That long-awaited getaway to Spain or Portugal can bring peace of mind, rest and relaxation, and most importantly, some well-deserved sunshine. But is your home or auto safe whilst you’re soaking up the sun on a faraway beach? A home burglary or stolen car can quickly sour any holiday, which is why a good, reliable alarm system is essential in today’s day and age.
It may have been a few decades since our alarm system consisted solely of a trusted neighbour, but modern alarm systems are able to provide superior security at far more affordable prices than in decades past due to rapid innovations in technology and widespread usage.
This comes at a good time, too. The Office of National Statistics for 2019 revealed that there were 366,718 home burglaries and 436,868 vehicular offences in England and Wales. The good news is that these numbers showed a decline from previous years, but that’s no solace if you were amongst the hundreds of thousands of victims.
What is an alarm system?
An alarm system is essentially a system which alerts the owner of a home, building, or vehicle to unwanted entry. This achieves two main goals: firstly, to ward off burglars and unwanted visitors; and secondly, to protect whoever or whatever may be inside.
With that being said, anything from a trusty Staffordshire Bull Terrier to a complex system of rotating wardens and CCTV technology have been (and still are) used as alarm systems, depending on the needs of the owner.
For the sake of simplicity, however, this guide will focus on the electronic alarm systems commonly found in homes, businesses, and automobiles in the United Kingdom. Of course, extra help is always a welcome way to boost an electronic alarm system, so your pupper can still fulfil his natural watchdog instincts for additional security.
Fun fact: the English word ‘alarm’ owes its heritage to Mediaeval Italian’s all’arme! Which means “to arms!” and was shouted in garrisons whenever a town or fortress came under attack.
Brief history of alarm systems
The earliest known home alarm systems were dogs, most likely mastiffs, used in Ancient Rome to alert homeowners of intruders. Since savvy burglars could often kill the animal, geese were also used since they let out a bellowing squawk if attacked.
Mediaeval Europe has perhaps the most well-known examples of supreme security for royalty and monarchs: the moat and drawbridge of a castle. When supplemented with guardsmen, many fortresses were essentially impregnable without a significant army and artillery.
Fast forward to 18th century Great Britain, and we see the first example of a practical home alarm system, when Tildesley (an English innovator) invented a system in which chimes were attached to the lock mechanism, thus alerting homeowners to unwanted attempts at entry.
Although Great Britain led the world in terms of key and lock technology, Americans were the earliest known adopters of electro-magnetic home alarm systems, beginning with Augustus Russel Pope’s invention in 1853. The fact that the electrical grid had not yet been established meant that most Americans (and the world as a whole) still relied on farm animals and dogs to protect their homes.
When it comes to automobile alarm systems, you may be surprised to find that car immobilisers date back as far as 1919. Immobilisers have been made mandatory on all new vehicles in the UK since 1998.
Types of commercially-available alarm systems
In simple terms, there are plenty of buildings around the world, most of which are protected in some way or another. Consequently, alarm systems vary so widely in their scale, scope, and purpose, that defining every type of alarm system is simply beyond the scope of this guide.
In brief, there are five main categories of residential alarm systems available in the UK:
- Monitored: a practical means of protecting your home on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ type of plan. Monitored alarm systems are offered by major organisations such as ADT, SimpliSafe, and Yale. These systems are complemented by an agency that monitors and assists 24/7 in the event of unwanted entry, or to ensure you haven’t tripped the alarm by mistake.
- Smoke detector: a simple type of alarm, smoke detectors won’t do much about intruders but they will alert you should a fire be detected.
- Burglar alarm systems: the main focus of this guide, burglar alarm systems offer features such as window, door, and motion detection and sensors to stave off unwanted guests.
- Medical: particularly for people suffering from life-threatening conditions, medical alarms are typically manually-operated alarms that alert an organisation that you’ve fallen down or are suffering from a medical event (a stroke, for example), so that immediate medical assistance can be requested.
- Critical: in order to prevent and mitigate the high costs of repair, critical alarm systems are used to monitor and alert occupants of plumbing leaks or heating problems so that immediate action can be taken.
What to look for in an alarm system
Before purchasing a residential alarm system, a few things should be taken into consideration so you can be sure you’re making an informed purchase that meets both your needs and your budget. Thanks to innovations and widespread adoption across the UK, simple burglar alarm systems can cost from as little as £100, or you can pay up to £1,000 or more for complex and high-quality alarm systems. Consider the following:
- What is your goal? If your neighbourhood is prone to burglaries, a robust system can reduce the chances or possibility of your home being burglarised. For example; if your business is located off a popular high street and carries cash or other valuables, more complex and robust systems may be required than for small businesses in tranquil areas.
- Can I install it myself or is professional assistance required? Many ‘out of the box’ alarm systems can be installed and calibrated quickly and without the need for professional assistance, but more comprehensive home/business alarm systems may require the assistance of an expert.
- Can the alarm system be disassembled and reinstalled elsewhere? If your home or business address changes, you’re likely to want to take your alarm system with you. Is this easy to do or is professional assistance required?
- Is the alarm system dual signalling-friendly? How does the alarm system notify the organisation and/or owner of intrusion? Since 1996, dual signalling (i.e. radio alarm technology) has been the standard for all reputable alarm systems in the UK, and is recognised by insurance agencies as such.
Alarm system installation
As previously mentioned, there are thousands of different alarm systems developed for all sorts of purposes, such as for home and businesses of all sizes and for different needs. As such, their installation also varies from ‘easy-peasy’ to frustratingly complex.
Many homeowners and small business owners can get by with a simple wireless setup, and more are coming out with smartphone integration as part of the increasingly Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘smart’ everything in our daily lives. Although straightforward, wireless setups require ample battery life and, quite often, SIM card activation.
Wired and elaborate security setups involving CCTV and door and window sensors may not be so straightforward, however. That’s why we recommend contacting a professional locksmith near you to assist with the setup and installation process for best effect.
Alarm system calibration and reprogramming
Every 6-12 months, alarm systems need to be tested for insurance purposes. Furthermore, alarm systems may encounter flaws or glitches over time or with exposure to the elements (cameras and sensors with outdoor contact). Lastly, alarm systems that have been compromised in the past pose a potential threat to businesses and homeowners alike.
For these reasons, professional services should be contacted to ensure that your alarm system is operating as it should be. Locksmiths are also increasingly able to provide security surveys and calibration as well as reprogramming to help you get the most out of your investment.
How locksmiths can help with alarm systems
In recent decades, alarm systems have become more closely allied in many regards with key and lock systems. As more homes and businesses move towards modern technologies such as keyless entry and smarthomes, so too locksmiths have expanded their range of services to include security surveys and alarm systems.
Although much of this work is carried out with the help of computers, locksmiths have been able to keep up with trends, thanks to consistent manufacturing standards and the widespread diffusion of well-known brands in home and business security systems.
Locksmith services in the UK vary in their scope of operations, so before hiring a locksmith to take care of your alarm system, be sure to enquire whether they’re familiar with your type of system, and that they have demonstrated a solid track record of expertise in dealing with alarm systems.
Finding a reputable locksmith service for your alarm system in your postcode area can be time-consuming. That’s why your search should start with Rated Locksmiths. Our online marketplace of quality locksmiths can put you in direct contact with a professional locksmith with a proven track record in alarm systems who covers your local area.