Anyone who has ever come home to find they have been burgled knows the sick feeling of violation. The realisation that a stranger has been through your treasured possessions is almost worse than any financial loss incurred.
It’s a sad fact but Britain has the best burglars in Europe, according to a study by the European Union. The results, which were published in an article by the Sunday Times, discovered that break-ins here are more likely to be successful than anywhere else, even though householders are also the most likely to have burglar alarms.
This alarming fact means that an ordinary alarm bought in your local DIY store may not be sufficient to protect you and your family or business from the terror of being robbed.
Now that you’ve been through the difficult process of buying your property, don’t let a nasty burglar turn your dream home into a nightmare. Employ a professional and sleep soundly safe in the knowledge your most valuable asset is well protected.
Why do I need a professional?
A badly installed security system is as effective as no system at all, and will only waste your time and money. In most cases alarm systems need to be installed correctly to function correctly and most security companies advise against installing a DIY system unless you have the electrical knowledge and the practical skill to do so.
Luckily the Security Industry Authority
(SIA) estimate that there over 8,000 security companies in the UK market, employing approximately 350,000 people. There are many excellent alarm installation companies around, all fitting systems that comply with the relevant British Standards.
A trained professional can tailor each security system to your property’s particular needs. For example the more isolated you are, the more you would benefit from a monitored alarm, where a designated company would be alerted should your alarm go off. Wire free alarms, though more expensive, are particularly useful in rented accommodation where you may not be allowed to make any alterations.
How do I find someone?
A quick internet search should pull up your local professionals, but perhaps the best source is a recommendation by a friend or family member. Another handy tip is to have a look around your neighbourhood to see which other companies bell boxes are fitted.
It is also worth checking with the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board
- a specialist Certification Body who license providers of electronic security systems, fire detection and alarm systems and guarding security services. SSAIB have in excess of 1200 companies on their register, and also offer useful guidance when trying to find the right company for your needs.
What should I know before I employ someone?
Although a certified professional will ensure your system is installed correctly, it is also important that when he leaves you are completely clear on how to use it, and also that no damage was done to your property during the installation. Before employing someone it is best to make sure the installer is covered for any damage he may do to your home, nothing usually goes wrong but plastic pipes for example can be difficult to detect in walls.
Never be afraid to make suggestions or even specify key features for your own alarm system. Explain to him how you intend to use the alarm system. For example do you want to set it at night or while you are at home during the day. Could you just set individual zones if you wanted to? And remember to ask for pet sensors if you have a cat or dog.
If you are buying your system from a sales representative, be sure to ask for brochures which show the equipment they will be installing and make sure you are happy that it will go well with your decor and that it is really fit for the purpose they are specifying.
Finally be sure to check that your chosen company has all the relevant insurances including the efficacy (failure to perform) insurance, and make sure they offer 24/7 cover, on every day of the year.
What types of burglar alarms are there?
There are basically two types of burglar alarm and further two options within that for you to consider when it comes to choosing your alarm system.
Audible only (Bells only)
This alarm sounds at the premises only. Response is reliant on somebody contacting the police to report it. However many police forces have a policy whereby they will not attend audible only alarms unless there is additional evidence to suggest a crime is being committed.
The alarm sounds at the premises and a signal is sent to an alarm receiving centre via your phone line, mobile network or even by satellite. The receiving centre will contact the police and your nominated key holders, if any. The centre will also try to filter out false alarms and, in the case of a personal attack activation, they will try to contact the premises.
Both these alarms are available in a further two formats:
Wire free and Hard wired
Wire free alarms are easy to install but they are usually more expensive than a wired system. Wire free alarms come in six classes. The higher the class, the more safeguards are built in. Professional installers will not supply a system below class six, nor will the police accept a lower class if monitoring is to be considered.
Hard wired alarms are more reliable and cheaper than wire free alarms, but they take longer to install. Most alarm companies are expert in concealing the cables and they should always try keep disruption and mess to a minimum.
For all kinds of alarms, however, the control panel should be kept well hidden. Ideal locations are behind a locked door, in the attic or perhaps the garage. Access to this main control panel must be protected by a detector. If a burglar finds this he could shut up your bells and internal sirens in less than 30 seconds without damaging the alarm system at all.
How much will it cost?
The cost of alarm systems can vary greatly according to there level of sophistication, and the installation charges can differ greatly dependant upon the type of premises you want to secure. The typical cost for a home security system (Bells Only) will be around £500, and upwards of £700 for your basic monitored system. But both these price guides could easily rise to several thousand for larger and more complex systems. A good idea is to get several other quotes from reputable installers before making your choice, but remember that the cheapest installer is not necessarily the best.
Home CCTV systems are becoming increasingly popular for as they allow you to see and hear your visitors, monitor your property and act as a visible deterrent to burglars. In fact a survey carried out by security company Micromark
found that 67% of burglars said they would be put off burgling a house that had CCTV fitted. In fact, 6 out of 10 of the convicted burglars surveyed by had either been caught on CCTV or knew someone else who had been.
There are several options when it comes to CCTV. The most basic systems simply plug into your existing TV and the cameras are weatherproof, making them suitable for indoor or outdoor use. More sophisticated technology includes a rolling CCTV camera system with which you can monitor your home via the internet or phone.
provide this package including installation, gas detectors and can add an infra-red perimeter beam for £4,000. Urmet Domus
supply other top of the range products including the 2GO two-wire video entry system with modem that will send a seven-second video clip to your mobile phone for £1,364.75; Semplice, a stylish Italian home-automation system to control lighting, heating and water costs £499; and the Utopia colour video monitor will cost you £375.
It is worth remembering, however, that generally, low-visibility security is best: a flashy bank of CCTV cameras will draw attention to your home and suggest that it contains goodies worth stealing so talk to your professional about the package that best suits your needs.
What other options are there?
Burglar alarms and CCTV are extremely effective deterrents but a professional will also be able to advise you on many other security devices which can enhance the protection of your property.
Security lighting will flood your driveway, your garden or the outside of your house with light whenever movement is detected.
Timers and lighting adaptors will give the illusion that someone is home by switching on and off lights, radios and TVs according to their settings. Most models can perform up to 25 on/off switches a day, including a random on/off facility, and a dusk/dawn facility.
Key holding is one step up from a basic alarm. Local service providers will check out your property within 30 minutes of the alarm going off. Nikaro
offer this service for an annual fee of £375, plus £37 for the first hour of a call-out and £25 thereafter. Key Matters
who are located in London, offer the same service plus they will check your car for £14.70 per month and call-out charges are £15 (8am to 6pm) and £25 (6pm to 8am).
If you are going to be away from your property for an extended period it might be worth looking into a housesitter as well. Companies such as Homesitters
supply vetted housesitters who are normally former police officers or retired couples who enjoy the extra cash and a holiday of sorts. The average price ranges from £30 to £40 per day, plus extra for the sitter’s food and travel expenses. But it’s worth shelling out the cash as the sitters will look after pets, can deal with unexpected surprises like a leak or electrical blackout, and cover you against sneaky insurance clauses that insist you cannot leave your home vacant for more than 28 days.
Finally if an intruder has managed to break in to your property safes offer one of the simplest solutions for safeguarding your valuables. Jewellery, cash and important documents can all be protected even while a thief is inside your home. Most models are manufactured in toughened steel to offer maximum security.
What else should I consider?
A fire can start very easily and can spread with frightening speed. The Government Fire Information body estimate that each year alone there are more than 68,000 fires in people's homes, resulting in 400 deaths and 13,800 injuries.
A security professional will be able to advise you on the best way of protecting you and your family from fire. Your local fire station will also be able to advise you if safety regulations should change in the future.
When you move into your new property, your first line of defence against fire should be to fit a smoke alarm. Smoke does not wake people up if they are asleep, it just sends them into a deeper sleep before eventually killing them. So it is important to have a fully functioning smoke alarm that can signal danger for you and your family.
What kind of smoke alarm should I get?
There are many models of smoke alarms and a trained security advisor or sales representative should be able to tailor the alarm to your property's particular needs. Whichever model you choose, however, make sure British Standard (BS) 5446 and preferably also carries the British Standard Kitemark or PCB Horseshoe mark.
If you are renting your new property then it's important to be aware that landlords do not always have a legal responsibility to fit a smoke alarm. They must however provide adequate escape routes incase of a fire and depending on the size of the property they may have to provide smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
The following websites were used in researching this article, and may provide further information if so desired.
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