Cause for alarm

How intruder alarms can now better protect retailers

At the end of June, an update to the British Standard Code of Practice was published, covering the design, installation and configuration of intruder and hold-up alarm systems designed to generate confirmed alarm conditions. Richard Jenkins, chief executive of certification body the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) says these changes are far reaching and will open up the choice available to large and small retailers alike in protecting their premises.

Against a backdrop of annual retail robbery amounting to £25 million, according to the British Retail Consortium’s 2021 survey, Jenkins believes the latest measures to improve protection of retail premises, of all types and sizes, should assist in reducing out-of-hours thefts and other losses from incidents such as break-ins.

“Since the resumption of non-essential retail trading across the United Kingdom in April marked the easing of pandemic lockdown life, attention has refocused on measures enabling shop owners and managers to stem bottom line losses which directly impact trading margins,” he  says.

Sites secured by monitored security alarms play a central role in safeguarding retail premises and enable immediate police response to verified alarm activations. For insurance purposes, monitored alarm systems typically are required to be installed and maintained by competent providers operating to recognised industry standards accepted by the Police.

The new standards, published in BS 8243:2021, introduced a number of key technical and operational changes. At their heart is an increased capability for catching criminals using new technologies based around visual alarm confirmation before a confirmed incident is passed to the police for response.

“There are clear benefits here, in terms of reduced crime-related losses and consequently lower exposure to insurance claims,” says Jenkins. Prior to June, the Police required additional or secondary confirmation means to be used before verified alarms were passed to them for response. Since June, all has changed.

Improvements in operational capability, effectiveness and reliability of audio and video confirmation technology enable operators at alarm receiving centres to rely on it as a primary means of verifying a detected alarm as genuine.

“The pioneering use in Spain of audio and visual confirmation significantly reduced false intruder alarms there – meaning police resources were far more effectively deployed – and also prompted the greater use of visual verification within the newly revised BS 8243 here in the UK,” Jenkins tells.

“It’s hoped the Spanish experience will be followed by more widely adopted use of visual verification of alarms across the UK. NSI, along with other security industry organisations, is liaising with the NPCC, which wants to encourage this.”

To leverage the opportunity, he advises retailers to engage third-party-approved security system providers – as recognised by the Police and the insurance industry – to review the suitability of visual verification in safeguarding premises.

The revised BS 8243: 2021 Code of Practice will become mandatory for NSI’s NACOSS Gold and Systems Silver approved companies from 30th June 2022, to allow for a smooth transition. “However,” he adds, “many are already assessing adapting their offer to retailers keen to stay on the cutting edge in deterring crime, and bringing perpetrators to account.”

This was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly. Click here to subscribe.

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