Guidance Notes for new Intruder Alarm Systems
Discussing your requirements with an alarm company is much easier to do if you have an idea of the broad framework within which they operate, and some of the terminology that may be used. This guidance summarises the key features to be aware of, some insurance perspectives and, in the context of monitored systems, any Police requirements.
Where your insurer relies upon the presence of an alarm system, it is likely that a policy ‘alarm condition’ will be applied which, subject to the type of system, may typically require:
- Installation/maintenance, and any monitoring, to be undertaken by an ‘inspectorate’ listed company
- a maintenance contract with an ‘inspectorate’ listed company being kept in force
- the insurer being informed of any changes to the system (including signalling)
- complete setting of the system when the premises are left unattended
- alarm operating devices (keys/fobs) or alarm code details not being left on site, or in a site keybox
- the appointment of suitable persons to act as premises Keyholders
- the insurer being informed of any reduction in, or withdrawal of, Police response
- prompt Keyholder attendance if there’s any activation or fault
Always read any such condition that applies to you in full, ensuring you both understand and comply with it. In case of doubt always contact your insurance broker/insurer.
Various British Standards covering the design, installation maintenance and monitoring of intruder alarm systems exist. The three main ones you are likely to see mentioned are:
- PD 6662: 2010 – a Standard applicable to all types of system
- BS 8243: 2010 – a Standard applicable only to ‘confirmation’ systems
- BS 5979 – a Standard applicable to ARCs
Adherence to these Standards is vital to obtain a Police URN.
Anyone can claim to comply with a British Standard, but organisations exist to check/enforce such claims. The two inspectorates recognised by the Police as providing this function, and which also ensure personnel are suitably trained and Criminal Record Bureau vetted, are:
- National Security Inspectorate (NSI)
- Security Systems Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB).
Inspectorate listing of an alarm company and ARC is vital to obtain a Police URN.
Systems should be designed, installed and maintained by an NSI or SSAIB listed company.
Inspectorate listing of an alarm company is vital to obtain a Police URN
Alarm Receiving Centres
Monitored systems should be connected to a NSI or SSAIB listed ARC.
Inspectorate listing of an ARC is vital to obtain a Police URN.
Keyholders, sometimes referred to as ‘1st response’, should be appointed to deal with/attend all alarm activations/faults.
To adequately fulfil their role, Keyholders need to be suitably trained in use of the system, understand the premises security arrangements and have access to all its alarm protected parts. With safety considerations in mind, it is often prudent to arrange for Keyholders to attend in pairs – or perhaps use a commercial response company as well, or instead.
Providing an ARC with ‘phone contacts/details of at least two Keyholders, each able to reach the premises within 20 minutes of being asked to attend, is vital to obtain a Police URN.
The response personnel used by commercial response companies have to hold Security Industry Authority (SIA) guarding licences. NSI or SSAIB listing of a company most readily indicates that this is being done, and that other relevant Standards are being observed. The SIA Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) is also helpful in identifying reputable companies.
Where a commercial response company acts as a Keyholder and a Police URN is required, its personnel must be able to reach the premises within 20 minutes of being asked to attend.
To ensure adequate system design, inspectorate listed alarm companies have to carry out a formal security ‘risk assessment’. Amongst other matters, this will help determine an appropriate system ‘Grade’, the extent and nature of the detection devices, the intended response (i.e. whether ‘confirmation’ is required) and the Alarm Transmission System.
PD 6662 requires all systems, and the equipment used within them, to meet a particular security Grade from 1 – 4 (4 being the highest), the Grades most often used* being:
- Grade 2X – for unmonitored systems (with or without a speech dialler)
- Grades 2 or 3 – for monitored systems (with or without police response)
* As Grade 1 provides very low security and Grade 4 equipment is not readily available, alarm companies do not routinely offer such systems.
Police response aside, insurers typically regard the suitability of these system Grades as being:
- Grade 2X – suitable for lower risk homes
- Grade 2 – suitable for higher risk homes and lower risk commercial premises
- Grade 3 – suitable for high risk homes and most commercial premises
A key difference between Grade 2 and 3 systems is that in Grade 3 systems, any movement detectors have to report ‘masking’ to users when they set the system. Masking is a trick used by some criminals to deliberately impair the function of movement detectors, by covering (masking) them with sticky tape or hairspray. The aim is to prevent operation of the detectors during a subsequent break in, and is most typically a risk at premises open to the public where unnoticed access to detectors is possible, e.g. retail or leisure premises.
A PD 6662 monitored system, at Grades 2, 3 or 4, is vital to obtain a Police URN.
System design should ensure that intruders are detected as soon as they enter premises, or at least as soon as they approach or enter areas within it in which ‘target items’ (items of attraction to criminals), are located or concentrated.
Various types of detection device exist, those most commonly used being magnetic door contacts (which detect opening of a door), and sensors which detect movement of people and/or inanimate objects (movement detectors).
If a Police URN is held, the Police will only attend once a ‘confirmed’ activation is generated.
Hold Up devices
Various push button devices can be used to indicate that a robbery is underway. These are most often used in monitored systems, and may also be used conjunction with other devices, e.g. cameras/microphones, to help an ARC provide ‘confirmation’ of a robbery.
If a Police URN is held, the Police will initially respond to ‘unconfirmed’ hold up alarms – but if too many false alarms occur an upgrade to provide ‘confirmation’ may be required.
BS 8243 sets out the rules for ‘confirmation’, a methodology that aims to avoid false alarms generated by monitored systems being passed to the Police.
A ‘confirmed’ activation can be generated in various ways, but the most commonly used method is called Sequential Confirmation. Simply put, this requires two alarm activations to be received at the ARC, within defined periods of time, before they can ask the Police to attend. If only one activation is received, it is referred to as an ‘unconfirmed’ activation and only Keyholders will be notified.
Sequential confirmation is most reliably achieved by having two separate detection devices covering each room/area requiring alarm protection, and using a ‘dual path’ ATS.
BS 8243 contains various options for how systems may be unset by users, each of which has an impact on the ability of the system to generate a confirmed activation should intruders force entry via the alarm user’s designated entry door. To avoid buying a system where intruders could break in and either not quickly, or at all, generate a confirmed activation, it is vital to discuss this aspect fully with your alarm company. In general, some form of lock on the entry door that is electronically linked to the alarm system provides the most secure ‘means of unsetting’.
A monitored system able to provide confirmed activations is vital to obtain a Police URN.
Alarm Transmission System
Monitored systems use an ATS product to transmit alarm signals to an ARC via the landline or mobile public telephone networks. If only one network is used an ATS is referred to as a ‘single path’; if two networks are used an ATS is referred to as ‘dual path’. A dual path ATS (having a landline and a mobile path) is usually used in preference to a single path ATS.
As with Graded system equipment, different levels of ATS performance are permitted and recognised in the relevant Standards. The different levels of performance partly reflect how often an ATS ‘self checks’ its connection(s), i.e. its signalling paths, between the alarm system and an ARC, then reports any failure/loss to the ARC for action.
Unfortunately, the manner in which an ATS is described varies in different Standards and, according to which term(s) are used by an alarm company, this can make ready recognition of an ATS product best suited to your needs rather complicated.
In short, an ATS may be described in stand alone terms as being single or dual path, and of a particular ATS performance value from ATS 1 – 6 (6 being the highest). However, when used as part of a monitored system, it may instead be described as meeting an alarm system ‘Notification Option’; which reflects pre-set combinations of ATS, of differing performance, combined with the required use, or not, of a site warning device.
Rather than using these formal ATS descriptions, the alarm industry instead often refers to ATS performance via an informal (convenient shorthand) term of ‘grade’ (or sometimes Grade) of ATS, plus mention of whether it is single or dual path. For example, the phrase ‘grade 4 dual path signalling’ would be used in place of Notification Option 4C or dual path ATS 5 – see the table below for other examples.
However an ATS is described, the key feature to focus on is the difference between how quickly ATS of different ‘grades’ will report failure of one path, or both, to an ARC.
Using a dual path ATS means that if only one path is lost, e.g. after deliberate cutting of a ‘phone line, subsequent alarm signals may still be transmitted to the ARC via the remaining path. Using a dual path ATS with ‘good’ performance (typically ‘grade’ 4) means that loss of one, or both, paths can be quickly and reliably notified to the ARC.
The crucial nature of an ATS, coupled with the growing complexity and range of ATS products being sold (over 60 at the time of writing) means some insurers are increasingly favouring ATS products that are independently tested/certified – one such UK scheme being the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB) scheme known as ‘LPS1277 3.0’.
In such cases, you may find that your insurer will specify/accept ATS products by simple reference to a required type, i.e. single or dual path, and a specified LPS 1277 performance level. For example, where a ‘grade’ 4 dual path ATS is required, this may be expressed as ‘any dual path LPS 1277 3.0 certified ATS operating at Enhanced* ATS 5’.
* Because the LPS scheme requires ATS to meet, but then also exceed, the minimum requirements expressed in the relevant Standards, LPCB approved ATS have their performance expressed in terms of ‘Enhanced’ ATS values
With the ATS often the most vulnerable part of any monitored system, using an ATS that is not dual path and not having fast fault reporting times, can seriously undermine alarm protection.
A Police URN is not dependent upon having a particular type of ATS, but because known loss of just one signalling path cannot be treated as a ‘confirmed’ activation, use of a dual path ATS is widely regarded as essential in a confirmation system.
Choosing an appropriate intruder alarm can be a complicated process. However, in the absence of specific insurer advice, or if you simply wish to ensure the best system possible, the safest option is to opt for a ‘monitored system’ installed and maintained by an NSI or SSAIB approved alarm company; and which provides Police response via a Sequential Confirmation system of Security Grade 3, with a ‘grade’ 4 Dual Path ATS (the ATS ideally LPS 1277 3.0 certified).
Sources of Further information
To find an inspectorate listed Alarm Company operating in your area, please contact
- National Security Inspectorate: Tel 01628 637512 or visit www.nsi.org.uk
- Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board: Tel 0191 296 3242 or visit www.ssaib.org
BIBA has provided this guidance in conjunction with the RISC Authority, a body representing most UK property insurers. RISC Authority produce a wide range of technical guidance documents on a variety of property protection topics, all of which can be downloaded (after registering your details) at www.riscauthority.co.uk
If you’d like further information, the following RISC Authority publications are recommended:
S6: Electronic security systems: guidance on keyholder selection and duties
S12: Police response intruder alarm systems: ten-step guide for purchasers
S13: Audible-only intruder alarm systems: summary of insurers’ typical requirements
S14: Police response intruder alarm systems: summary of insurers’ typical requirements
For further information, please contact: Mike Hallam, Technical Services Manager
Tel: 020 7397 0204 or email firstname.lastname@example.org