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Intruder Alarms – What Police response really means

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We are pleased to offer members an update on intruder alarms from Tony Week’s, Technical Manager at the National Security and Investigations

It is common for insurers and brokers to specify that commercial customers protect their premises with an intruder alarm system on Police Response. Although it is less common to require this in the domestic sector the benefits to the insurer and consumer of requiring this are the same.

Most in the insurance sector will be aware that only approved companies, certificated by the specialist third party certification bodies in the security sector, National Security and Investigations (NSI) or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB) can install Police Response systems. What may be less clear is what the benefits are of specifying the use of these installers, and this article provides that clarity.

It may be worth reminding ourselves of the system for Police Response in the UK. This is laid out in the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) guidance on Police Requirements Response to Security Systems 2015[1]. For the police to respond to a confirmed alarm activation the system has to have a Unique Reference Number (URN) allocated by them in accordance with the guidance. In order to qualify for a URN some basic requirements apply:

  • The system itself must comply with BSI document PD 6662, which includes compliance with the EN 50131 and EN 50136 series of European Standards. It is typical to specify Grade 2 systems with Grade 3 being reserved for higher risks.
  • The company supplying the system must be approved by NSI or SSAIB.
  • The alarm must be subject to a maintenance contract from a company approved by NSI or SSAIB.
  • The system must be monitored by an Alarm Receiving Centre that receives alarm signals from the system, and this must be approved by NSI or SSAIB.

So why is there this repeated reference to third party certification in the Police Response Guidance? The simple answer is that effective and reliable intruder alarm systems are installed, maintained and monitored by effective and reliable companies, and the tried and tested way to identify these companies is through rigorous third party certification. Third party certification is the rock on which the URN system is based.
Both certification bodies look at the technical competence of the companies seeking and wishing to keep approval, and their compliance with key standards and code of practice. So from initial application for approval onwards their technical capabilities are continually assessed; all are inspected annually with an audit of their performance and physical checks on installations they have completed.

But this is not just about technical competence. Additionally the certification bodies check that the companies:

  • operate from adequate secure premises
  • are run by reputable, experienced management and are financially stable
  • have screened all directors and staff against BS7858 to confirm their suitability to work in this sensitive sector
  • have trained their staff and equipped them with appropriate tools and equipment
  • hold comprehensive and appropriate insurance cover
  • provide 24-hour cover in the event of emergencies

Most companies certificated by NSI are awarded NACOSS Gold approval. This not only confirms technical and administrative compliance but adds an additional layer by requiring them to operate an ISO 9001 Quality Management System. NSI maintain that managing a business through the internationally recognised 9001 standard provides a clear indication of commitment to quality, and experience has shown that this delivers a more effective and reliable service to consumers. While NSI “would say that wouldn’t they” they state that, regardless of which certification body has approved the company their operation of a QMS raises standards of performance and improves business reliability.

From the insurers’ perspective specifying Police Response for a customer therefore is not simply about Blue Light response. What it really means is that the customer’s system has been installed and is maintained and monitored by well established, professional, competent companies that operate with integrity. It is an unbroken chain of assurance to the police and customer, and ultimately to the insurer. This takes the form of fewer false alarms disrupting the customer’s life and business, and wasting precious police resources, to better protection and greater peace of mind for the consumer and fewer claims for insurers.

In terms of The Insurance Act 2015 which requires insureds to disclose all material circumstances, or to put a prudent insurer on notice that it needs to make further enquiries to reveal those material circumstances the first question to ask is: “Do you have an intruder alarm system on Police Response?”  The response should clarify a great deal and help in assessing the risk.  [Please see the Technical Bulletin – ‘Insurance Act 2015: Establishing details of an Intruder Alarm System posted on our website on 22/6/2016] 

The Police Response system has been hugely successful in reducing false alarms and in so doing has increased confidence in the security installations industry by raising standards, and improved service to the customer. All of this rests on the foundation of Third Party Certification.

And even if Police Response is not required, the benefits of using a NSI or SSAIB approved company to provide a PD 6662 system are clearly beneficial.

With thanks to Tony Weeks at NSI for this bulletin.

[1] This can be downloaded from the Secured by Design Website at: http://www.securedbydesign.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Security_Systems_Policy_2015.pdf

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