Centrally monitored alarm systems and police response

Centrally monitored alarm systems and police response

A centrally monitored alarm system; what does it mean and is it worthwhile having a police response to the alarm system activating?

Having a centrally monitored alarm system can be a requirement of a home insurance policy, but often we don’t understand what this means in real terms. The infrastructure of an alarm system is built of detection devices, whether that be movement sensors, vibration sensors, panic buttons or smoke detectors, as well as the control features such as the control panel and the keypads. Battery backup will provide protection in a mains power outage and proximity fobs will enable ease of setting the alarm system. We then have the internal and external sounders which create a loud audible warning in the event of one of the detection devices being triggered. This is what would be classed as a bells-only system. There is a strong deterrent value in having a bells-only system, in that intruders will most likely find the loud sirens uncomfortable and be aware that they may now be known to those in the local vicinity. Equally with 84% of burglars avoiding a property with an alarm system (Office for National Statistics), having the alarm bell box on the outside of the property will go a long way in thwarting a break in. However, a bells-only system does not guarantee a response to the alarm activating. 

App functionality on an alarm system enables remote setting of the alarm through a smart device as well as push notifications of any activations occurring on site. This development in the “smart” nature of intruder alarm systems enables the ability to “self-monitor” the security of the home from anywhere in the world. Although a fantastic lifestyle product with much greater connectivity to the home alarm system, such technology would still fall under the “bells-only” categorisation of intruder alarms, as there is no secure connection to an independent 24/7 monitoring station.

This is where centrally monitored systems step in. Able to work alongside the deterrent value of the bells, and the lifestyle features of the app, via an Automatic Transmission Unit (ATU), the alarm system can be connected to an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) to become “centrally monitored.” This means there is a dedicated, highly secured call centre, monitoring the alarm system 24/7. Historically, the ARC was connected to the ATU via the traditional landline. This has since transitioned to the internet and the mobile phone networks as the traditional landline is being phased out by 2025. The ATU will either be single path, using one of these methods of communication to the ARC, or dual path using two means of communication. Single path solutions are more suited to lower risk premises, and with its built-in redundancy, dual path solutions are used in higher risk premises. BT Redcare and CSL Dualcom are the most well renowned manufacturers of the ATUs, both producing a spectrum of monitoring equipment with varying levels of sophistication in their connection to the ARC.

The ARC will call either keyholders and/or the emergency services according to what has been requested by the homeowner. As a default, ARCs will call keyholders only. To be centrally monitored with an emergency services response, a risk assessment and hazards form needs to be submitted along with a small administration fee to the emergency services to be set up on their database for a response. It is not an arduous task to obtain an emergency services response; but it is an opt-in process. The police will need a confirmed activation to attend i.e. two detectors need to trigger for this response and if the police are called more than three times to false alarms, they will blacklist the site until improvements have been made such as system updates or user training.

In recent news, Police chiefs in England and Wales announced that they have committed to attend all home burglaries. The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) “confirmed the move following a historical commitment made last year by all police chiefs in England and Wales, informed by research on the most effective way to tackle burglary. The evidence shared by the College of Policing set out how rapid police attendance at scenes can increase victim satisfaction, help with investigations, and prevent future crimes.”

Police resourcing and their interest in attending to burglaries is often questioned and therefore this greater dedication to their response is reassuring for anyone who may suffer this somewhat traumatic event. It also perhaps reiterates the importance of having a police response to an alarm activation. The police do highlight however, the equal importance of having good keyholders who are able to attend in tandem with the police to give them full access to the property to assess the scene. It is recommended that keyholders are within 20 minutes of the property and professional keyholding companies are available where neighbours and family members may not want to be the first line of response.

Premier are experts in the design and installation of alarm systems whether it be a bells-only, app operated or centrally monitored solution. If you require any further information on any of these options, please do not hesitate in contacting us.

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