Choosing a Security System

Choosing a Security System

Choosing a Security System

Many businesses used a combination of security measures to create the most appropriate blend of protection for their needs. The choice very much depends upon the nature of the business or the nature of the assets to be protected. They may include the following:

Intruder Alarms

There are a wide range of choices available, from bells-only systems to the more sophisticated range of monitored systems. Below is a brief review of some of the options, which might help with the amount of terminology that you will encounter when reviewing what systems are available.

Bells-Only (Audible) Alarms

This is generally the most basic option, which is unlikely to be acceptable to an insurer if you are protecting commercial premises. In simple terms, if the alarm is triggered, an audible alarm sounds to alert you - or a neighbour - that an intruder has entered (or is trying to enter) the premises.

The system should always be fitted by a certificated installer to the relevant British Standards. 

Speech Dialler or Auto (GSM) Dialler System

These will be a cheaper option than having a fully monitored system.

With a speech dialler - when the alarm is activated - pre-programmed numbers of your choice will be dialled and a pre-recorded message alerts the keyholder or the person in the business responsible for responding to the alarm.

However, if the phone line is cut or disabled no signal can be sent. 

Under no circumstances should the Police telephone number be programmed into the auto dialler.

A GSM alarm unit send you and/or other contacts a text message. It is not dependent on the phone line.

It can typically send a text to up to three numbers, there is no third-party monitoring and can use any major high-street SIM on a network of your choice (for example O2, EE, Vodafone and so on.)

This can be a cost-effective option, as an alternative to a monitoring contract.

Monitored Systems

The system installed may be the same as (or similar to) a bells-only system, except that - when the alarm is activated - a signal informs a remote monitoring centre. They may confirm that the alarm is not false and, if necessary, they inform the Police.

It is important that the monitoring centre is recognised by the Police. A unique reference number (URN) - which identified the premises - must be obtained by the installer from the Police, when the system is installed. To get this number, the installer and the monitoring centre must be registered with a certification body - such as SSAIB.

Monitored systems do not guarantee a Police response.

If it is reasonably certain that someone has entered the premises, it will be flagged as a priority call. However, if a system has three false alarms in a year - four in Scotland - the URN will be revoked by the Police.

To be reconnected, evidence that the problem has been resolved must be provided to the Police within three months.

Digital Communications (Digicom)

With this system, alarm signals from the system are monitored by an Alarm Receving Centre (ARC), but a failure of the line - such as the line being cut - will prevent an alarm signal being received at the ARC.  Typically, with this system, the line is checked once a day - grade dependent - by a 'test signal' being sent to the ARC, where a user is notified if it's not received.

Monitored Signalling Systems

These are systems that monitor the “signal path” between the protected premises and the alarm receiving centre that monitors the alarm system.

In the event of the signalling path, usually a telephone line, being interrupted - usually the cutting of the telephone cable, in the case of a burglary at or near the protected premises - an alarm is activated at the alarm receiving centre and either the Police or the key holder of the premises is informed. The Police can only be informed if the alarm can be “confirmed.”

Dual-Path Signalling Systems

There are several types of dual-path systems, but only some include a digital communicator combined with a GSM system (using mobile phone technology.)

Under normal circumstances, alarm signals are sent to the alarm receiving centre by the digital communicator. However, if this is not possible - eg due to the cable having been cut - the signals are sent by the GSM system. 

Other systems use a monitored signalling system, which are also combined with a GSM system. In the event of the monitored signalling system being unable to send an alarm signal to its monitoring centre, the signal is sent by the GSM system.

Dual-path signalling systems have a great benefit, in that they allow an alarm condition followed by a signalling path fault - or vice versa - to be treated as a “confirmed alarm" and, therefore, obtain a Police response. Similarly, faults in both signalling paths can be treated as "confirmed alarms" and obtain a Police response.

IP (Internet Protocol) Signalling

While this option has been available for sometime, it is still the ‘new kid on the block’ - as far as tried and trusted solutions go.

Systems use IP signalling to connect to an alarm receiving centre, via the public Internet - using the ISP of your choice. The system is dependent upon the in-house network setup, but may provide alternative signal pathways to ensure signal continuity.

However, to some, the technology has yet to be fully established and you would need to check with your insurer that they are satisfied with security and fire alarms being routed in this way.

Access Control

Controlling access to your site, building or parts of it is an effective way of ensuring the security of the premises and staff. There are potential access solutions from gates and turnstiles to biometric options.

Access control systems can also be linked to a range of human resource management systems and asset tracking. It is important to ensure that the system complies with the requirement of the Disabilities Discrimination Act.

Security Guarding Services

This service covers a wide range of options, from permanent staff on site to contract security checking the premises at agreed intervals.

Whether in-house staff or contracted, this sector of security industry has been subject to increased Government attention and it is vital that your security staff are appropriately licenced by the Security Industry Authority, under the requirements of the Security Industry Act. For more details look, at the SIA website or follow the SIA ACS link on this website.


A range of CCTV options are available, to provide surveillance of the perimeter or vulnerable areas of a site. Advances in technology have enabled a wider range of CCTV options and data capture, which can be used to provide evidence of criminal activity.

The installation and setting up of CCTV cameras requires knowledge of the Human Rights Legislation, particularly if cameras impact upon public space. It is also important to ensure that CCTV is reasonable and proportionate to the risk - as well as ensuring that the data captured is processed in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

Remote video response centre (RVRC) CCTV systems draw upon a wide range of standards and require a high degree of cooperation between system installers, monitoring centres and the premises occupiers and managers. Monitoring personnel will confirm that an activation is genuine before alerting the Police.

Remotely monitored CCTV systems can provide an economic solution, where property protection is required 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Monitoring Centres

Monitoring centres perform a central and critical role in both the fire and intruder alarm sectors. Activations from monitored intruder alarm systems and fire alarm systems must be routed through an alarm receiving centre (ARC) for verification, prior to being passed to the relevant authorities.

Remote video response centres have a critical role in monitoring images from detector operated CCTV systems. RVRC operators verify images received and, if appropriate, incidents may be notified to the Police.

Please click here to find a SSAIB-registered firm near you.