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Intruder alarms guidance for businesses

The security of premises is essential to prevent unauthorised access and crime, which can seriously impact on all types of business - and intruder alarms can provide an important line in your defences.

According to the British Insurers Brokers Association (BIBA), certain types of cover offered by insurers may be conditional upon the level of protection offered by an intruder alarm system. There are several considerations to be taken into account in such cases but, more often than not, the insurer will require remote signalling to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) and keyholder plus police response to system activations or faults, BIBA explained.

The type of intruder alarm required by an organisation should be determined following a thorough risk assessment, which should also make considerations for the requirements of any interested insurer.

Whatever form an intruder alarm may take - there are many types - it is of the utmost importance that they are reliable. Alarms that are prone to failure are not fit for purpose.

It is also vital to remember that alarm systems may be subjected to malicious interference and they must be resilient enough to cope with this. They should also offer adequate detection to all at-risk areas, i.e. those that would otherwise be most easily exploited by criminals.

For maximum effectiveness it is necessary for someone to be alerted to alarm activations so they can take appropriate action. In this regard every alarm system should have appointed a suitable number of 'keyholders', these being person(s) responsible for responding to an alarm activation or fault. They should be reliable, trustworthy and ideally be within a short travel time from the alarmed premises.

For what are termed 'Audible Only' alarm systems, a keyholder should ideally be living/working on site or adjacent to it. If an ARC monitors alarm signals, they will need to hold keyholder contact details. In any event, it is often recommended that keyholders attend in pairs in order to reduce the safety risks.

There are other issues that must be considered when the response involves commercial response companies or the police:-

In the case of a commercial response, it is important to choose companies whose staff hold the appropriate Security Industry Authority licence for guarding/keyholding activities and operate to recognised security/management procedures. This is most easily established by selecting a company that holds a suitable external accreditation of their activities, which as a minimum should be SIA Approved Contractor Status (ACS).

Aviva Risk Management Solutions advises that some commercial response companies may claim to offer a quicker response time by storing premises keys and any required alarm operating device in a site key box, but this is an "undesirable practice" which, as it may invalidate insurance cover, should always be referred to any interested insurer before use.

Owing to an increase in the number of false alarms, the police have made their criteria for responding to alarm signals more strict over the years, with response now only available to systems that have a police Unique Reference Number (URN).

It is a prerequisite of obtaining a URN that systems are installed, maintained and monitored by a National Security Inspectorate (NSI), or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) listed installer and ARC. Furthermore, police response will usually be conditional on the provision of a Confirmed Activation – two alarm signals/pieces of alarm information received within a pre-determined timescale. "Confirmation systems need careful design if police response is to be obtained reliably, and early, during any break in," ARMS notes.

It is required that NSI/SSAIB listed installers should, by a process of risk assessment, determine a security grade when designing a new alarm system, both for the system in the premises and the type of signalling connecting it to the ARC.

There are four grades, independently applicable to both the system and the signalling - they do not necessarily always match. BIBA outlined how the insurer is likely to see the applications for each of the four system grades, as detailed below:
Grade 1: Inadequate for insurers' needs
Grade 2: Suitable for most domestic and some low-risk commercial premises
Grade 3: Suitable for most commercial, and some high-risk, domestic premises
Grade 4: Suitable for very high-risk premises

They also note that whatever the system grade, as the potential weakest link in the chain, any remote signalling system should be one that operates at, or very close to, grade 4 performance.

Whilst by law anyone is entitled to install, monitor and respond to an alarm system, such systems are now relatively complex and expensive, and as such it is recommended that only the services of reputable and demonstrably competent providers are sought. ARMS suggests that the best indicator of competence across all areas is companies having NSI or SSAIB approval.

If security is an issue you want to take seriously, then an intruder alarm should form an integral part of your response.

Visit our Knowledge Store to read a series of hardfacts sheets on intruder alarms and other topics ADNFCR-2134-ID-800331368-ADNFCR