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Home > Reviews > Alarm response policy

Alarm response policy



Review date 13/08/2022

No of pages


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Year of publication 06/07/2020


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As part of a feature in the June 2020 print edition of Professional Security magazine, we featured the view that the UK's - as set by the police body the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) - intruder alarm response policy was not being followed by the police; because activations by non-compliant alarms were nonetheless being responded to by police dispatch, effectively taking away the rationale for going to the time and trouble of complying with NPCC policy by intruder alarm installers and alarm receiving centres (ARCs).

Here on a blog are more details.

To give some context to the history, there was a dramatic increase in security system activations as society went towards electronic protection systems of commercial and domestic property from criminal activity. This was also added to by vehicle alarms. The situation was becoming untenable as such systems were regularly attended as a potential crime in progress. Invariably it was from a faulty sensor or failure of staff through lack of training, or indifference in the knowledge that the police would always attend. It was realised that a definitive policy was required to give justifiable reasons why the police would NOT attend a specific activation, thus correctly utilising valuable police resources to protect the vulnerable of society and protect life itself. That policy came into existence now over 24 years ago. By its implementation it is acknowledged to have been responsible for a 90 per cent reduction in police attendance to electronic sensor activations and its use has been a positive benefit to the correct utilisation of police resources; each attendance would have been at Immediate (blue light) Response, with all the risks that entails to public safety and staff.

Recently, it appears to have been decided that every police incident log should contain a further Risk Assessment which takes into account the Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigative Opportunities, Vulnerability, Evaluation, and Prevention and Intervention, this is the anagram THRIVE [also featured in the June 2020 print edition of the magazine].

Here is a link to the policy statement etc.:

The policy today has the stated objectives:
· ‘To reduce the number of false calls passed to the police
· To provide an immediate police response to compliant security systems
· To provide guidance to the public and security companies on police response to non-compliant systems
· To place responsibility for compliance with the policy on a UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) accredited certification body. Enforcement of standards is not a police function
· To achieve a unified approach to the administration process’.
Over 24 years the policy document has constantly been updated, at the time of commencing this the document was updated in October 2018, now a revised one is published in 2020 and is downloaded as a Word document in the top left corner of the section of attached documents near the start.

The downloaded document states on the first page: ‘These revised requirements have been produced and approved by the NPCC Crime Operations Coordination Committee. Requirement produced by the NPCC should be used by chief officers to shape police responses to ensure that the general public experience consistent levels of service. …’

So, each constabulary should provide a consistent level of service, in short it is a national policy and having published the document, each constabulary should uniformly act within its principles.

Within the NPCC Requirements document those alarms that are compliant are called Type A systems (see 3.1). Those that have made an informed decision NOT to take part are called Type B systems (see 3.6). The bulk of activations are the Intruder alarms, then it is the Hold Up alarms, then a very small number of CCTV systems.

If any such system has been issued with a URN, then it is a Type A, alarm and gets an Immediate police response. Those that declined to accept the police policy were classed as Type B alarms and it is for the keyholder to attend the scene first (in the 2018 document this was section 3.6.2, now section 3.6.3). If they witness what they believe to be criminal activity, then they are to contact the police who would attend a report of a crime. There are set conditions on the Type A alarm, namely it must be of a certain British and European Standard, fitted by a compliant company, whose staff had all been disclosure checked, sold to potential customers in a certain ethical manner, and if it had a certain number of false activations in a rolling 12 months period, then it is placed in a ‘Withdrawn’ status, and if the failure was not corrected it would eventually be placed in a Deleted status.

Crucially the compliant ARC cannot contact the police about the activation during this ‘Withdrawn’ period; it has fallen to the same status as the Type B alarms – a keyholder must attend, not the police. This is a crucial part of the policy as it ensures that the premise owners conduct correct training of their staff to prevent false activations and also any alarm sensor fault is immediately reported and corrected, to prevent another similar failure, thus risking being ‘Withdrawn’. These are stringent and onerous requirements to prevent such false activations, for no premise owner wishes it or their staff to be vulnerable through no police response.

By devising and applying this policy the NPCC author, currently the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, working with a police initiative company called ‘Secured By Design’ (who write the policy for signing off by the author), ensure that police resources are effectively managed. It is crucial to understand that it is a policy of Risk Management, NOT Risk Avoidance; if it were the latter then in order to be fair to all, that would entail attending every activation that was reported to the police. All Chief Officers have agreed to this policy, published it on their website, and issue URN’s; crucially none have objected to its basic structure or principles. Although separate in their geographic nature, by strategically applying this policy, the intention is to bring about a realisation in the public and commercial businesses, many of a national nature, that irrespective where they reside or conduct business, to gain a police response to an activation they MUST have fitted a compliant Type A URN system, but that only works if all Chief Constables act in unison. The alarm companies are partners in the scheme, and many have taken that business risk to achieve the necessary compliance status in order to gain that potential remuneration from customers who wish to have fitted a URN alarm.

The public have been given an informed choice on whether to fit a Type A system that will generate a police response to a sensor activation. Some may disagree, but since that information is published, it is both fair and ethical for the police to uniformly apply this policy of Risk Management. Those NPCC officers have fulfilled their function of managing their limited resources in an effective and nationally strategic manner.

Do they?

Through a dispute with one police force over its incorrect application I began to suspect that there was great disparity on how this policy was being implemented nationally and decided to apply to each constabulary in the country to check whether this policy was being uniformly, fairly and therefor ethically applied.

More including constabulary responses to Freedom Of Information (FoI) requests regarding this policy’s application, at