Security alarms

Burglar alarm

The variety of alarms and their fitting is a complex subject. As a starting point the installation should meet with British Standard PD6662 (This calls up European Standard EN 50131 and UK standards such as BS8243 for alarm confirmation). These standards cover both hard-wired systems and wire-free. Though more expensive than many wire-free or DIY packages on the market, they are more reliable and conform to the National Police Chiefs Council Security Systems Policy.

If you are thinking about the installation of an alarm system in your home it is worth taking into account that the police response to alarm activations varies according to the type of alarm installed. In recent years the percentage of false alarm calls caused by equipment, communication or user error represented in excess of 92% of all alarm activations nationally. In order to redress the balance in favour of genuine calls the National Police Chiefs Council Security Systems Policy has been adopted by the police in which two types of alarms are defined, together with the relevant police response.

Type A – Remote Signalling Alarms, including intruder alarms terminating at approved central monitoring stations. They must be maintained and used in accordance with British Standards PD6662. Such alarms will be registered with the police and identified by a unique reference number (URN) for intruder alarm response and a URN for hold up alarm (personal attack alarm) response. The police response to their activation will be based on the assumption that an offence is taking place, but against the background of competing urgent calls and available resources. Such a response will also be conditional upon the number of false activations in any 12 month period, in which case the activation may receive a lower priority police attendance.

Type B – Audible Only and Hybrid Alarms, including bells-only and automatic dialing alarms, as well as alarms from non-compliant companies and non-compliant central stations. URNs will not be issued for these systems. To obtain police attendance, in addition to their activation Type B alarms will also require some indication that an offence is in progress, e.g. from a witness at the scene.

In identifying a compliant company installing Type A alarms you should seek answers to the following questions:

  • Before disclosing personal security details, have I checked the address and credentials of the company and seen proof of identity from the representative?
  • Is the company subject of an independent inspection process and if so which organisation?
  • Is the installation of an alarm a requirement of my insurance company and if so, is the company acceptable to my insurer?
  • Can the company representative provide me with a list of police rules for occupiers of premises with alarms and written confirmation that the alarm and the company are currently acceptable to the local police for the transmission of alarm messages from new installations?
  • Have I sought written quotations from at least two alarm installers?
  • Does the quotation: specify that the installation will be to British Standard PD662 and include the terms of maintenance and monitoring contracts?
  • Does the company operate a 24 hour call-out service and emergency attendance within four hours?

Police accept the installation of remote signalling alarms from alarm companies whose business is subject to inspection by independent inspectorate organisations identified in police policy.

If several houses in a street or Neighbourhood Watch are considering installing alarm systems, it is possible that an installer may give a discount for multiple installations. What is more, it is possible that the cost of an installation could be partly offset by reduced household insurance premiums.
You should be aware, however, that the insurer may stipulate that the alarm should be set at all times when the property is unoccupied, and that any claim for losses incurred as a result of a break-in while alarm was not set may be adjusted accordingly.

Leaving your home

Person holding some keys

When you leave your home it’s important to ensure you leave it as secure as possible. Getting into an ‘exit routine’ can help ensure that you don’t forget obvious, but important things, like not leaving your valuables near windows. Here’s our quick reminder on what to do when you leave your home.

What to do before you leave your home;

  • Close and lock all your doors and windows, even if you are only going out for a few minutes.
  • Set your burglar alarm.
  • Make sure the side and/or back gate is locked.
  • Lock your shed or garage.
  • Make sure that any valuables are not in sight.
  • Put keys out of reach of letterboxes.
  • In the evening, shut the curtains and leave some lights on.
  • Never leave car documents or ID in obvious places such as kitchens or hallways.

If you are going to be away for days or weeks at a time, you will need to take additional action, such as cancelling newspaper and milk deliveries. Consider asking your neighbours to close curtains, or park on your drive. Use a timer device to automatically turn lights and a radio on at night.

 

Flats and apartments

Keys

It is essential that your home feels safe and secure. This section contains advice and tips to help you improve security within your flat or apartment.

Burglars will often target blocks of flats because they can easily gain access to them through a communal entrance, which may have poor access control. Once inside they will often go straight to the top floor flats first, as there is less likelihood of passers by seeing them whilst they break in.

So, if you own or manage a flat which is off a shared landing and not on the ground floor, remember that your front door is your only form of defence against intruders.

Flats

If your flat is on the second floor or above, you need to balance security with fire safety. That means you shouldn’t fit your front door with a lock that needs a key to open it from the inside.  Choose one that complies with BS 5588/BS 8621, allowing you to release the lock and leave the flat with a single action. Add a letterbox cowl if required to prevent thieves tampering with the lock from outside.

Communal Doors

Care has to be taken when securing communal doors as the ability to escape in case of fire is vital. You should always be able to open the communal door (from inside) using a single keyless action. If you fit an automatic door closer, it should be of a good quality. Poor quality closers can fail to engage the lock. Locking mechanisms vary, depending on access control and door type

Tips

  • Invest in a strong door and door frame with good quality locks.
  • PVCu and aluminium doors generally have multi-locking systems. When you lock the door, remember to remove the key. Always put keys in a safe and easily accessible place in case of fire.
  • Internal letterbox shields also prevent access to the handle inside or keys being fished through the letterbox.
  • Frames should be reinforced with reinforcing metal strips called ‘London’ and ‘Birmingham’ bars.
  • Hinge bolts should be fitted to outward opening doors.
  • Glass panels in doors should be replaced with laminated glass or reinforced with security film or grilles.
  • Door viewers enable residents to see callers before they open the door.
  • Wooden back doors should be solid timber, with a British Standard 5-lever mortice lock and two mortice rack bolts.
  • French, patio and balcony doors should have a minimum of three locking points. Patio doors should be fitted with an anti-lift device to prevent them being lifted from their runners.
  • All ground floor windows and any windows that are easily accessible must have key operated window locks.
  • Audible intruder alarm systems with flashing lights are a good deterrent against burglary.
  • Security lighting increases vision and makes burglars feel vulnerable and at risk of being seen.

Access into communal entrances

Doors without Electronic Access Control

Ideally the door should be fitted with a lock which has an automatic deadlocking facility, approximately a third of the way down from the top of the door. Additionally, a mortice deadlock latch should be installed a third of the way up from the bottom of the door and it should be used as often as is practicable. These locks must be suitable for emergency exit purposes, in that they must not require key release from within, opening being achieved by means of a handle or thumb turn. Where there is any conflict between security and fire requirements or legislation, the latter must prevail. In any case of doubt, seek the Fire Officer’s approval.

All doors must be fitted with an automatic closing mechanism, both properly adjusted and regularly maintained, to ensure that the door is secured at all times. Doors should never be left wedged open, as this not only negates any security within the building, but may also contravene any Fire Regulations.

Doors with Electronic Access Control

The remote release lock should be of a type that has an electrically operated bolt action with an automatic deadlocking facility, or is a magnetic type lock. It is imperative that the system has a safeguard incorporated, which ensures that the lock can be released in the event of a power failure.

Access Control Systems

It is preferable that at least one of the following security measures applies:

  • The door is secured at all times and visitors are permitted entry via a remote release facility which is linked to an audio-visual or at the very least an audio only entry-phone.
  • The door is secured at all times and visitors are met personally at the door.
  • The communal entrance is constantly monitored by a receptionist or concierge.