Burglar alarms (homes and business)
Burglar alarms are an effective deterrent, providing a useful warning and limiting the risk of theft and damage to your property.
Surveys consistently show homes are less likely to be burgled if a visible burglar alarm is fitted.
Criminals don't like attracting attention, therefore, if you have a correctly fitted, visible and regularly maintained burglar alarm, you are less likely to become a victim of burglary.
Northumbria Police advise that your installer is registered with and inspected by either:
SSAIB (Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board)
Tel 0191 2963242
NSI (National Security Inspectorate)
Tel 0845 006 3003
NEVER buy anything at the door, including burglar alarms. Always get at least three quotes from companies who provide a free survey and quotation. Don’t be fooled by offers of big discounts to sign up straight away.
There are two types of burglar alarm:
Audible/bells only ‘Type B’
Monitored ‘Type A’
This system will ring an internal and external sounder at the premises. To meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, covering noise pollution, this should shut off after 15 minutes unless silenced earlier by an authorised user.
This works in the same way as an audible/bells only system, but will also contact an Alarms Receiving Centre (ARC) to tell them the alarm has been activated. The ARC will then take action in line with the instructions given to them by your alarm installation company. This will involve contacting nominated keyholders and possibly the police (see section on Police Response for more details).
Alarms can be monitored by various communication methods and will usually require a telephone line installed at the premises. Ask your installer about this. For independent advice contact NSI or SSAIB.
Both audible/bells only and monitored systems can be hard wired or wire free. Wire free systems are quicker to install, but can be slightly more expensive, and the batteries need to be replaced regularly by your installer.
Remember: the only security system that is ever going to work is one that is used!
Police response (monitored systems only)
The ACPO Security Systems Policy 2008 lays down the standards for a pre-planned police response to a monitored alarm system.
It’s aim is to allow the police to provide an effective response to genuine intruder alarm calls, helping to arrest offenders and reduce losses by improving the effectiveness of alarm systems and reducing the number of false calls.
Note: Only companies approved by either NSI or SSAIB and registered with Northumbria Police can apply for and obtain as police response to your alarm system on your behalf. Please check with your installer before buying.
What is a false alarm?
This is an alarm call which would normally be passed to the police and has NOT resulted from:
a criminal attack, or attempt, on the protected premises, the alarm equipment or the line carrying the alarm signal
actions by the emergency services in carrying out their duty
a call from a personal attack system made with good intent.
The policy lays down standards for the police response, the installation and maintenance of systems and the Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs).
The alarms have to be registered with the police by the installation company and given a Unique Reference Number (URN) which is subject to a fee payable by the occupier.
Alarms with a URN are the only ones which qualify for a pre-planned police response. These systems must have at least two appointed keyholders, who must meet the following criteria:
have a full set of keys and any security codes to access all areas of the premises
be trained in how to operate the alarm system
have their own means of transport
be telephone subscribers
live within 20 minutes safe travelling time of the alarm premises.
It is your responsibility to make sure these details are up to date and the keyholders will attend when required. If you fail to attend an activation within 20 minutes you could lose future police response. You must also notify your alarm company when people are away on holiday and provide alternatives.
Under the policy there are two levels of police intervention:
immediate (Level 1)
no police attendance, key holder response only (Level 3).
Intruder Alarm Element
Once a URN is issued the alarm will be subject to a Level 1 response. If there are two false calls in a rolling 12 month period, a warning letter will be sent to the occupier advising that a further activation will result in police response being withdrawn and to contact their installer.
Following three false calls in a rolling 12 month period, the system will be downgraded to Level 3 and police response withdrawn.
Police response can be restored following three months free of false calls, where the original problem has been solved and, if applicable, the system upgraded to the latest standards available (see confirmation below).
If no application is received within six months of Level 3 being imposed, the URN will be removed and deleted from the force system.
Personal Attack (PA) Element
Following the issue of a URN, the PA Element will be subject to a Level 1 response. However, following one false call in a rolling 12 month period, a warning letter will be sent to the occupier advising them that a further activation will result in police response being withdraw and to contact their installer.
Following two false calls in a rolling 12 month period, the system will be downgraded to Level 3 and police response withdrawn.
Intervention must be put in place before consideration can be given for the PA element to have police response restored.
Your security installer will be able to advise which form of intervention will suit your needs.
Confirmation (sometimes referred to as verification)
The use of the word 'confirmed' indicates some form of confirmation of activity in the building to the ARC. All new systems installed, which require a police response or where the police response has been withdrawn but not confirmed, will now need to have a confirmed system to qualify for a police response.
Confirmation can be sequential, audio or visual. With sequential, the ARC will receive a series of alarms as each detector is triggered by the intruder. Audio is achieved with microphones in the premises allowing the ARC to listen in. With visual, CCTV is used so the ARC can see inside the premises where the alarm originated.
Police response to commercial premises
The consequences of losing police response due to false alarms can be significant.
All security system activations must be considered as major incidents and brought to the attention of a senior manager.
We have found that when a company is taken off police response, the top management, gets involved and writes to the Chief Constable, Home Secretary and/or others. Unfortunately, while this may make you feel better to have your say, it will not get your police response back.
The Senior Manager must make it their business to find out why the security system was activated. Questions asked at this level focus the minds of staff and show them how seriously the company takes this issue.
Staff error - retrain as necessary to avoid a recurrence. Make sure ALL staff understand just how important the security system is to your company's survival.
Fault on the system - inform your alarm company, asking them what they’re doing to make sure the fault is repaired. Get a response from them in writing.
Doors or windows left insecure – make sure all staff understand just how important the security of your company is.
Vermin, birds or pets! - get in a specialist vermin control company if necessary. Ask your alarm company for advice on any temporary measures which can be used to stop another false alarm until the problem has been removed. If a pet activated the system, remove them or ask your Alarm Company to make it impossible for your pets to set the system off again.
Fault of the alarm company/ARC/utilities supplier - regardless of whose fault the activation was, it is still a false alarm and will be counted as such. Speak to your alarm company to get advice on how to stop a recurrence of the problem.
Genuine activation – you must be sure the police officers who attended have logged it as a genuine alarm, getting and keeping a record of the Crime Reference Number relating to the cause of the activation, such as a break in. The Alarms Administrator will need this if there is any dispute. If in any doubt ring Northumbria Police on 101 ext. 64632 and ask to speak to the Alarms Administrator to confirm.
If the activation was thought false but later turns out to be genuine - you must report this to your local station and obtain and keep a record of the Crime Reference Number relating to the cause of the activation, such as an undetected break in or attempt. The Alarms Administrator will need this to amend your activation history. If in any doubt or for further advice, ring Northumbria Police on 101 ext. 64632 and speak to the Alarms Administrator.
You must find out what caused the activation so you can take remedial action now. Waiting until you lose police response before doing something is not an effective option. Remember the same fault/problem can cause several false alarms all of which will count against you.
Losing police response due to false alarms can be significant, so if the activation was thought false but later turns out to be genuine - take action now. You must report this to your local station and obtain a Crime Reference Number relating to the cause of the activation. The Alarms Administrator will need this to amend your activation history.
If in any doubt ring Northumbria Police on 101 ext. 64632 and speak to the Alarms Administrator.