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SSAIB, NACOSS, NSI or a DIY alarm system?

When researching information about intruder and burglar alarms, there are lots of options available and questions that you might have; here we have broken down some of the most common questions when it comes to accreditations that come with alarm systems, and how to decide effectively what is right for you.

What are the accreditation bodies for intruder alarm systems?

There are two inspection bodies for intruder and burglar alarm systems, the first is SSAIB (Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board) who are the leading certification body for organisations providing security systems and services, fire detection and alarm systems, telecare systems and services, manned security services and monitoring services. They are also a Security Industry Authority (SIA) approved certification body - in respect of the SIA Approved Contractors Scheme - that operates within the UK.

The second body is NSI (National Security Inspectorate) who were formally recognised as NACOSS (something that your insurers still may refer to) are the other security systems and monitoring body for the security industry. It is worth noting that there are a number of NSI accreditations available to the security industry, which include the installation of security systems, and also the monitoring of security systems. It's also worth noting that some security companies can be NSI Gold for their Monitoring Centre but do not actually hold accreditation for the installation and grading of the equipment that could render your insurance invalid, but we will touch on this below.

How is the security installation industry regulated in the UK?

In the UK, it is not a requirement of law for security installers to be accredited by either the NSI or SSAIB - it is something they opt into, this has left some unscrupulous companies to operate, these companies show poor installations, excessive on-going charges and lack of response in the event of a real emergency. Fortunately Henson Security are SSAIB accredited for the Installation and Servicing of Intruder Alarms, and utilise a NSI Gold accredited Alarm Receiving Centre. Being accredited for these types of monitoring and installation ensure that members of staff are background checked to BS7858 and the company is audited at least once annually. These audits check everything from a handful of randomly picked installations, including checking of paperwork and specification documents, correct size screws are used, equipment meets both British and European standards, and that the system has comprehensively covered all parts of the property. They also check things such as liability insurance, client data management and verify background screening. Choosing a company that has opted into one of these accreditation bodies ensures your security is in safe hands and all necessary checks have been carried out.

What is the difference between an accredited installer and a non-accredited installer?

Many security manufacturers can sell their equipment to both accredited and non accredited installers and professional systems meet BS EN 50131 which means that they have been through a series of tests to ensure their functionality and reliability. As professional equipment can be sold to security installers without accreditation, whilst you can be guaranteed that the system will meet the stringent standards they have been designed for, there is no guarantee that they will be completely reliable. This is because the non-accredited installer may have lack of knowledge of the system architecture, the incorrect qualifications to install the system, or may design the system with price in mind, rather than a risk analysis of your property.

All accredited suppliers will design a risk assessment unique to your property before proposing a suitable system for your home. All accredited companies must use approved equipment which meets strict BSEN50131 standards before they issue a certificate of conformity. This certificate of conformity is very important as it shows your insurance company that your system meets the minimum standards, and has been correctly installed by an approved supplier. A non-accredited installer may be able to sell you a system designed to meet this standard, but this system will not be recognised by your insurers and could result in a reduction, or refusal of premium pay out in the event of a burglary.

How can a company be NSI Gold approved for their monitoring centre, but not their installation?

As there are a number of different schemes that the NSI and SSAIB operate, companies can apply individually for any type of scheme that the accreditation bodies provide. This can include the accreditation for monitoring of intruder alarm signals in an ARC (alarm receiving centre) environment. These companies can also, under the same brand name install security systems without the NSI Gold Approval for Installing and Maintaining security systems which is a separate scheme but advertise that their ARC is NSI Gold approved, which can be confusing and misleading for the general consumer.

These companies generally aren't accredited for the installation aspect because their equipment does not currently meet strict British Standard approval. Non-accredited installations and equipment mean that these systems will never generate a police response, and also may not be accepted as a 'NSI / SSAIB Installed Alarm System' from your insurers as the system is only monitored by a NSI Gold approved ARC.

Most of these companies will claim that the service (monitoring, servicing and installation) is accredited to NSI Gold, however its important that you pay close attention that both the monitoring, and installation service are both accredited under the separate schemes. Generally these systems will offer a guard or keyholder response instead of a police response. These types of installations would be referred to as Type B systems by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and would never generate a police response unless someone had called them from your home to advise of a burglary in progress.

How effective are DIY installed systems, but with professional monitoring through an ARC?

These systems again will not be accredited to the strict British Standards and therefore will not meet the needs of your insurer for a professionally installed and maintained system. These systems are also referred to by the NPCC as a Type B system and will never generate a police response (even if live camera footage has been relayed to the ARC of a burglary in progress). DIY systems can be risky, as a professional risk assessment has not been carried out on your home which could leave areas of your home under protected. The equipment does also not meet the high standards of an accredited manufacturer or installer and therefore we would class these as an ineffective method of securing your property and providing you peace of mind.

How can I obtain a police response?

The only police approved way of obtaining a police response is via an approved, accredited installation company. This company will be registered with your local police force, and a Unique Reference Number (URN) will be registered with your local force providing details about your property, this includes a risk assessment and contact details. Accredited companies will issue you with a certificate of conformity to ensure that the security system is classed as a Type A system, the certificate will outline the monitoring standard, and grading of the system.

Type B systems (those installed by non-accredited installers, DIY systems and systems that do not meet the strict British Standards) can be be monitored by an accredited ARC, however these systems will never be issued a URN or certificate of conformity and therefore no police response will be given for these systems - even if a burglary in progress is witnessed by the ARC operator.

My insurers have advised that I need an NSI / SSAIB installed and maintained alarm system - is the maintenance important?

All installations installed by an accredited company will be issued with a certificate of conformity, along with a specification of equipment installed. Most installers will also provide the option for a maintenance agreement at the time of quotation or installation. The maintenance aspect of an alarm system is very important and it ensure the upkeep and functionality of the system. Systems are generally tested annually, or bi-annually depending on the level of monitoring (e.g police monitoring requires two per annum). During the maintenance check, the engineer will carry out a series of tests which include testing all of the devices, that the back-up batteries are still functional, and sirens and communicators are effective. Systems that aren't regularly checked can become problematic and the maintenance agreement reduces the likelihood of repair at a later date. Most insurers require intruder alarm systems to be inspected at least annually to meet approval.

Hopefully the above answers will give you some direction in instructing an approved security supplier. Approved security installers and monitoring companies can be searched on the NSI or SSAIB's website. Alternatively if you are looking for an approved installer, contact us today, for a free no-obligation survey of your property.

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