Like many people, you might consider a security system (more commonly known as a burglar alarm) an unnecessary expense. After all, if you’re covered by insurance, you’ll be able to replace anything that gets stolen during a break-in.
However, as most victims of burglary will tell you, it’s not just about the theft of your possessions, but the thought that a stranger has been in your home and the anxiety this can cause, not to mention the damage that can result. And if you’re sceptical about how effective a deterrent an alarm can be, then consider that your home is 10 times more likely to be burgled if you don’t have one, according to government research.
Another factor that deters people from fitting alarms to their homes is a lack of knowledge of how to go about finding the right alarm, who to buy it from and who to get to install it. So here’s a quick guide of what to look for:
Choosing your alarm
There are two main types of security system:
- Remote signaling alarms (Type A) automatically inform a monitoring station should the alarm be triggered, which then notifies the police. The monitoring services can costs up to a few hundred pounds, so check this before going ahead. You can provide a password to stop a false alarm, as after a certain number of false alarms, the police will not respond.
- Audible-only alarms (Type B) ring the moment they are triggered, either by a thief or if you press a personal button. The system relies on someone hearing the siren and calling the police.
Who should install your alarm?
To make sure that you get the best service from your alarm installation company, the Greater Manchester Police recommend that you choose one that is accredited to the National Security Inspectorate (NSI or NACOSS) and the Security Systems Alarm and Inspection Board (SSAIB). This will be a requirement if you want a Type A burglar alarm with police monitoring.
The installation and maintenance should conform to certain standards. For wired systems, the installation and maintenance should meet British Standard BS 4737 or BS EN 50131 and conform to the ACPO Intruder Alarm Policy. For wireless systems, it needs to be a BS 6799 Class VI alarm to conform to both British Standards and the ACPO Intruder Alarm Policy. For both types, it’s worth checking this and getting it in writing when you have the alarm installed.
Consumer champion Which? recommends getting quotes from at least three installers, both independent and chains, to compare costs and what the prices include. You can get a cost estimate over the phone, but the company or installer should visit your home to give a more realistic price, including equipment and installation costs, and this should be free.
The information you’ll need
Here are some of the questions an alarm installation company may ask and factors that you will need to consider:
- How many zones (rooms) will you need covered?
- What is the layout of your home?
- Do you have a garden or outdoor space?
- Do you have flat roofs that could help a burglar to get into your home?
- Might you extend your home in the future, in which case you’ll want an alarm that will allow you to add to it?
- Do you have pets and/or children? These often require different types of sensors.
Carry out these essential checks
Finally, Which? recommends you do the following before buying:
- Inspectorate-approved companies/installers carry identity cards and will have been checked through the Criminal Records Bureau, so check for identification.
- Make sure they are accredited to the National Security Inspectorate (NSI or NACOSS) and the Security Systems Alarm and Inspection Board (SSAIB).
- If you want a police-monitoring contract, the alarm company or installer you use will need to be registered with the local police.
- Be wary of firms that quote crime figures for your area to sell you an alarm – these are often invented. The Office for National Statistics website has real figures.
- Don’t buy your alarm system from cold callers.
- Check with your insurer that they approve of the alarm type and installer.
- Be wary of costs for extra features or add-ons – our page on the cost of burglar alarms and installation will advise you on how to make sure you get the best price for what you want.