What is a Monitored Alarm, and how do Alarm Receiving Centres Work?
By Rowan Barry
Jan 09, 2020
An alarm receiving centre (ARC) is a highly secure monitoring station, manned round the clock by trained experts, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
ARC teams are trained to monitor intruder alarms, fire alarms, panic alarms, vulnerable people monitoring systems and CCTV. As soon as an activation signal is sent to a specialist monitoring centre, of which there are numerous around the UK, the monitoring team instigates the relevant response.
Activation signals could be an intruder alarm being triggered, or anything untoward relayed via a CCTV camera. Monitoring teams are trained to filter false alarms from those which require emergency services, such as a live burglary, or a fire. When a genuine alert is confirmed, the ARC team immediately contacts the relevant emergency service.
Some ARCs offer specialist services, such as lone worker monitoring. When an alert is received from a lone worker indicating a threat, the team is able to listen in live to the situation. The trained ARC worker provides reassurance whilst they decide whether it is necessary to summon the emergency services.
Why use a monitored alarm?
Security and fire alarms alert property owners to emergencies. However, surveys have revealed that up to three quarters of people in Britain ignore burglar alarms, usually because they were unsure as to what to do when they heard them.
Monitored alarm systems take that uncertainty away by leaving the decision on how to react to trained security experts who are readily prepared to respond immediately to any activations.
When a monitored alarm is activated, it sends a signal to the alarm receiving centre. ARCs vet the incoming alarm signal and, when it is verified, the property owner, assigned key holders and, if registered for police response, the police are notified so that the necessary actions can be taken.
Monitored alarm systems remove the need to employ systems or personnel to keep tabs on your intruder and fire alarms around the clock. An ARC provides a more efficient and affordable way of protecting a property, and the people in it.
Using an ARC also means a faster response from the emergency services. ARC teams are ready to respond 24/7 and will contact the emergency services immediately once an activation has been verified. Accredited ARCs hold a Unique Reference Number (URN), allowing them to alert the emergency services without having to use the 999 operator system, making it easier to get to the right services much faster.
Monitored alarms can also help reduce the cost of insurance premiums, with some insurance providers reducing prices for properties using monitored systems due to the lowered risks.
How do police response monitored alarms work?
With monitored intruder alarms registered for police response in addition to the designated key holders, the ARC notifies the emergency services of a confirmed alarm. Officers attend the property as quickly as possible to apprehend any criminals caught in the act, or gather evidence and take further action as necessary.
If the police are called to three false alarms over the course of 12 months then the response service may be withdrawn pending system maintenance.
How do key holder response monitored alarms work?
Monitored alarms not registered for police response are generally managed by key holders individually specified by the property owner, or professional key holders, also known as Key Guards. They attend properties when there is an alarm or CCTV activation, gaining access using a set of keys they hold for the property.
Whilst Key Guards cannot make arrests, they play an important role in ensuring a property remains secure following a break-in by performing security checks and arranging the necessary locksmiths and tradespeople to make the property safe.
How does monitored CCTV work?
An alarm receiving centre remotely accesses live CCTV footage to assist them in assessing the cause of an alarm activation so they can arrange the relevant response.
CCTV integrated with intruder alarm systems assists in reducing the false alarm rate, allowing the ARC team to use live footage to check whether an activation was accidental. In the event of a genuine activation where audio features are installed at a property, the ARC is able to make verbal announcements. Such announcements often have the effect of deterring the intruder from further action.
How does fire alarm monitoring work?
Fire alarms activated when a building is inhabited have the obvious benefit of alerting occupants of the need to alert the emergency services and evacuate. However, when a building is empty and a fire breaks out, monitoring is vital to ensure the fire service is summoned immediately.
For certain types of building, monitored fire alarm systems are a legal requirement. Schools, offices and care homes for example require a monitored service. Just as with intruder alarms, monitored fire alarms send signals to an ARC where specialist teams initiate a response. This usually involves summoning the fire brigade, as well as notifying key holders.
Approved alarm receiving centres
Alarm receiving centres are required to comply with a range of standards. National Security Inspectorate (NSI) accreditation is one standard that Barry Bros Security demands.
An NSI approved ARC must comply with British Standard BS 5979 for technical standards, together with insurance and finance standards, codes of practice and quality management compliant with ISO 9001.
As an NSI Gold approved alarm installer, Barry Bros Security only uses ARCs that meet all exacting NSI requirements, delivering complete peace of mind for your business. NSI approval also provides reassurance in the integrity of intruder alarm system maintenance and monitoring.