Monitored Intruder Alarms
What is a monitored intruder alarm?
A monitored intruder alarm system is a system that links your alarm system to an Alarm Receiving Centre, typically by telephone line.
Why do I need one?
You need one, primarily because your insurers believe your risk is sufficient to justify this enhanced security system.
What is the new Grading structure?
The new Grading structure has been introduced as part of a Europe wide harmonisation of the specification and installation of Intruder Alarms. This is the standard EN50131. There are essentially 4 Grades. Below are the Grade types and some examples.
Grade 1 - low risk, such as rural village house
Grade 2 - Low/medium risk such as rural town shop
Grade 3 - Medium/high risk such as town off license
Grade 4 - High risk, such as inner city jewellers
Do the new standards make sense?
Yes they do, but because of local differences, care must be taken when designing a system, especially in terms of who is going to respond to an activation. The UK is unusual in that our Police attend alarm activation, as opposed to a private security firm. We have to ensure that we also abide by the Police requirements if we want their response service.
How do I know what Grade my premises should be?
Your security company is now obliged to carry out a Security Risk Assessment. This Risk Assessment will take into account the Area, Building and Contents (ABC). We will agree with you where the ‘hotspots’ are, in terms of risk and suggest the correct Grade of system. Your insurers may require confirmation and a copy of this Risk Assessment.
Is there a cost difference between the Grades?
Yes, typically the costs of both the installation and the on-going maintenance charges will be more, the higher up the grading structure you are.
What is DD243 and how does it relate to EN50131?
This is where it gets tricky! Remember I said that although you need a system that complies with EN50131, in England and Wales, we also need it to comply with the Association of Chief Police Officers rules (if we want a Police response).
DD243 essentially dictates how alarms should be set, unset and how many false alarms you can have before the Police downgrade or withdraw their service.
How should I set or unset my alarm?
The Police rightly recognise that the primary cause of false alarms is due to user errors, when setting or unsetting the system. Essentially we are not allowed to set or unset a system by using a code any more. We can use special fobs, radio transmitters, locks or even an Alarm Receiving Centre to set a system, but not a code.
Do the Police come out when my alarm goes off then?
This is complex – so bear with me. The Police want verification from the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) that each alarm activation was a genuine call and not a false alarm. We are given 3 options.
1 – Video verification. This means that the ARC would be able to view the alarmed areas remotely using cameras. This is an expensive option and rarely employed.
2 – Audio verification. This means that each alarmed premises would have microphones installed, and an operator at the ARC would listen in to the site, to see if they could hear sounds associated with a break-in. Suffice to say that this is very subjective and we would not recommend this solution.
3 – Sequential verification. Basically, this means 2 different detectors triggering one after the other. The first activation would go through to the ARC. This is an ‘unconfirmed’ alarm activation and they would just call the keyholders. If a second detector triggered within a pre-determined time frame, a second ‘confirmed’ signal would be sent through to the ARC. They would call the keyholder again and also call the Police.
What happens if they get too many call outs?
There are now only 2 levels of response.
Level 1 – immediate response
Level 3 – no response at all
Typically, (and this will change to a lower and lower threshold over time), most Police Forces will give 3 ‘lives’ for Intruder alarms and 2 for Panic Alarms.
Are the Police rules ‘hard and fast’?
Yes. If you had an older system without sequential verification, you will have to upgrade it if you want Police response back. There is a 3 month period when you have lost your Police response, before you can have it back again. This will have a major effect on your insurance cover, and needs to be considered.
So what are the options for monitoring?
Digital Communicator (Digicom). These devices are able to send a digital signal, via a telephone line to a predetermined telephone number belonging to an ARC. They rely entirely on the integrity of the telephone line. If the telephone line is cut, then a tamper alarm will go off at the alarm control panel, but the ARC will not be aware.
Redcare Classic – This product was created to combat the shortcomings of a Digicom. BT created a national capability which meant that an ARC was essentially in permanent contact with a device situated within the alarm control equipment. This meant that if the telephone line was cut or lost, the ARC would be aware of it and could take appropriate action. Pre DD243, this meant calling the Police and Keyholders. The requirements of DD243 essentially made this equipment redundant, because, in order for the Police to be called there had to be 2 separate alarm activations. With a Redcare Classic, if the line is cut, the ARC receives a signal, but can only call the keyholders. Because the line is cut, no further signals will be received by the ARC and therefore the Police will not be called.
Redcare GSM – This product was created to combat the shortcomings of Redcare Classic following the introduction of DD243. This product is basically a Redcare Classic with a GSM mobile phone built in. This means that if the telephone line is cut or lost, the system can send out a second signal via the GSM phone network. If the GSM mobile phone unit is attacked, then a second signal will be sent and the Police called. This technology is referred to as Dual Path Technology.
There are other products for broadband available, and there are other manufacturers of similar equipment. Allcooper prefer to use the Redcare products and network.
What are the cost differences?
A Digicom is less than Redcare Classic. A Redcare Classic costs less than Redcare GSM.
What monitoring goes with what Grade?
Brilliant question – this is where it all goes wrong. You could have a Digicom on a Grade 2 system. You could have Redcare Classic on a Grade 2 or Grade 3 system. But knowing what you now know, you really shouldn’t install anything other than RedcareGSM.
What would Allcooper recommend?
Pre EN50131, we essentially recommended Grade 2 Alarm equipment with Redcare GSM communication. One of the requirements of a Grade 3 movement sensor is an ability to detect if it has been covered up or masked. In nearly 20 years of installing intruder alarms, we have only come across this situation once or twice. Again it depends on the Risk Assessment, but for most situations a Grade 2 Alarm system with Redcare GSM communication is a very effective solution.
What about my key holders?
As you have read, your keyholders could be in a very vulnerable position. They could be called out to an unconfirmed alarm. The burglars could still be in the premises, and as long as they don’t trigger a second device, the Police will never be called. The keyholder will arrive and turn the alarm off. I don’t need to go on to the possible scenarios following this.
You need to carry out a Risk Assessment if one of your own staff is a keyholder. Your options are as follows –
1 – No single person should attend. You should have multiple keyholders called and arrive at the same time.
2 – Use a 3rd party mobile security firm to attend with you. (They don’t have keys).
3 – Use a 3rd party keyholding service to attend on your behalf. They will deal with the alarm company, and carry out actions as per your request.
So who do I need to satisfy?
1 – Your insurer, by having the correctly Graded system with a guaranteed Police response (only RedcareGSM can give this).
2 – Your Keyholder, (Employers Liability) by having RedcareGSM, and therefore the absolute assurance that a second signal will be triggered.
3 – The Police, by ensuring you set and unset correctly, and by having minimal false alarms.
4 – Yourself, by ensuring your property has the very best level of protection.
What’s the best option for me?
Well, it really depends on the Risk Assessment to establish the correct Grade of system. But as you can now understand, the ongoing management and resolution of false alarms, relationships with the Police Forces, communication with the insurers and close contact with quality equipment manufacturers are critical.
Allcooper really know their onions when it comes to Intruder Alarms, and we hope you will appreciate that we have incredible knowledge and experience in this sector.
So, I really do need to weigh up the installation cost against reliability?
Absolutely. There is no point in buying a cheap or badly designed system that possibly doesn’t comply. All this will mean is that you could be off Police cover very quickly. You will have some stringent insurance excess requirement should you lose Police cover, and some inevitable business disruption and unnecessary aggravation.
This all sounds so complicated?
It can be, but our expert approach at Allcooper means that we can take this problem away from you. Our commitment to only using the best equipment, the best engineers, the best surveyors and with our large and capable back office staff, means we really can look after you.