Alarm System Gradings, Police Response Requirements and Insurance Policies
We decided to group these subjects into one page as they're all closely related. This information was updated in July 2019 and is accurate at time of writing.
Burglar Alarm Grades
Grade 1 Lowest
Intruders are expected to have little knowledge of the alarm system and may be restricted to a limited range of tools.
Intruders are expected to have a little more knowledge of the alarm system and use a general range of tools and some specialist equipment.
Intruders are expected to be conversant with the alarm system and have a comprehensive range of tools and portable electronic equipment.
Grade 4 Highest
When security takes precedence over all other factors. Intruders are expected to have the resources to plan an intrusion in detail and have a full range of equipment, including the means to substitute vital components in the alarm system.
Intruder alarm systems in the UK have to conform to European Standards BS EN 50131 series.
EN 50131 defines four grades of Intruder alarm system, 4 being the highest. The grade is measured by how resilient the alarm system is to attacks by intruders and other outside influences.
All components of the system are graded, including the control panel, motion detectors (PIRs) and signalling equipment.
Whilst most installers will design a system using components of the same grade, it may sometimes be appropriate to mix grades of components. However, the overall system will be graded of that of the lowest graded component.
Residential installations will typically require a Grade 1 or 2 with larger homes falling into Grade 3. Most commercial premises will require a Grade 2 or 3 alarm system.
The majority of insurance companies require a Grade 3 system where the system is a requirement of insurance cover.
Police Response Requirements
Some people may be confused to hear that a police response alarm is not actually connected / linked to the police at all. It is connected to an alarm receiving centre (ARC).
It is then the ARC's job to monitor the alarm systems and, in the event of alarm activation, analyse the signals sent from the activated alarm and, if the required criteria is met, notify the police.
A Unique Reference Number (URN) is required for all police response alarms. This unique number is a police identifier specific to the property.
For sake of speed and security, the ARC will simply pass this URN to the relevant county police force once they've deemed police response necessary.
Applying for a URN
It is usually the job of the alarm installation company to apply for the URN on your behalf. The URN fee for intruder alarms is £43.49 plus VAT (£52.19) and usually takes around 10 working days to be processed.
Intruder alarm systems on police response will also require an annual maintenance contract, which includes 2 system inspections per year. With more advanced technology, one of these maintenance checks may be carried out remotely, offsite via remote access equipment.
Police response levels
There are two main categories of police response in the UK, these are level 1 response and level 3 response.
What about level 2, I hear you ask.
Well, although Level 2 response still exists in Scotland under the ACPOS policy, insurance companies typically only recognise Level 1 and Level 3.
- Level 1 – immediate response (subject to priorities)
- Level 3 – no police response (response withdrawn)
An alarm system with Level 1 response can be downgraded to Level 3 as a result of three false calls to the police for intruder alarms or three from personal attack alarms in a rolling twelve-month period.
Downgraded alarm systems can be re-instated to Level 1 after a period of stability.
Note: Be sure to inform your insurance company if your intruder alarm system is downgraded.
Although this will probably mean you'll have to pay a premium until you get re-instated to level 1 - at least you won't run the risk of voiding your insurance policy.
The requirements and impact of alarm systems on contents insurance policies
Alarms are generally fitted to protect your contents and insurers will set certain requirements, usually dependant on 2 factors;
- The area you live in, and
- The value of contents/high risk items you have at the property.
As a rule of thumb; the safer the area you live in, the higher the contents sum insured or valuables limit you can have before an alarm becomes a requirement.
So, for arguments sake - a property in Colchester would probably not require an alarm until the contents sum insured was around £200k or the homeowner had jewellery over £50k in value. A London property would probably require an alarm with £150k contents, £30k jewellery.
In regards to discounts, some insurance companies will give up to 10% discount for a property with an alarm but this must be on a maintenance contract. However, recent research suggests online insurers listed on Compare the market appear to give very little, if any, discount for alarms.
On standard home insurance, alarms are typically not required until you have over £75k in contents value and those policies which do, usually require a professionally installed system with maintenance contract as a minimum.
Impact on high value properties
In the High Net worth (HNW) world, alarms are certainly more of a requirement and more popular.
Again, these are triggered by total value of contents and/or valuables and/or area.
Other security is also taken into account in this market, like CCTV, safes, security gates etc.
As a minimum requirement, the intruder system would need to be professionally monitored (usually dual path) with an annual maintenance contract to attract a discount (around 5-10%). Additional discounts can be earned for BT RedCare alarms (additional 2.5%). When coupled with other security measures, these discounts can be a little bigger.
London is a good area to use as an example as crime/burglary rates are higher. In the HNW market a property in London with £150k contents would require a monitored/maintained alarm system whereas Norfolk, for example, would not require one until contents exceeded £250k.
Please take note!
If your insurance policy factors a discount on the basis you have an alarm system fitted, YOU'D BETTER MAKE SURE YOU ALWAYS SWITCH IT ON WHEN YOU LEAVE THE PROPERTY.
Insurance companies will investigate this, via the alarm system log, and may not pay out should they discover the alarm was not set during the time of break-in.
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