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Few businesses are immune to being burgled and other intruder-related threats.

An intruder alarm isn’t a substitute for good physical security – but is one way of reducing your risk. Apart from its deterrent value, an alarm is useful for limiting the amount of time intruders will feel 'comfortable' inside your premises. The less time they’re on-site, the less they will be able to steal or damage.

Once activated, intruder alarms broadly fall into one of three types, based on how they raise an alert following a break in, which can be by:

  • activation of a loud bell or siren;
  • sending a standard message to a pre-programmed selection of telephones (e.g. a text message to your mobile phone), often referred to as a ’dialler alarm’; or
  • sending a message to a third party accredited alarm receiving centre (ARC), who will notify a designated person (known as a 'keyholder'), as well as the police, to attend the site.

This last type of alarm offers the highest level of security and is discussed further below.


  • Discuss with the quoting companies, the ways an alarm system might send signals (i.e. activations) to the ARC, and how long it takes each proposed system to do this.

    - Many use telephone lines, but some use radio signals and increasingly internet connections (IP). The most secure systems will have two transmission paths (known as ‘dual path’ signalling) in case one of them fails or is tampered with. For example, a system might use both landline and radio.

    - Some systems will have the additional security of being able to detect a failure in the transmission system, such as a cut telephone line or loss of radio signal, check whether the system you’re getting a quote for is one of these, and what the maximum time is that the system would take to notify the ARC of such a failure.
  • Check the proposed alarm is installed in accordance with the European Standard BS EN 50131 according the scheme described in PD 6662.

    - Get your quoting company to explain the differences between the grades of system defined under EN 50103 and PD 6662 and the reasoning for the one they recommend to you. There are four grades (1, 2, 3 and 4), with grade 4 being the most sophisticated type of system.
  • Whatever type of alarm you get, ensure it’s installed and placed under a maintenance contract with a company approved by a UKAS accredited inspection body, such as the NSI  or SSAIB.

    - This is particularly important as use of such companies is a mandatory requirement of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and Police Scotland policies, which govern police response to remotely monitored intruder alarms. Compliance with the relevant policy will enable an application for a unique reference number (URN) from your local police force.
  • Consider the addition of a personal attack (PA) device as part of your alarm system if your business might be at risk of a hold-up (for example, cash held on site). The requirements for such devices are detailed under a ‘10 point plan’ in the NPCC and Police Scotland policies.
  • Consider who will be keyholders for the system. These should be people who can attend the premises quickly and are familiar with the operation of the intruder alarm.

    - If an employee, complete a health and safety risk assessment (e.g. for the risk of violence to these employees, as well as lone working).

    - You may choose to appoint a professional keyholding security company, in which case you need to check that the firm is Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensed and NSI or SSAIB approved. Check that the firm will store the keys they hold to your premises (as well as any devices used to control the alarm system) in their own secure premises or a manned patrol vehicle, and not within a key box at your premises.
  • Check the alarm is set up to operate as a sequentially confirmed type. This is the method of confirmation typically preferred by insurers and required to qualify for a URN from the police. This ensures that the police are only notified to attend when the presence of intruders on site can be confirmed by the system. There are three methods of confirmation:

    - Sequential confirmation is where the ARC will only call the police when they receive signals from two different detection devices within a prescribed period of time. If there is just one activation, they will only notify the keyholders.

    - Visual confirmation allows the ARC to view the premises (via cameras forming part of your alarm) in order to confirm a break-in has taken place.

    - Audio confirmation is similar to visual confirmation, but instead uses microphones to listen into the premises.
  • Finally, once you’ve obtained quotes, give your insurance broker copies of the design so they can get approval from all the relevant insurance companies.
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