Securing the right alarm system to protect your business

Most contents insurance policies will insist on an alarm system. A high-tech, monitored alarm will make sure you're covered in the event of a break in

Starting a business comes with many unexpected costs. Some of those costs can’t be avoided while others can be significantly reduced, if you know how.

It’s likely there’s an entry in your project plan budget for ‘insurance’, whether it’s public liability or contents insurance. It’s less likely you’ve considered a security system, but is often a requirement of your insurance policy.

Since most business environments contain expensive items, PCs, printers, not to mention stock, you’ll find that most contents insurance policies will insist on an alarm system.

The insurer will often specify certain requirements of an alarm, depending on the value of potential loss in the event of a break-in.

As standard they normally request that your alarm is fitted and maintained annually by an accredited alarm company. The two accrediting bodies recognised by U.K. insurers are NSI (formally NACOSS) and SSAIB.

On top of this they may ask that your alarm is monitored by a professional alarm receiving center (ARC).

The two main types of monitoring options are police monitoring and keyholder monitoring.

Police monitoring

Contrary to popular belief, police monitored alarms are not directly connected to, and monitored by, the police. All monitored alarms are monitored by an ARC, whose job it is to contact the police if they receive a confirmed alarm activation signal from your alarm panel. Confirmed alarm activation simply means that two or more devices (door contacts, motion sensors etc.) have been activated.

Police monitored alarms are also the most expensive form of monitoring, usually required on higher risk business properties. Police monitored alarms usually start from £35 per month.

Keyholder monitoring

Keyholder monitored alarms are quite different. Whilst still monitored by an ARC, the role of the ARC is to simply contact a list of pre-agreed key-holders if the alarm is activated. Keyholder monitoring is less expensive and usually starts from £20 per month.

It’s worth mentioning that key-holders for the property are also contacted by the ARC for police monitored alarms at the same time as informing the local police force.

Which security company and alarm system is right for your business?

To a degree, the main requirements are dictated by your insurer; these factors can’t be changed but the finer features are firmly in your hands.

But what features should you care about?

With the rise of the Internet of Things and IP connected devices it’s probably no surprise to hear that alarm systems can now be linked to your smart phones.

Secure apps will show you the status of your alarm and allow you to remotely arm or disarm the alarm from anywhere in the world. Like all apps, alarm apps require a decent wireless data connection, either Wi-Fi or 3G/4G to operate. Remote arming or disarming is not allowed, under APCO conformity, for police monitored systems.

This can be a huge reassurance to people. No more “Did I remember to set the alarm when I left?” moments.

The app will also notify you when the alarm is armed or disarmed and by whom. This may be of interest if you’re the business owner and want to see what time the last person left the office or, for example, what time office workers, cleaners, delivery drivers etc. came in and left the office over the weekend.

The app itself will obviously alert you when the alarm is triggered too.

However, dig even deeper and there’s much more an app connected alarm can offer, providing that you understand the technology exists. Ask your alarm surveyor about app-connected intruder alarms with ‘visual verification’, coined smart alarms.

A smart alarm enables you to see, via a live video stream or a snapshot JPEG image, what caused your alarm to activate. The footage is then sent, via a secure cloud connection, to your smartphone in almost real-time.

And if your insurance provider requests you have a monitored alarm, there are ARC’s out there who can monitor those visuals on your behalf too. That can provide powerful visual evidence of a live break-in of your business if you need to prosecute!

If your insurance company has not specified a monitored alarm you’re in luck (financially)!

A smart alarm can be installed, either DIY or professionally fitted, and setup so you monitor the alarm yourself via the app. This negates the need for monthly monitoring costs, saving you hundreds of pounds a year while giving you the reassurance you need, previously only available through an ARC or auto-dialler system.