Burglar alarm protection continues to change. In addition to the emerging technological changes that impact burglar alarm signal communications, the response to these systems by local law enforcement to commercial and residential alarm notifications is impacted by the exponential growth in DIY and professionally installed/monitored alert systems.
This development is placing added stress on limited police resources. Compounding this is the ever-present concern of false dispatch due to device malfunction or inadvertent alarm triggering at the protected property.
Decoding an alarm’s purpose
As a jewellery retailer, you already know burglar alarm systems do not stop burglaries; rather, authorized individuals responding to these systems’ notifications in a reliable and timely manner to thoroughly investigate the source of these disturbances stop burglary attacks on jewellery operations.
At the end of the day, your burglar alarm is only as good as the timely and reliable response it generates. Unless an alarm response agent arrives in a timely manner (preferably with keys) and can conduct a thorough investigation of the source of a system notification, there is no way—in the absence of a well-designed, serviced, and maintained video surveillance system with remote video access—to determine what may be happening at the protected property.
It is important for jewellers to understand what happens when their alarm triggers a notification. Underwriters Laboratories of Canada- (ULC-) listed alarm service companies have response protocols they document and follow when they receive system alerts, and it is vital to understand these procedures and what your role may be in safely contributing to an effective and reliable response situation for both your protected residence and business.
The objective of all alarm and security monitoring systems is to detect, at the earliest possibility, an attempted or successful unauthorized entry of the protected property. After this identification, the appropriate response agency can be dispatched to the property to thoroughly investigate the source of the system notification. A timely and reliable response will mitigate or eliminate a burglary loss that could otherwise take place.
A professionally installed and monitored residential burglar alarm typically provides a police response feature. Notifications vary from company to company; some operators first contact the residence to confirm the event and notify the authorities if a homeowner cannot be reached, while others notify the protected residence and the police simultaneously.
DIY systems and home automation hubs, however, do not communicate with a monitoring call facility. Thus, in the event of an alarm system notification, the owner of the residence receives an alert directly from their system and then chooses whether or not to contact the police.
Professionally installed, serviced, and maintained commercial burglar alarm systems are an essential part of every jeweller’s life. In this industry, the stakes are simply too high not to install a ULC-certified burglar alarm system to help mitigate your exposure to burglary loss. Indeed, a basic risk analysis of most jewellery operations and stores would indicate the burglary loss potential would be very high, as well as the loss probability based on the ‘demand’ for the merchandise involved.
Demand, in this case, refers to the ‘desirability’ of the goods from a theft perspective. This takes into account the value of the items, as well as their marketability, desirability and/or resale value, and portability (i.e. how quickly they can be transported). In short, jewellery is a high-demand (or target) burglary item.
This demand is, essentially, why insurance carriers require and allow premium credit for ULC-certified burglar alarm systems on jewellery burglary exposures: the certificate proves the described premises are protected by a system that meets ULC requirements for installation, operation, and service and maintenance throughout the life of the certificate. Such requirements include performance-based standards that help to assure a timely, reliable response to burglar alarm system notifications. It is important to understand that these minimum performance-based standards exceed those routinely captured in an alarm service agreement contract.
Finding the right protection
ULC’s Burglar Alarm Monitoring certificate program covers commercial, financial, and residential properties. ULC classifies the following services:
- monitoring station (companies capable of providing alarm monitoring services, plus installation, annual inspection, and maintenance);
- shared service monitoring (companies providing monitoring services only);
- shared service installation (companies providing installation, monitoring, and maintenance only); and
- guard response (companies providing ULC-certificated response in lieu of local law enforcement and in conjunction with certificated monitoring).
ULC’s Alarm Response (Guard) Service Certificate Program replaced the Central Station (CS) Service, which is used in the U.S. Requirements for the service are outlined in CAN/ULC-S301-09–Signal Receiving Centre Burglar Alarm Systems and Operations.
From an insurance underwriting perspective, the most reliable burglar alarm would transmit an alarm signal from the insured’s protected property to a signal receiving centre (SRC), which can then dispatch a guard to thoroughly investigate the source of the alarm signal in a timely and reliable manner. During a guard response, the extent of the guard’s investigation of a protect property is determined by the response level declared on the issued certificate.
Line security or communication channel security
Regardless of the type of alarm system installed, line security remains an indispensable feature every jewellery operation should employ, as it protects against advertent and inadvertent compromise of the integrity of the alarm communication path between the protected property and the monitoring facility. All four categories of ULC Active Communication—A-1, A-2, A-3, and A-4—provide line security.
When Active Communication is employed, any loss of alarm signal communication is immediately indicated at the SRC and the operator is able to identify the system affected. The time between the occurrence of a status change in the burglar alarm system and the recording of same at the SRC will not exceed 90 seconds.
ULC recognizes two levels of line security: standard and encrypted, the latter of which provides a higher level of security. When a ULC-certified burglar alarm certificate is issued, the type of line security will be declared on the document.
David J. Sexton, CPCU, is vice-president of loss prevention consulting at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group in the United States. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Sexton serves on the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) Security Systems Council, where he is a corporate member of the insurance category. He also sits on the board of directors for Jewellers Vigilance Canada (JVC) and worked on the Central Station Alarm Association’s (CSAA’s) Insurance Liaison Committee, which assisted in the development of the UL burglar alarm modular certificate program and revised UL standard. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For resources regarding safety and security when carrying or working with jewellery, visit JewelersMutual.com. Jewelers Mutual Insurance Group is the only company specializing exclusively in jewellery insurance in Canada and the United States. It is licensed in Canada and all 50 states.