What You Always Wanted to Know About Alarm Systems

What is a Burglar Alarm System?

A burglar alarm /intruder alarm is a proven deterrent against burglary and crime. There are two main types of burglar alarm, these are:

Bells only: – These systems rely on sounders to both deter the burglar and also warn neighbours of the intrusion. A system will normally have 1 external sounder as a minimum, this can be added to by having an internal siren as an extra deterrent inside the property, an additional decoy box on other exterior elevations to provide extra visual deterrent outside or an extra external sounder could also be used.
Monitored Systems: – These systems have all the features of the ‘bells only’ system with the addition of being monitored by a central station via you home Internet Connection, telephone line or GPRS link. When the alarm is triggered it sends a signal to the central station, which then notify the key holders and police of the alarm. These systems are a requirement of some insurance policies, normally where this is the case it is also a requirement that an alarm installation company that is a member of an approved installations organisation installs them.

What are all the different types of detectors that are available?

  • Movement Detectors – to detect the burglar moving through the house
  • Door and Window Magnetic Contacts – to detect the opening of doors and windows. These are hard-wired or wireless radio-link.
  • Passive infrared detector – Monitors movement within the property by means of infrared.
    Advantages: Cost effective Disadvantages: Does not tolerate large areas or large temperature changes.
  • Passive infrared pet immune detector – by means of either lens masking or electronic circuitry the PIR is made to ignore animals under a certain weight while still monitoring the area.
    Advantages: Easy solution for combining pets and security. Disadvantages: As normal PIR disadvantages + great care is needed to install properly.
  • Passive infrared quad detector – Passive infrared detectors are normally dual element meaning that both infrared elements need to be triggered before sending a signal to the control panel. A quad detector had two dual elements which both have to be triggered before sending a signal to the control panel giving a greater immunity to false alarms. Advantages: Tolerant of larger areas, greater tolerance of temperature changes. Disadvantages: Higher cost that normal devices.
  • Dual Technology detector – A PIR detector & microwave detector combined, has all the features of a normal detector with the addition of microwave detection which is not affected by temperature and makes them very effective for use in situations where there are large temperature fluctuations like conservatories. The microwave must be set correctly as it can monitor through walls. Advantages: The best combination is not triggered by temperature changes, very reliable.
  • Glass break detectors – Detects the breaking of all standard glass types and thickness whilst ignoring non-framed glass and other possible sources of false alarms. Advantages: Easy install (with care) they can monitor a whole area of windows.
  • Vibration Sensors – Detects the vibration of either a window being smashed or an opening being forced, again these detectors need careful installation to ensure correct operation.
  • Magnetic contacts – The magnetic contact is used to monitor door and window openings. They work well as a device that initiates the entry timer of the alarm when entering a property.
    Advantages: Price and reliability. Disadvantages: Easy to install but it can be difficult/unsightly to run cables to them.

Can alarms cope with pets?

Yes, alarms now have pet immune sensors. All quality Alarm Surveyors will advise the best way of doing this when they assess your property.

Can alarm systems include panic buttons?

Yes, they can include fixed or portable panic buttons, which are invaluable if there is an intruder in the house

Can I set the alarm at night?

Yes, and we always advise you do. The system is normally programmed to include only those areas of the premises that you want protected and exclude others for the ‘night’ setting. It is more disturbing to be burgled when you are asleep that when you are out of the house!

What is a User Code?

A user code is an individual PIN (personal identification number) allocated to the alarm system. This is primarily used to arm and disarm the alarm system. Certain user codes can be of a higher importance, thus the alarm system allows certain user codes to have the ability to carry other system procedures i.e. changing codes, omitting zones, arming different areas. Most systems offer the facility to program more than one user code.

What is My User Code?

What is my user code is a very common question asked by customers. For obvious security reasons we will not keep user codes on file. In general if a user code is lost it may be changed by the master user code (providing you know the master user code). However if the master code is lost this will normally result in a total system re-program. User codes cannot be changed on the system by the engineer access code. However in some circumstances when the system is downloadable with our specialist download computer we are able to change codes, providing the system can be dialled into direct.

What is an Event Log?

The event log is the memory in the alarm system. The event log records the activity within the alarm system. Most event logs will record intruder activation’s, system faults, arming & disarming by user code and the time and date of the event. A typical event log will record in excess of 200 events, with the exception of some simple domestic control panels.

What is Chime?

Chime is a facility that can be assigned to certain zones. On selecting the chime mode to enable the control panel will emit a sound (bleep or doorbell chime) when the chime circuit detects. This function is normally programmed to the main entrance door. Not all control panel support this function

Will my Alarm Work in a Power Cut?

In general most alarms will work in the event of a power failure. All modern alarm control panels should incorporate a standby battery which will power the system in the event of a mains electricity failure. The industry standard is for the battery to power the system for a min of 8 hours. If the system is armed and there is a power failure the standby battery will hold the alarm in its current status until the power is restored or an activation is detected. Some commercial systems will not allow the system to be armed in the event of a mains electricity failure.

Why does my External Sounder Ring in a Power Cut?

The reasons for the external sounder ringing in the event of a power failure normally indicates a faulty main control panel standby battery. Replacing the battery will normally resolve this situation. However the external sounder does also incorporate a small standby battery which enables the unit to sound, therefore providing the control panel battery is OK this normally indicates a problem with the voltage sensing circuits on the main control panel.

What Happens if My Alarm Goes Off?

The alarm will ring for a pre-programmed length of time before silencing and re-alarming itself. All you need to do is enter the code to stop it. If it is a Monitored Alarm, you will need to call the ARC to inform them if you made a mistake or False Alarm otherwise the Operators will call you and possibly your key holders as well.

How Will I Know if my Alarm has Gone Off Whilst I’ve Been Away?

When you return an external strobe light will be flashing on the box to warn you that there may potentially be danger in the house. Also, the keypad will bleep differently to normal when you open the door. If it is a monitored alarm, you will have already been notified and additionally your key holder(s) will have been alerted.

What happens if my neighbours just ignore my alarm?

Your alarm should be monitored by our ARC (Alarm receiving Centre) then you will always have peace of mind knowing that someone is looking after your property and taking the actions you require.

Do I need key holders?

By law you are not required to have key holders on audible only systems but you must have a minimum of two key holders on monitored alarms. Common sense indicated it is a good idea to have key holders on any system. In order for the system to qualify for police response the key holders will be required to live less than 20 minutes from the premises. If this criteria is not met the Police reserve the right to not issue your premises with a Unique Reference Number.

Why does my alarm need an Engineer Reset?

Engineer resets can be caused by several things. Primarily on monitored systems the engineer reset is required after an activation as per the current Police ACPO policy. The reasoning behind this is that if a communicated alarm that has activated for no reason can be re-armed after an activation there is a chance that another false call will be passed to the Police thus wasting resources. Therefore an engineer is required to test and check the system. In addition engineer resets can be required if the system develops a fault, tamper or has been damaged.

What is Remote Reset?

Remote reset is a facility that is available on most monitored systems. The remote reset enable the customer to reset the alarm after an activation without the attendance of an engineer. Remote resets will only be given by the engineer if the reason for the alarm condition is known. When a system requires a remote reset a series of numbers will be displayed on the panel, these number are given to the engineer to obtain the reset code. The reset code is input into the panel to reset the alarm. On each activation the alarm produces a different set of numbers. Most recent panels incorporate the facility, however some units require software upgrades or an additional remote reset module to be installed.

How do I Turn my Alarm Off?

Whenever you re-enter your premises, your alarm will bleep. Just enter the code and it will switch off.

How can I Silence my Alarm?

Silencing your alarm can only be achieved by entering a valid user code. There are several reasons that could prevent a valid code from being accepted. The most common one is that the system has been confused by a wrong entry initially, if this is the case it is a good idea to clear the keypad in accordance with the manufacturers’ recommendation and start again calmly. Another reason is that the keypad has locked out, this is common occurrence as most keypads will lock out for security reasons after detecting incorrect code presses, the amount of time the keypad locks out and when it will lock out is depending on the manufacture and type panel. Another reason is corrupt system software, which may be caused by power cuts etc. However in most circumstances, unfortunately, it is normally user error.

Do I have to Change any Batteries in a Wired System?

Not at all. All detectors requiring power are powered from the Main Alarm Panel. All alarm panels have backup rechargeable batteries. These should be checked annually as part of the service agreement and changed when required.