Why do I need to consider installing an alarm?
Most businesses can suffer a burglary. An intruder alarm is not a substitute for good physical security, but is one way of reducing your risk. Apart from its deterrent value, it is useful for limiting the amount of time that intruders will feel ‘comfortable' inside your premises.
As the majority of fires at commercial premises may now be started by children or vandals, having an intruder alarm installed may, along with other precautions, help to reduce your chances of suffering a fire.
What aspects do I need to consider?
In order to qualify for police response, the alarm must be installed and maintained by an alarm company who meet the policy requirements of the local police force.
Although there are some differences in force requirements, they are generally based upon the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) policies. To be acceptable, the alarm company usually has to be approved by a UKAS-accredited inspection body (i.e. NSI or SSAIB). -Details of NSI and SSAIB-approved firms can be found on their web sites.
The alarm needs to be installed in accordance with European Standard EN 50131-1 according to the scheme described in PD 6662:2004.
EN 50131-1 requires the alarm installer to carry out a theft risk assessment before recommending to you one of several grades of system. The security features increase with the grade, so the equipment permitted for, say, a Grade 2 system will not all be the same as for Grade 3 or 4. It is important to have the quoting companies explain the differences and for you to obtain (via your insurance broker) your insurer's agreement to accepting their assessment, prior to signing any contract. Remote signalling is not a feature of all grades.
To get a police response, your intruder alarm will need to be provided with equipment designed to send a signal to an alarm receiving centre (ARC).
There are various signalling systems available for alarm companies to use. Most of these use telephone lines, some in conjunction with radio signals or text messages for added security. The best known is the BT Redcare system which has several variations, e.g. Redcare GSM, which is a constantly monitored dual-path signalling system (strongly recommended). The security afforded by different systems vary: not all have signals that are constantly monitored from your premises to the ARC; some are not monitored at all.
There are now a number of different ways in which you can turn an intruder alarm on and off. It is important to have the quoting alarm companies explain the differences to you. Not all of the options will be acceptable so it is important to have your insurance broker confirm which are before placing an order.
Intruder alarms may be rented or purchased. It may not always be clear from a quotation which is being offered. Establish what the quote is for, and what charges will apply in the event of false alarms and/or equipment faults for which you are not the cause. Also clarify the charges for maintenance of the system.
The police will require you to provide to the ARC (and, for some police forces, to themselves) details of a number of key-holders who can attend the premises quickly (inside a prescribed period of time). Some local authorities may also require this information. Consider carefully who you trust with this responsibility. You will also need to complete a health and safety risk assessment for this contingency, e.g. for the risk of violence to these employees and also lone working. If you decide that you do not wish one of your own employees to be the first key-holder but prefer instead a professional key-holding security company check with your insurance broker that the firm is Security Industry Authority (SIA)-licensed and NSI or SSAIB-approved. Ensure that the alarm system has plenty of capacity to accept additional detection devices later if needed.
Depending upon the type of movement detectors used, items such as hanging signs, banners, Christmas decorations, etc can be the cause of false alarms. The alarm company should advise you on things to avoid, as well as training you on how to use the system.
Police rules usually require the alarm to be a "confirmed" system. There are three types - sequential, audio and visual confirmation. With "sequential", the ARC is only allowed to call police when they receive signals from two different detection devices within a prescribed period of time. Should only one activation occur, they are only permitted to call the nominated key-holders. With an audio confirmation, the alarm system allows (upon activation of the alarm) an ARC operator to listen to areas within your premises where microphones have been fitted. A visually confirmed system uses cameras to allow the ARC operator to see areas within the camera's view. Even if you decide to have an audio or visually confirmed system, ensure that the company will also configure the alarm to operate as a sequentially confirmed type as well.
Most signalling systems are capable of sending other different signals depending upon what is connected to them, e.g. a fire or water leak alarm, cold store over-temperature sensor, etc. The alarm company will be able to tell you what other monitoring they can offer and what they require in order to be able to do this.
What key actions do I need to take?
Obtain a copy of the intruder alarm policy from the police force whose area the premises are located in.
Find details of local intruder alarm companies from the NSI and SSAIB.
Check whether the alarm quotes are for a rental or purchase. Confirm what difference that will make to call-out charges and maintenance costs.
If you may want non-security devices to be monitored, check if the quoting company is able to do this.
Update your health and safety risk assessments.
Check that any key-holding company being considered are Security Industry Authority (SIA)-licensed and NSI or SSAIB-approved.
Before ordering your alarm, provide copies of the system design proposal to your insurance broker so that they can obtain the go-ahead from all the relevant insurance companies.