirmed HUA  receive Level 1 response unless undue false calls possibly result in response withdrawal. Thereafter a form of confirmation, sometimes termed 'Intervention', has to be provided for HUA response to be reinstated. This usually means some form of audio, visual or sequential confirmation has to be installed, or active human intervention put in place e.g.  'Ring Back' - , where the ARC operator attempts to telephone someone at the premises to check the reason for receipt of a HUA.

False Alarm Thresholds

Systems on Level 1 response retain it unchanged unless undue false alarms possibly occur. False alarms are counted over a 12 month rolling period, with sanctions imposed as follows:-

NPCC Forces -

3* false intruder or 2* false PA calls and response is withdrawn.

Police Scotland Forces

4 false intruder or HUA calls and response moves to Level 2.

3 further calls and response is withdrawn.

See 'Hardfacts' 3009: Intruder Alarms - Avoiding False Alarms for advice on this topic

Restoring Response

If response has been downgraded Level 2, a system will remain at that level until 3 months have passed without any further false calls before it can be restored to Level 1. 

If response has been lost  (Level 3) a system will remain at that level until it has been upgraded to provide Confirmed Activiations or, if it can already do so, a 3 month period expires AND the Police accept that the false alarm problem has been cured.

Charges

A separate charge, typically in region of £51, will be levied by the police for processing an intruder and a hold up URN.

Health and Safety

URN applications must provide details of significant site hazards, e.g. chemicals, open pits.

Bell Delay*

A delay in sounder activation at non-domestic premises may be required for up to 10 minutes, but usually only in areas where the police feel they can attend within this time - typically only in cities/large towns.

* IMPORTANT NOTE

Some NPCC forces, e.g. Nottinghamshire, Sussex and West Mercia, have introduced significant departures from the NPCC SSP, which underlines the importance of checking the exact position in your police force area - your alarm company being best placed to advise you.  

Key Action Steps

  •  Consider whether or not you need police response to your security system and, if you do, ensure you use the right provider and have the right type of system to enable you to obtain/retain it. Note. Various 'Hardfacts' information sheets exist in the 'Knowledge Store' providing detailed guidance/advice on various aspects of I&HAS and CCTV systems.
  •  Check whether or not it is an insurance requirement that police response to your security system be provided/maintained. If it is, your insurers may need to be immediately notified if response is for any reason downgraded or lost.
  •  To ensure that an early police response can be requested to an actual or attempted break in, I&HAS and detector activated CCTV systems often require very careful design. For this reason your insurers may have some specific requirements, or otherwise may wish to approve designs, for new systems and those that need upgrading.
  •  Your security system company or local Police HQ will be able to provide exact details of the SSP being applied in your police area.

Sources of Further Information

Other Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our "Knowledge Store" at http://www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions/

Police Scotland - http://www.scotland.police.uk/

Police Scotland – http://www.scotland.police.uk/

Secured by Design - http://www.securedbydesign.com/

National Security Inspectorate (NSI) - Tel 0845 006 3003 or http://www.nsi.org.uk/

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

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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