Commercial alarm systems for small businesses: A guide

Protecting your property and staff is vital for your company. Learn about business security systems here

All companies need a way to ensure the safety of their staff and premises – and that’s why business alarm systems are essential. While the type and use of an alarm can vary, what remains the same across the range of business security systems is that an alarm is there to deter potential intruders and alert staff to possible dangers. If the worst should happen and your business experiences a break-in or a fire, then an alarm is often the quickest way to know about it.

This article will look at both security and fire alarms. To begin with, more information about the different types of alarms will be provided. Then, a detailed look at some top business alarm companies, including product information, will be offered.

Each of the following common questions will be answered:

What are commercial alarm systems?
Why are commercial fire alarm systems essential?
Which business alarm companies are right for you?

Read on for a complete overview, or skip to the relevant section. If you’re ready to compare quotes now, go up to the top of the page and fill out the form.


What are commercial alarm systems?

A vital part of your operational strategy, commercial alarm systems provide added security against damages, plus offer additional safety for your staff too. Offering extra security if any of your contents (physical or digital) are stolen or vandalised, business alarms are an excellent way to deter would-be intruders and protect your company’s assets, giving you peace of mind.

To begin with, here’s a quick guide to some of the most frequently used abbreviations:

Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) – For monitored business alarm systems; the security company’s centre which monitors the alarms and investigates if they are triggered.

National Security Inspectorate (NSI) – A leading organisation in the UK for security and fire protection company certification. NSI offers two tiers of awards – Silver and Gold.

Police Unique Reference Number (URN) – A specific number attached to a property, enabling it to be identified by the police. Used when an alarm has been triggered and the ARC has informed the police that their response is required. Only available to alarms that have been installed by UKAS accredited organisations.

Security Systems and Alarm Inspection Board (SSAIB) – A certifying body for organisations offering security protection, including alarms; it’s a UK-based leading organisation.

United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) – The only national body in the UK to assess organisations that offer certification and installation. It’s recognised by the government and tests to globally recognised levels. The NSI and SSAIB are UKAS accredited.

There are many business alarm companies out there and choosing the right one for your business is a crucial decision. Useful points to consider include:

  • Accreditation – Is the company approved by the NSI or the SSAIB?
  • Specialisation – Can the company offer business security alarms specifically?
  • Recommendation – Does the company have a positive reputation, both within the industry and with customers?

Once you’ve reviewed these, it’s time to think about which alarm system is best for your business.

Business alarms – how to choose:

  • Think about how it will be installed – Is a wired or wireless system more suitable?
  • Consider the type of connectivity – Can it be combined with an app?
  • How is the signal received – Internet (IP), mobile (GPRS) or radio?
  • Look at the response time – How quick is the process from activation to notification?
  • Check the visual aspect – Are alarm boxes, cameras and warning stickers available to be displayed prominently?
  • Which way of monitoring is best – Do you require an alarm system that connects to an ARC, or is a more simple bell-only device needed?
  • Review the costs – How much and how long is the contract length; what are the installation and maintenance charges, and are they included?

The NSI and the SSAIB are the two leading certification organisations in the UK for companies that offer fire and security protection. It’s important that the company you choose is approved by one of these organisations so you can be sure that the system installed in your business adheres to the required best practice as well as relevant codes and legislation.

Business alarm systems: what are the benefits?

The benefits for your business are wide-ranging. With an alarm installed in your business, you have an additional layer of security that’s always available. Plus, it’s not open to human error that you may experience with only using security guards, as alarms use sensors to detect movement.

In the first instance, an alarm can deter people from breaking in to your premises. If an intrusion should occur, then the alarm immediately alerts others in the vicinity of an issue. Plus, if you choose to have the monitored system, then the ARC will investigate, and if applicable, inform the police or other emergency responders.

Not only do alarms protect your property, they also can be used to monitor staff work times so you know exactly who is coming and going, and when.

Also, consider commercial alarm systems that have smart technology. For example, an app that you can monitor the system on remotely. This is ideal if you’re overseas, or if you spend a lot of time away from your business premises, as you only require your device and an internet connection to access it.

  • 24/7 security
  • Sensors detect movement
  • Act as a deterrent
  • Alerts others through sound and lights
  • Monitored systems connect to ARCs for investigation or referral
  • Follow staff work times
  • Connect to alarm activity remotely via an app, if possible

If you run a business from home, then you should also consider the physical security of your workspace. You could check with the alarm company as well as your insurer to see if commercial alarm systems are required, or if a domestic alarm will suffice. This could depend on the type of business you run from home, as well as also if you store goods or other valuable products, and other factors.



Why are commercial fire alarm systems essential?

Another integral part of your business’s security systems are commercial fire alarm systems. These should be a part of your wider fire safety strategy – this includes conducting a Fire Risk Assessment and having a Responsible Person (if your business has five or more employees) for fire security. This is determined by the relevant legislation, the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

When choosing a fire alarm for your business, think about which type is most suitable. Depending on the size of your premises, an alarm with a zoning system may be required – this sections the property, allowing for any incidents to be dealt with in a focused and controlled manner. Alternatively, an alarm without zoning could be used in smaller sized spaces.

You may also want to think about emergency lighting – this is crucial if the mains power should go out during a fire. Also, fire extinguishers are a key part of a business’ fire strategy. Think about which types your business would most likely need. For example, a specific electrical fire extinguisher for a business with a lot of electrical equipment.

Whichever system you choose, it’s extremely important to regularly test the alarms and conduct fire drills, as well as record the results. This allows you to know that the alarm systems in your business are working correctly and that you’re operating in the most safe and secure manner should a fire occur. Plus, if a fault or another issue should be identified, you can address it immediately.

Types of commercial fire alarm systems

Commercial fire alarm systems are typically made up of all or some of the following parts:

  • Panels – The control panel which connects the parts together
  • Detectors – The devices which identify a fire
  • Manual call points – Wall-mounted boxes; people can activate these upon finding a fire
  • Sounders and flashers – Audio and visual devices that go off when the alarm has been triggered

What types of systems are available?

Conventional system – A series of call points and detectors are wired to a control panel, with sounders and flashers to notify people when activated. The area is divided into zones and it’s possible to locate in which one a fire has started.

Addressable system – Similar to a conventional system. The key difference is that with an addressable system it’s possible to identify the exact call point or detector where the alarm was raised.

Analogue addressable system – Offers more comprehensive coverage due to the increased number of detection and notification devices that can be connected. They’re particularly suitable for large premises, such as a warehouse. In addition to the size of the property, a key reason for choosing this system is to reduce or prevent false alarms.

Wireless system – An analogue addressable system that doesn’t use cables. The key difference is that the components, such as the call points and the smoke detectors, along with the sensors, connect with the control panel wirelessly with radio signals. More detail about wireless systems is provided in the next section.


Commercial wireless fire alarm systems: pros and cons

An initial concern with commercial wireless fire alarms was with the reliability of the radio signalling they used. This technology has improved over time though and these systems offer the security and safety of traditional systems, alongside the improved visual aspect. This is especially useful for businesses that have a visually strong brand and don’t want wires to disrupt carefully designed spaces.

Pros
Quick set-up
Maintain building aesthetics
Flexible system to adapt or adjust
Can be changed depending on business needs


Cons
Higher set-up costs than traditional systems
Ongoing costs for battery replacement
More frequent battery maintenance required


Which business alarm companies are right for you?

Here are some of the top business alarm companies out there.

All three companies mentioned below are NSI Gold approved.

ADT

One of the most well-known and long-established alarm companies, ADT operate around the world. In addition to its reputation, ADT offers businesses a tailored security system. As an NSI Gold approved company, you can rest assured that the security system ADT creates for your business will be of a high standard. While every business is different – and therefore every alarm system too – here’s an insight into the kinds of products and services available from ADT:

  • Full monitoring – All intruder alarms are fully monitored, meaning keyholders and emergency response will be informed if an alarm is triggered
  • Easy integration – Alarms can be integrated to work with other security measures, such as access control and fire prevention systems
  • Remote maintenance – Should an issue occur with the system, ADT can work out what is happening remotely and often resolve it in this way too
  • ADT Smart Alarm – An app that allows you to check and control your alarm remotely

SECOM

SECOM has worked with some of the top UK high street retail brands, making it stand out from others in the business security systems crowd. This means you’ll be in safe hands if you’re looking for a business alarm, particularly if you want to start a shop. Plus, SECOM is NSI Gold approved, so whichever sector you operate in, you’ll get top quality equipment and service. So what does SECOM offer?

Intruder Alarm – Key points:

  • Round-the-clock monitoring for protection
  • Can be used by any commercial property
  • Mobile or internet-based signalling available

Wireless Intruder Alarm – Key points:

  • Continuous monitored protection
  • No wires mean a fast, fuss-free set-up
  • Ideal for small business premises

Visually Verified Intruder Alarm – Key points:

  • ARC reviews video clips
  • Battery power required only
  • Can be hired short-term; ideal for construction sites

Verisure

Offering sleek, design-focused alarm and security products, along with an NSI Gold approved ARC, Verisure is another one of the top business alarm companies. Verisure can provide high-level business alarms quickly – it offers wireless installation completed in 24 hours, without the need for structural work.

The security system Verisure offers is based around one central product – the Verisure 3G Control Panel. Other additional devices are available that can be added to it, allowing you to create a system that matches your business requirements.

Verisure 3G Control Panel

  • The only portable control panel currently available on the market
  • Battery powered
  • Range of connectivity options – 2G, 3G, GPRS, SMS

Summary

So now you’ve got a more detailed understanding of commercial alarm systems, and how to choose a product and company that’s best for your business. Here are the key takeaways:

  • An alarm offers additional protection for your property, as well as staff safety
  • Choose business security systems based on your business needs
  • Check: Accreditation, specialisation and recommendation for each alarm company
  • A fire alarm is a part of your fire risk strategy
  • Use your business premises size as a measure for what type of fire alarm you need
  • The four kinds of fire alarm are: Conventional, addressable, analogue addressable and wireless
  • Consider the pros and cons of each alarm system

What are the next steps?

Now that you’ve learned more about the types of commercial alarm systems available for fire and security protection, you can find companies that offer products and services most suited to what your business needs. How? Speak to an expert today – fill out the form at the top of the page to compare quotes for business alarm systems.