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Security systems: What you need to know

As part of National Home Security Month 2023, Police CPI’s Ken Meanwell looks at security systems, one of the many essential tools in the fight against crime, and what you should be looking for when purchasing an alarm system.

Previous academic research shows professionally installed security systems provide a greater deterrent and properties fitted with them are less likely to be targeted by criminals. Burglars look for easy pickings and will avoid properties with effective security.

Audible & monitored alarm systems

The two main types of alarm systems are audible and monitored. However, they operate differently and as such are treated differently by the police.

Audible alarms sound a loud siren or bell, designed to scare off intruders and alert neighbours and passers-by at the scene, who can call the police to report a crime in progress.

In contrast monitored alarms are just that – monitored 24/7 by an approved commercial ‘Alarm Receiving Centre’ or ARC. When an alarm is triggered the ARC checks the signal to verify it is a genuine alarm, if it is a compliant system, the police will be notified immediately (by-passing the 999/101 network). If it is a non-compliant system, the keyholder for the premises will be informed.

Security system requirements and police response

A key point to note however is that the police will attend an alarm signal from a monitored alarm as long as the system complies with the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) Security Systems Requirements. This details how the system is installed, monitored and maintained. It also requires security companies providing this service to be registered with their local police force, have their staff checked for unspent criminal convictions and be approved by an Independent Inspectorate Body of which there are two - the NSI and the SSAIB.

If you require an immediate response to your alarm system It is critical to both check that the alarm system is compliant and the alarm company is approved by one of the Independent Inspectorate Bodies. These are the aforementioned NSI (National Security Inspectorate - and the SSAIB (Security Systems & Alarm Inspection Board - You can check-out the installers’ credentials on the Inspectorates’ websites to ensure that the company is approved.

Ensure your system is compliant

Compliant alarms and reputable installation companies and ARCs are essential to ensure that you will get the appropriate response to an alarm activation. If the alarm is not compliant there will not be an immediate police response, something which could be vital if someone is in immediate danger or property is being stolen.

Having an alarm system, whether it is a monitored or audible only, certified by one of the accredited independent Inspectorate Bodies will ensure you have a reliable and well maintained system that meets relevant British and European standards.

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Ken Meanwell is the Compliance Manager at Police CPI. He also provides the secretariat for the National Police Chiefs’ Council Security Systems Group and works closely with leading certification and trade bodies for the security industry to ensure adherence to the technical standards and codes of practice.