Security is paramount in today’s complex world full of threats, and professional alarm monitoring has become an essential component for safety and peace of mind.
This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the world of professional alarm monitoring, tailored for Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs), local authorities, and businesses that rely on these systems for enhanced security and operational efficiency.
We’ll address the difference between professional and residential monitoring, the key components of alarm systems, the operational process involved, and more vital details. So, read on to make sure your security is not at risk from unaccredited systems!
What is Professional Alarm Monitoring?
Professional alarm monitoring refers to a service where a dedicated centre, known as an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), continuously monitors alarm systems.
Unlike residential monitoring, professional monitoring involves more complex systems and protocols designed to cater to the intricate needs of commercial organisations and public entities, such as:
- Industrial facilities, including manufacturing plants
- The emergency services
- Commercial and corporate premises, including retail establishments
- Bridge and tunnel operators
- Local authorities
- Facilities Management/building service providers
Other professionally monitored alarm applications include lone worker solutions and telecare or nurse call systems. The former is essential for staff working alone in remote or hazardous locations, while the latter helps vulnerable individuals to call for help in case of an incident.
Professional systems are crafted for higher reliability, scalability, and often include integration with various security technologies. They also must comply with certain regulations and standards to ensure reliability.
The UK’s main security services and fire safety certification bodies are the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) and the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).
ARCs should be certified by such bodies (for example, with the “ARC Gold” standard), yet there are some non-accredited ARCs that do not meet the required standards and therefore, cannot guarantee such a high level of service.
One factor that differentiates the true professionals is that non-accredited ARCs can’t guarantee a police response. In order to do so, they need to be approved in accordance with the alarm policy of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC).
There are standards for all sorts of areas under the alarm monitoring umbrella, including standards for signal processing, data security, physical security, lone worker protection, and so on.
One of the main standards to be aware of is EN 50126-2:2013 which covers how Alarm Transmission Systems (ATSs) must function.
Key Components and Technology
At its core, a professional alarm system consists of several essential components: detection units (such as security cameras and sensors), control panels, communication systems, and monitoring centre software, such as GeminiSense.
These days, much more can be monitored than just CCTV cameras, so many companies are using sensors to detect environmental factors such as gas leaks, CO2 emissions, and much more. The use of smart, networked buildings is one of the more advanced applications of monitoring, which we expect to see more of in smart cities.
An alarm control panel is a device that’s typically mounted on a wall, providing personnel with access to an alarm system so they can manage it, which includes activating and deactivating it. (Our solutions come with a Remote Reset module, eliminating the need for staff to travel to the site.)
The networks on which alarm data is transmitted are set to see big changes over the coming years. The old analogue PSTN network is being replaced with fibre throughout the UK and by December 2025, PSTN will be obsolete. This means that users of alarms monitoring software will need ensure they are using post-PSTN-compatible solutions.
Alarm Monitoring Software
The key to efficiency in monitoring is to have robust, high-performing software. The main features such systems should include are as follows:
- Event transmission: This refers to the automatic sending of alerts from the alarm system to the monitoring centre. It must ensure continuous and reliable transmission of alarm signals, even in power outages or system failures.
- Alarm verification: These are the processes that verify the legitimacy of an alarm event before taking action. It includes methods like cross-checking with other sensors and camera footage analysis to distinguish between genuine threats and non-emergency events (e.g., wildlife triggering motion sensors). This saves resources and helps to prevent potential fines associated with frequent false alarms.
- User interface: System administrators and other monitoring personnel access the system this way, and some providers supply mobile apps for greater flexibility.
- Event logging and reporting: The recording of all alarm events and actions taken in response. Detailed reports can be generated as a result, for further analysis, and record-keeping purposes.
- Integration capabilities: Monitoring systems should be compatible with various types of hardware and other security systems whether it’s an intruder alarm, CCTV monitoring, access control system, fire detection, or building automation system.
Technological advances have caused these systems to evolve and include features like real-time data analytics, AI-driven threat assessment, and integration with a broad range of security systems. These advancements allow ARCs to offer more proactive and responsive monitoring services.
The Operational Process
The operational process of alarm monitoring in a professional setting is a meticulously structured sequence designed to ensure maximum security and efficient response. The steps are outlined below.
Monitoring begins with the detection phase, where sophisticated sensors strategically placed throughout the premises identify any unusual activity, such as unauthorised entry, fire, or other emergencies.
Once an incident is detected, the system immediately moves into the signal transmission phase. Here, the information about the incident is swiftly relayed to the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) via secure communication channels.
At the ARC, this incoming signal enters the assessment phase. Trained and experienced operators analyse the signal to understand the nature and severity of the incident, and this step is crucial as it determines the course of action to be taken.
The operators sift through the data to differentiate between false alarms and genuine emergencies, ensuring that resources are deployed effectively. However, advanced solutions such as those we offer our customers are able to differentiate between false and genuine alarms automatically, saving operators a great deal of time.
Once the situation is assessed, the process moves to the response phase. Depending on the type of emergency identified, the ARC operators initiate a tailored response. This could involve alerting the internal security team of the organisation or contacting the emergency services. With telecare systems, it may mean alerting a healthcare professional or family member of the individual.
In some cases, the response might also include remote access in order to remotely activate or deactivate certain systems within the premises, such as door locks or fire suppression systems. This not only helps in managing the situation effectively, but it also cuts fuel costs and saves personnel time.
Throughout this process, the emphasis is on speed and accuracy, as quick and appropriate responses can significantly reduce the potential damage and ensure the safety of individuals and property.
Roles and Responsibilities
The ARC is the hub of operations, staffed by trained operators who oversee the monitoring process, assess threats, and coordinate response actions, as detailed above.
In addition, system administrators and supervisors may be responsible for handling the operational administration of the system. They need to have a thorough understanding of the system’s functionality and database, as correct system admin is essential for providing a consistent service. We provide training for operators and administrators that use GeminiSense.
Local authorities and commercial organisations are responsible for ensuring their systems are up-to-date and in compliance with regulations. They also play a role in educating their employees about the alarm system and protocols.
The Importance of Professional Alarm Monitoring for Local Authorities and Businesses
Below are a few considerations that organisations should be aware of when it comes to implementing an alarm system on their premises for greater business security and public safety.
- Regulatory compliance: For organisations adhering to specific regional or industry-specific regulations, it’s paramount to implement systems that meet those requirements in order to mitigate legal risks.
- Community safety: For local authorities, the implementation of professional monitoring systems extends beyond individual premises to encompass broader community safety. Additionally, in scenarios like public emergencies or natural disasters, these systems can provide critical real-time information, aiding in efficient crisis management and resource allocation, thus safeguarding the community at large.
- Scalability and flexibility: The scalability that comes with professional alarm systems is a must, as organisations’ needs are subject to evolve. A scalable system can adapt to growing or changing requirements, such as expanding physical premises or increasing the number of users, ensuring the system remains effective over time. Using any old alarm system is not the solution – you need dedicated software that’s designed for your sector.
Professional alarm monitoring is a critical element in today’s security landscape, providing essential protection and operational efficiency for businesses and local authorities. Not all alarm systems are created equal, however; to be a true contender, it must comply with the relevant standards for its functionality.
High profile security organisations, including governments, have been using GeminiSense for decades. To follow in their footsteps, contact us today and book a demo.