Founder of CSL and Chairman of the BSIA, Simon Banks, was recently asked to speak to Grand Designs Magazine on behalf of the industry. The magazine is the official monthly publication to accompany the hit television show hosted by presenter Kevin McCloud.
How can you determine the level of security you really need?
Professional installation companies provide risk assessments to match security and insurance requirements to specific customer needs. The type of security varies with property design and budget, although there are many core dynamics that apply universally. Today many systems are wireless, as such they are non-invasive and won’t damage the aesthetics of your property.
Where can you go for independent expert advice and why? And what can you expect from such a service?
Contact your local inspectorate recognised Security Installation Company. The security installation sector is highly regulated and there are two principle inspectorates: the NSI (www.nsi.org.uk) and SSAIB (www.ssaib.org) both of whom host a list of approved companies on their websites. All companies are audited so you can trust the advice they provide is correct – it’s a stamp of approval. Go for the companies that have a Quality Management System and are accredited to the highest standards. Trade associations such as the BSIA, FIA and FSA also exist to ensure a professional and robust, standards-driven environment of competency and knowledge.
What are the types of systems available? From simple add-ons - such as a smart Ring doorbell - to fully integrated systems. How much can you expect to pay for a fully integrated system - what is the starting price? Why would you choose a professionally installation over DIY kit?
There is a whole spectrum of systems from DIY systems (such as Ring) that you install yourself and connect to a basic app, all the way to a professional, fully integrated system. Bells-only alarms make a noise but do not contact anyone away from the premises, no-one locally reacts and the intruder is free to roam the property. Communicating burglar alarms automatically dial or text your phone, or nominated friends and family, when the alarm goes off but do not give detailed information as to whether this is an intruder or an error. Smart systems provide detailed information when the alarm goes off through a smartphone app. However, none of these systems result in an action. Think about what you would do if you saw an intruder in your home on your app whilst on holiday? In contrast a monitored system means a company act or call the police if the alarm goes off. A professionally monitored system also includes additional benefits such as insurance cover, guaranteed response, cyber security and is regulated to ensure integrity.
There has always been a place for the lower end of this spectrum and many DIY systems are fit for purpose, fulfilling a requirement to bring a basic level of security to everyone. Seeing who is at your door, checking if the kids are home or if a parcel has been delivered via a Smartphone is a nice added benefit. However, DIY systems tend to lack professional specifications and standards compliance, and are often not recommended by Police, Insurers or specifiers. There's a common misperception that Smartphone Apps offer an equivalent service to a security system that offers a Police response to an alarm activation. A home owner can theoretically view an alarm on their smartphone and simply notify the Police by dialling 999. Whilst this is currently true if the person can verify the alarm event (e.g. they have seen the burglary), it is a loophole that will soon be closed by the NPCC (National Police Chiefs Council). ‘Apps to 999’ are classified by the Police as non-compliant and will soon not be responded to – in fact some forces in England have already taken this stance due to limited resources.
In 2017, these types of systems generated over 16,000 false alarms across 17 Police forces with only 3,000 genuine calls. By comparison Professional Monitored Alarms (available only via an NSI or SSAIB approved Installer) signalled 136,000 genuine calls to the Police whom only failed to attend just 1,431 premises providing a decent 99% Police response across 43 Police forces. Police dispatches will arrive at the alarmed premises before the keyholder in most cases, thus adding another level of security to the vulnerable employee or family member attending an alarm activation. It’s all well and good knowing you are being broken into, but do you really want to send a loved one into the house to confront a burglar?! Average UK Police Response during 2017 was 20 minutes in rural areas and 10 minutes urban. The Met Police have released stats showing 80% of professional systems are responded to in under 10 minutes and the remainder in no more than 15 minutes. This system offers a massive benefit of a 24/7 professional monitoring – to watch, analyse, filter and – if appropriate – despatch the Police.
What tips can you offer anyone looking for smart home security control?
Don’t cut corners. DIY systems have their place but if you are serious about security, the gimmicks won’t cut it. If you want to protect your property with 24/7 monitoring and police response, then you need to choose a professional alarm company. Be sure to specify the reasoning for the security need. Professional Installers will also be able to ensure your physical security is also up to scratch (e.g. door and window locks). Your budget will often decide what they can deliver, but don’t compromise. Very often a security system is for life so it’s worth the investment. After all, you can’t put a price on the safety of your family!
Increasingly Installers can also offer added benefits such as VPN encryption for you home Wi-Fi systems to avoid any hacking or cyber-attacks. Alarm systems can also be integrated with CCTV, whilst smartphones and professional monitoring can compliment each other to provide a complete service.