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A Guide to Intruder Alarms

December 19, 2016


Intruder alarm systems are an effective means of protecting both commercial and domestic premises against theft, robbery, malicious damage and arson. As such, premises owners or occupiers may find that their insurers make certain types of insurance cover conditional upon having such a system, and most often one with police response. In doing so, insurers will usually require an alarm system to meet certain requirements, as outlined in this guide.


Alarm systems can be a complex and significant investment in security and the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ should be kept in mind. Time spent researching the topic should help inform your discussions with prospective alarm installers, and thus help you choose the most appropriate alarm system. This ten-step guide outlines insurers’ likely main requirements/ recommendations for a new police response alarm system. By following them you will help ensure that any new alarm system is both acceptable to your insurer and is a reliable and sound investment.


Alarm systems consist of three basic elements: detection devices, control equipment and the signalling equipment. The detection devices (typically including door contacts, movement or vibration detectors and sometimes ‘hold up’ buttons), together with alarm signalling equipment are connected to the control equipment (the ‘panel’) – which acts as the ‘nerve centre’ of the system. Although performing a distinct, separate function, the signalling equipment is often incorporated into the panel. The purpose of the signalling equipment is to transmit a signal if the alarm activates. It can do this ‘locally’, e.g by operating sounders on the outside and/or inside of the building, or ‘remotely’, e.g by sending signals to a police recognised Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC). Most police response alarm systems have both local and remote signalling.


Selecting an Installer

Ensure that alarm systems are properly designed, installed, maintained (under a service contract) by trained, competent and security vetted personnel, and connected to a suitably regulated/ police approved ARC. 


Consulting your insurer

Not all property will be insured but where insurers are interested they may stipulate alarm system requirements, or otherwise provide general advice. It is recommended that you contact your insurer for advice, and then pass their suggestions to an installer, rather than expect the installer to contact them directly. If you are uncertain who your insurer is, contact your insurance broker. One advantage of obtaining prior insurer guidance is that prospective installers will be competing against a backdrop of common basic requirements, thus reducing the dangerous temptation to cut specifications down to produce the cheapest quotation.


Important note: An insurance policy may contain a condition that requires:

• a particular type of alarm installer, system, signalling and response;

• an emergency/routine maintenance contract being kept in force;

• provision to the installer and others of keyholders’ details;

• the insurer’s prior approval for any changes to the system;

• the insurer to be notified if police response is reduced or withdrawn;

• full setting of the alarm system, including all means of communication with the ARC, whenever the premises are left unattended (and possibly partial setting at other times);

• keeping any alarm operating codes secret and not leaving alarm operating devices at the premises when they are unattended; and

• prompt keyholder attendance after any reported alarm activation or fault. Policy conditions vary between insurers, so you should check your own policy for details of any such condition, and whether failure to comply could jeopardise