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insurance-adviceInstalling an intruder alarm in your business or home is a sensible and prudent measure but what is the police response to intruder alarms in the United Kingdom?

In recent years, in excess of 90% of all alarm activations have been false alarms placing a tremendous burden on the time of the police force.

In response to this the Association of Chief Police Officers has published guidelines to all forces in the UK on what is good practice and the steps that can be taken to reduce the number of false alarms that are attended and thereby encourage good practice amongst both intruder alarms companies and the end user, whether they be business or personal clients.

Forces have generally adopted the policy, some show a little more flexibility in the categorisation of the Police Response levels but we shall look at the ACPO position on this.

The ACPO Unified Intruder Alarm Policy recognises two types of intruder alarm systems and provides a default response level for each;

Type A Intruder Alarm

These are Remote Signalling Alarms, including intruder alarms terminating at approved central monitoring stations. They must be maintained and used in accordance with British Standard 4737/BS EN 50131, BS 7042 (high security systems) or BS 6799 Class VI (wire-free alarms).

These alarms will be registered with the police and identified by a unique reference number (URN) and can include personal attack alarms.The URN allows more accurate monitoring of the performance of the system and provides the police with the details of the site and the key holders at the premises, rather than this information having to be passed over by the alarm monitoring company.

Type B Intruder Alarm

Audible Only and Hybrid Alarms, including bells-only and automatic dialling alarms, as well as alarms from non-compliant companies and non-compliant central stations. Unique reference numbers are not issued for these systems.

There are two standard categories of police response, we have maintained the former category classifications, which may seem confusing but many people will be familiar with these classifications and what they mean. The level 1 and level 3 response are recognised by insurance companies and this information can play a key part in the security conditions applicable to your policy.

Level 1 Police Response

This response applies as default to Type A alarms. The police response to their activation will be based on the assumption that an offence is taking place, but against the background of competing urgent calls and available resources.

This response level is not guaranteed and it is conditional upon the number of false activations in any 12 month period, in which case the activation may receive a lower priority police attendance. Police forces do not have an entirely unified approach in how many false activations are needed to trigger action but this may be three or four in a 12 month period.  If you are in breach of the “acceptable” level of false activations you will receive a notification from the police advising you that  the level1 response has been removed and that you will receive a level 3 response. If you do fall foul of this there are steps you can take to “rehabilitate” your alarm system which largely rely on a period without activations.

Level 3 Police Response

This applies to Type B alarms and to Type A that have had the Level 1 response removed.  In order for the police to attend the police must receive some independent verification, such as a witness, in addition to the triggering of the alarm to confirm that an intrusion or offence is actually taking place.

The previous level 2 response is still in operation in some areas and provides for police attendance subject to availability of manpower and prioritisation. This level should be ignored for most intents and purposes.

Does the Police Response Level have an effect on insurance?

When you take out a policy of insurance you will be asked questions regarding the alarm protection. If you have informed the insurer that you have a Type A Alarm or they have required a Type A alarm, they will have alos requested the police response level. If you have informed the insurer that there is a level 1 response in place, or they have required this, then if this response level is removed by the police you will almost certainly be in breach of a policy warranty and your insurance may be invalid.

If you receive notification that the response level has been downgraded, you should contact your insurer immediately. You may be able to negotiate a temporary change to your policy terms and conditions whilst you are on a level 3 response, such as an increased policy excess of some form of co-insurance that will enable you to retain some level of insurance in place.