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The presence of an intruder alarm can deter unauthorised access and crime; but to be truly effective someone needs to be alerted to alarm activations, via local or remote signalling (Notification), in order that they can take appropriate action.
There are many types of intruder alarm; but whatever their type it is important that they are reliable, resilient against interference, have adequate detection in all ‘at risk areas’, i.e. areas attractive to criminals, and suitable Notification.
This ‘Hardfacts’ outlines some general matters to consider when purchasing a new intruder alarm system.
What Types of Alarm System are available?
Intruder alarm systems are typically installed in one of four configurations:
Note. Systems 1- 3 may sometimes be deployed using only battery power, e.g. to protect garden sheds/outbuildings or temporarily unoccupied properties.
What Type of Alarm System is required?
As a matter of good practice, but otherwise as may be required by a relevant Standard (see section on What Alarm Standards Apply?) this should be determined by an alarm company after a thorough risk assessment, which also (ideally) considers the requirements of any interested insurer. For example:
Who Can Install Alarm Systems?
Legally anyone can, but it is wise to only use reputable and competent installers.
The best indicator of competence is to use companies with National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) approval; as they are fully audited against British/European Standards for system design, installation, maintenance and monitoring; plus those relating to staff security vetting, training and record keeping.
(Note. NSI or SSAIB accreditation is a pre-requisite for a police response alarm.)
Who Should Respond to an Alarm?
A reliable and trustworthy person holding keys to the alarmed premises (keyholder) needs to attend and investigate all reported alarm activations/faults.
Keyholders will typically be an alarm owner or their staff, tenants, friends or neighbours. These can be regarded as ‘in house’ or ‘non-commercial’ keyholders
For 'Audible Only' systems, a keyholder should ideally be living/working on site or adjacent to it. For 'Monitored Alarms' systems the ARC will need to hold keyholder telephone contact details.
In any event, keyholder attendance in pairs is advisable to reduce safety risks.
Where response involves commercial companies or the police, either instead of or in conjunction with ‘in house’ keyholders, the following matters need consideration:
When selecting a response company choose one whose staff hold appropriate Security Industry Authority (SIA) licences, which adheres to recognised training and operating procedures, e.g. BS 7984 - Code of Practice for Keyholding and Response Services, is suitably insured and subject to third party (external) inspection of their activities.
Suitable adherence with the foregoing advice may be demonstrated by companies enrolled in the SIA Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), but the simplest indicator of full compliance is NSI or SSAIB listing.
Note. Some response companies claim to offer a quicker response to site by storing keys/alarm operating devices in a site key box. This is an undesirable practice and should always be referred to any interested insurer before use.
High numbers of false alarms have caused the police to progressively tighten up their criteria for responding to alarm signals, whether received from ARC’s or reported by the public.
Routine response is now only available to systems that have a police Unique Reference Number (URN). To obtain a URN, systems must be installed, maintained and monitored by an NSI or SSAIB approved alarm company/ARC.
Police response will usually also be conditional on the provision of a ‘Confirmed Activation’, i.e. obtaining two alarm signals/pieces of alarm information within a pre-set time period. Such systems need very careful design if police response is to be obtained reliably, and early on, during any break in.
What Alarm Standards Apply?
In the UK various alarm standards exist, which NSI and SSAIB approved companies must observe:
Note. SSAIB have a code of practice specifically for temporary alarm systems - SS 2004
European Standards (as reflected in PD 6662)
A key feature of the Euro Standards is that four ‘Grades’ of alarm are described from 1-4 (4 being the highest), together with Notification Options of varying type and performance (often also referred to as a signalling ‘grade’).
Alarm companies are required to conduct a formal security risk assessment to determine the Grade of alarm system, and (ideally) a separate ‘grade’ of Notification, i.e. to help design a system felt most appropriate to each customer’s risk exposure.
What Maintenance is Required?
Routine maintenance requirements typically involve one check per annum for Audible Only systems, and two checks per annum for ARC monitored systems, one of which can be a remote check - subject to equipment compatibility.
What Might Your Insurer Want?
Insurers’ requirements will reflect individual circumstances, but in general they look for:
Key Action Steps
When considering a new intruder alarm:
Sources of Further Information
Other Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our ‘Knowledge Store' at www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions
Your alarm company
National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Tel 0845 006 3003 or see www.nsi.org.uk
The Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Tel 0191 296 3242 or see www.ssaib.org
The British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Tel 0845 389 3889 or see www.bsia.co.uk
The RISCAuthority (the UK insurers' technical advice body) see www.riscauthority.co.uk
In particular, see guides to intruder alarms:-
The Security Industry Authority - www.the-sia.org.uk
The British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA) - http://www.biba.org.uk/
In particular see their general guide to intruder alarms:-
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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