Partnership approach ensures reduction in false alarms

Martin Harvey, Chairman of the Security Systems Section of the BSIA
Martin Harvey, Chairman of the Security Systems Section of the BSIA

Police are now more likely than ever to respond to genuine alarm activations, thanks to a partnership approach between Police and the private security industry, which has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of false alarm activations.

In the past two decades, the number of false alarm activations generated by security alarm systems has reduced dramatically, from an average of 1.36 per system, per year in 1995 to 0.10 per system, per year in 2013. Nowadays, the police are more likely than ever to respond to a genuine alarm, and more likely to catch criminals in the act when they do.

Martin Harvey, Chairman of the Security Systems Section of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA), comments: “The development of new technology, methodology and standards within the private security industry has contributed significantly to improving the reliability of alarm systems, with the introduction of Unique Reference Numbers (URNs) revolutionising the way police respond to alarm activations.

“URN registered systems are operated to such a high standard that they are the only systems that can guarantee a police response, and the introduction of this system has succeeded in improving the reliability of systems to such an extent that many insurers are now backing this system and offering discounts on policies to organisations who have URNs in place.”

Historically, the level of false activations from alarm systems was high for a number of reasons, from accidental activation to incorrect installation or poor maintenance. With the police wasting more and more time attending false alarms, the security industry and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) came together to develop industry standards and practices  to reduce the number of false activations.

ACPO’s response was to publish a policy on alarm response, first issued in 1990, while the British Security Industry Association – representing the UK’s alarm manufacturers and installers – developed several Codes of Practice relating to the installation and maintenance of alarm systems, which went on to become British, European and now International standards.

ACPO’s Policy requires system designers to be knowledgeable, and requires systems themselves to be designed to a certain standard. When it comes to getting the system up and running, installation companies carrying out the work must be inspected by a UKAS accredited inspectorate to ensure they can competently design, install and maintain each system.

Adrian Mealing, Chairman of the BSIA’s Security Equipment Manufacturers Section, adds: “Under ACPO’s Policy, the products themselves must also meet certain requirements, and the relevant British & European Standards. Many of the components used in systems underwent significant design changes. It is possible in the past that many false alarms were generated by poorly designed equipment, which in some cases only met the lowest requirements.”

Inspector Kenneth Meanwell, ACPO’s Security Industry Liaison, comments: “The Police have been very happy to work with the private security industry, and see the development and adoption of ACPO’s Policy as being a huge step forward in reducing false alarms from security systems, to the extent that ACPO now endorse compliant and registered companies for security systems.”

With so much invested by Police and the private security industry to improve the quality and reliability of alarm systems, it’s important that those procuring such a system are equally committed to quality. Investing in a solid infrastructure can improve the longevity and resilience of a system from start to finish.

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