Your business intruder alarm explained.
The first step to installing an intruder alarm in your business or commercial premises is to find out which grade of detection your insurer requires you to have (Grade 2 or 3). You’ll then want to be looking at choosing the type of detection suitable to your building and operational specifications.
Most people tend to focus on their own usability of the alarm system, such as how they set and unset it when coming into and leaving a building.
Ideally, you want it to be secure but easy to use.
We’re seeing more usage of control via an app or key fob from outside the building, however traditional methods are still popular, such as proximity tags (the little grey or black fob that you hold over the keyboard) or the 4/6-digit entry code on the keypad for your business intruder alarm.
For instance, check out the Texecom Connect App:
Before we get technical and talk about the many different types of movement detectors available, here are:
Answers to Common Questions About Intruder Alarms
Q: How do I control part-setting the system, i.e. setting a storeroom but not a central office?
A: You can use an ‘area’ (such as area A, B, C, D) to follow different setting rules, or even different keypads.
Q: How can I know if the business intruder alarm system is set when I am out of the building?
A: The answer to this has always been by using a loud speaker within the area you set the system to allow you to hear the alarm sounding from outside. However, more sophisticated technology such as apps allow you to check this via your phone and can also send notifications.
Q: How do I know what grade of business intruder alarm system I need?
A: This is established through a risk assessment, which is a series of questions to understand the reasons for the business intruder alarm. This will determine factors such as if there are valuable goods in the premises overnight which can be easily sold. This is in addition to your insurer’s requirements. There is also monitoring to consider, which is how the alarm contacts the police or key-holders, if this is a feature you desire your system to have. Confusingly, monitoring also has grades (Grades 1-4) which refer specifically to how secure the link(s) should be.
Q: Who does the risk assessment?
A: This should be carried out by a ‘competent person’, which could be a consultant or your specialist contractor (us!). It’s important to ensure that they are accredited to either of the two recognised UKAS bodies – the SSAIB or NSI. This means they are third-party certified and audited for their work on intruder alarm systems, and carry the necessary insurances for installation.
Q: Can I do other things on my app?
A: Yes, apps can be used to control lights, sockets and much more!
Q: Can I add other equipment to my intruder alarm system?
A: Most systems can now connect domestic smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors.
Q: Can my system be wireless?
A: Yes, most new systems can either be totally wired, totally wireless or a combination of both.
The Make-Up of Your Business Intruder Alarm
The parts of the system will include a white box power supply (this is the business intruder alarm panel) and a keypad, which is what you would see most often and the way you would most likely set and unset your intruder alarm. The item that you’ll see but probably notice less often is called the ‘bell box’; this is the noisy thing outside the building mounted on the wall at high level, and it’s also likely that yours will have a flashing LED.
The rest of the system is made up of movement detectors, door contacts and other activation sensors that have been designed to cover your business premises to meet the requirement of the risk assessment.
Now, the technical aspects of the system are a little more in-depth, but knowing what they do and where they could be used could be handy when discussing this with your specialist installer. After all, you want to do it right the first time-around!
With this in mind, we have explained some of the parts of the intruder alarm to give an idea of ‘why, what and where’ you would use a specific detector to cover your business premises correctly.
8 Types of Detection for your Business Intruder Alarm
Movement Detectors for Business Intruder Alarms
There are many different types of movement detectors available; below are the most commonly used on business intruder alarms.
1. Passive Infra-Red (PIR) Detector
Typical usage: offices, shops and dwellings.
PIRs are the most commonly used movement detector and are generally suitable for interior use within non-harsh environment (a harsh environment is typically outdoors, however a harsh interior environment could be within a building which is damp, dusty or has uncommonly low or high temperatures, which would cause the device to fail or operate incorrectly).
Generally, PIRs are designed to be mounted on a wall or the corner of two walls at a height of 1.8-2.5m, and most have a detection range of 10-15m at an angle of 45-90°. There are variations, such as a ceiling mounted 360° version, depending on the manufacturer design.
PIRS user a lens which splits the received beam into several planes; each plane having alternate ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ areas. Movement across these hot and cold areas are detected by the sensing element. See an example below, courtesy of Texecom:
2. Quad Element PIRs
Typical usage: offices, shops and dwellings (for the express reason of reducing the number of false alarms).
Quad Element PIRs are similar to the PIRs described above, but have the beam planes split into four (hence, ‘quad’) ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ zones in the form of a square. The detector then decides whether it is a true alarm activation depending on the pattern ‘seen’. This can significantly reduce the number of false alarms.
3. Dual Technology PIR/Microwave
Typical usage: harsh environments such as garages, out-buildings, factories and workshops.
Dual Technology (DT), also called ‘Dualtec’ detectors, comprise a PIR and a Microwave detector in the same unit. The basic operation of these detectors are that both elements within the detector have to be triggered to create an alarm activation. The PIR detection element works in the same way as a standard PIR, as explained above. The Microwave detector essentially ‘sees’ space. The microwave unit emits a microwave signal which bounces around the room and is then received back where it is converted into a particular value. Any change to the volume of the room or the movement of objects (such as intruder entering) within the room will cause a change in the received signal. If this change in signal is deemed significant then an alarm is triggered. The microwave sensitivity and range are usually adjustable.
4. Curtain PIRs
Typical usage: for specific risks such as windows, doors or protecting vulnerable roofs.
In Curtain PIRs, the lens focuses the detection pattern into a single narrow zone. Curtain PIRs usually have ranges of 18m or more. They can also be mounted such that the curtain is horizontal.
5. External PIRs
Typical usage: to control external courtesy or security lights
External PIR detectors are not an ideal solution for use with your intruder alarm. If external PIRs are used then they have to be carefully mounted, and their design and detection algorithms have to be sophisticated, which, coupled with their need to be weatherproof, impacts the cost effectiveness when other solutions should instead be considered.
Physical Detection for Business Intruder Alarms
There are many devices which you can connect to your business intruder alarm system, such as:
6. Break Glass Detectors
Typical usage: perimeter glass for added security or in place of a movement detection device (this depends on the risk assessment).
These types of detectors are designed to operate upon the sound of breaking glass. They are extremely clever in the way they can detect this and you can be assured that extreme care is taken to ensure that they operate on the specific sound. The devices can be set for the type of glass you have within your building, such as plate glass, wired glass or tempered.
7. Vibration Detectors
Typical usage: perimeter openings for added security, or in place of a movement detection device (this depends upon the risk assessment).
Vibrations from doors or windows being forced open can be detected using vibration sensors. These are ‘tuned’ to the particular vibration that is to be expected, which is important to avoid detecting all vibrations which could be caused by other non-emergency factors, such as loose doors or wind vibration.
8. Door Contacts
Typical usage: Perimeter doors for entry/exit setting and internally for control of areas within your premises (this depends upon the risk assessment).
Door Contacts, which can also be used on other openings, come in several different shapes and sizes, and are designed to operate if the door opens when the system is set. For more industrial environments, higher grade environmental contacts, including for use with roller shutters, are available.
Next Step…Plan & Save!
All intruder equipment is graded for application and for environmental use. The grade and environmental rating should be considered within your business intruder alarm risk assessment.
Taking the time to have a risk assessment, and planning the installation, will make all the difference to your business intruder alarm system for the following reasons:
- You will end up with a well thought-out and planned system which will give you the protection you need, tailored to your specifications.
- You will save yourself money by not having to change the design half-way through, or worse – following the installation.
- You will have given yourself the flexibility for any building changes which occur.
- Your system will last for its full life expectancy, rather than having to change after a few years.
Your WFP Surveyor can help you make the right decisions for you and give your insurer the peace of mind, knowing that a well-designed and thought-out system has been installed.
Call us now and arrange your risk assessment for your business intruder alarm. If you are already a maintenance customer of WFP for any of your fire or security systems, this risk assessment is completely free. If you are looking to use WFP for the first time, we offer a survey refund with every order so we’ll deduct this cost from the installation price when you go ahead with your new business intruder alarm system.
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Post by Paul Field
Hello, I’m Paul – the Founder and Managing Director of WFP Fire & Security. I started my career in the Royal Navy before becoming a fire alarm engineer and finding my vocation in helping premises find reliably fire safety and security solutions.More posts by Paul Field