Choosing an Intruder Alarm

Intruder alarms are widely accepted as an effective deterrent for burglars, providing a useful warning and limiting theft and damage to premises, in fact surveys carried out in England indicate that premises are less likely to be broken into if they have an intruder alarm fitted.

Please bear in mind that an alarm system should only be considered as a back up to good physical security.

This information is meant as a guide to help you choose an alarm system which is suitable for your premises.

How to choose an alarm

To help you make an informed decision about what type of alarm is best for your premises here is a rough guide to the systems which are available.

A basic alarm system will usually consist of an outside siren or bell and strobe light enclosed in a weatherproof box, operated by keyor digital control panel and a number of passive infra-red movement detectors that are placed in vulnerable areas of the premises. Door and window contacts can also be used.

DIY System: If you are a competent DIY enthusiast with experience in electronics, you may be able to fit your own system. DIY systems are available from hardware stores and DIY superstores, but do make sure that the system you are considering conforms to British Standard specification BS 6707.

Bells only system: This is the most popular type of system available and ranges from the very simple to the extremely sophisticated. The system sounds a bell or siren to attract the attention of neighbours etc. and deter the would-be burglar. It should always be fitted to British Standard specification BS 4737. This type of system is usually all that is necessary for a dwelling house, but it does depend on the location of the property, the type of contents and the occupier's lifestyle.

Auto-dialler system: As an addition you could consider having an auto-dialler fitted. This will, on activation of your alarm, ring pre-programmed numbers to inform keyholders or neighbours etc. of the activation. Under no circumstances should the police telephone number be programmed into the auto-dialler.

Monitored system: This type of system is exactly the same as the bells only system except that instead of a bell or siren attracting the attention of neighbours a remote signalling device automatically informs a central monitoring station that your alarm has been activated. They in turn inform the police. When choosing this type of system ensure that the installer and monitoring station are recognised by the police.

This type of system must always be fitted to British Standard specification BS 4737 and comply with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) policy.

How to select an alarm installer

There are many installers in the alarm industry therefore we suggest that you have at least three quotations from reputable installers and choose a system that suits you and your family's lifestyle.

The police do not recommend any particular alarm company. If you require a monitored alarm system, then ensure the installer is a current member of a recognised trade association, such as SSAIB or NSI (NACOSS).

Consult your insurance company, they may recommend particular companies and offer a discount on house contents insurance, but remember the cheapest quotation is not always the best option.

Beware of alarm companies who cold call, either door to door or by telephone, as some of them may use high pressure sales methods and also charge inflated prices. They also may offer monitoring that is not recognised by the police. A monitored alarm system which attracts police response will be issued with a unique reference number (URN). Ensure that any installer you choose is a member of one of the alarm industry's Inspectorate.

Study the installation contract carefully before signing it to determine whether you will own or rent the system once it has been installed and what the maintenance agreement includes and costs.

Make sure that the company you choose offers a short training session to show you how the system works. British Standards requires that there is a 'hand over' period in which the alarm company makes the user familiar with the system's operation and also that they can offer a back-up service for routine maintenance or faults to your system.

A good installation should cause no damage or mess to your decor and the wiring should be easily concealed.

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