Matthew Holliday, Director of Approval Schemes at the National Security Inspectorate, describes how Chambers, business owners and managers can make use of innovative protective systems including police compliant visual surveillance-based intruder alarms to safeguard people and premises, which also fulfil important insurance requirements.

Scottish Chambers business owners and managers face a daily range of security risks including vandalism, criminal damage, casual break-ins and arson attacks which potentially threaten the safety of staff, customers and other visitors. These hazards may also threaten building premises, stock and operational infrastructure likely to prove vital in ensuring ongoing trading viability.

Besides the financial cost, disruption and time spent dealing with such incidents, longer-term effects may involve insurance premium increases, detrimental press and social media coverage, and negative implications for employee morale and retention if staff don’t feel safe in their workplace.

Security investments

In the context of these potential risks, businesses should proactively take measures that deter, detect and react – depending on the nature of any incident. Cost-efficient, operationally effective and procedurally compliant site security arrangements represent a tangible investment in your business. For your employees, the installation of appropriate measures will also demonstrate that you take these risks seriously and are acting responsibly to combat them. A further benefit comes from staff being more likely to use security equipment and systems correctly if they both understand and appreciate them.

The recommended initial step to achieve these aims is a risk assessment to determine the most appropriate means of adequately protecting the site, based on your specific security risks and operational needs. Guiding factors will include the nature, size and geographic location of your business. Viewed from the site exterior, physical perimeter defences such as bollards, locks and shop-front shutters can be combined with electronic measures including detection-activated closed circuit (CCTV) visual surveillance cameras, to provide both deterrence and an external layer of protection.

Visual surveillance offers the benefit of monitoring activity remotely and determining, for example, if suspicious behaviour should be reported as a potential threat, thereby proving a more preventive tool by potentially avoiding a break-in and subsequent damage/losses. This could be handled by an operator at an alarm receiving centre (ARC) or remote video response centre (RVRC) viewing these images to summon a keyholder and/or commercial response provider.

Monitored alarms

If an intrusion is detected, police alarm response can only be initiated following a confirmed incident involving the activation of an intruder security alarm system complying with national Police Scotland policy requirements; similar arrangements apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes remote signalling systems monitored by third-party approved ARCs and RVRCs.

Changes introduced last year to BS 8243 (covering the design, installation and configuration of intruder and hold-up alarm systems designed to generate confirmed alarm conditions) now place an equal focus on visual surveillance confirmation alongside traditional methods, which may in turn offer fewer false alarms and be more appropriate in some situations.

The systems and services provided by the installing company, and the ARC/RVRC, must be certified by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS)-accredited certification body such as the National Security Inspectorate. Once various conditions are fulfilled an application can be made to the Police for the system to be issued with a Unique Reference Number (URN). This means that if/when an alarm is activated, the ARC or RVRC will verify the alarm using prescribed confirmation methods before passing on any confirmed alarm to the Police, who will duly recognise the system’s URN.

Visual surveillance benefits

Scottish Chambers businesses can now take advantage of technological advances to make use of police-compliant visual surveillance systems. Their benefits include linking remote monitoring of premises with on-site audio announcements to verbally warn anyone present (e.g during out-of-hours periods).

Conforming to revised standard BS 8418:2021, they also enable ARC/RVRC operators to quickly and easily check whether a detector activation is a genuine security breach and pass any verified incidents on to police for immediate manned response – in line with insurance-related requirements.

Significant revisions have created two new types of monitored system qualifying for a police URN when certificated to BS 8418:2021 ‘Design, installation, commissioning and maintenance of detector-activated video surveillance systems (VSS) – Code of practice’: Type A and Type A+.

Type A+, are ‘upper level’ systems designed to suit insurance requirements for higher-risk commercial, industrial, military, utilities and other similar sites. Type A are ‘standard’ systems. These involve the use of image transmission to an ARC/RVRC and detection techniques to screen out false alarms. Importantly however, they do not ‘water down’ requirements for lower risk sites. Rather, they must meet prescribed technical standards for operations, including detection and alarm transmission. It’s expected the simpler installation and technology requirements of Type A systems will encourage greater use of visual surveillance system monitoring.

Confidence for businesses

Scottish Chambers of Commerce business owners and managers can be reassured that adequately safeguarding their staff, properly protecting their premises and realistically securing equipment including IT systems against external threats is achievable, whilst also ensuring compliance with insurance policy requirements.

Using a third party-approved/certificated service provider offers confidence that any equipment specified and installed meets latest standards and best practice. It serves as a demonstrable independent verification of a provider’s competency, assuring their integrity, technical expertise and professionalism.

UKAS accredited NSI is a leading independent third party certification body within the UK’s security, fire safety and guarding services sectors.