Alarm Receiving Centre Regulations – professional ARCs versus non-professional ARCs

An Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) is a staffed facility where professionals monitor various alarm systems such as intruder alarms, fire alarms, panic alarms, CCTV, and lone worker alarms. ARCs operate 24/7/365 so that emergency alarms never go unmissed. 

The purpose of this blog is to discuss the difference between accredited ARCs and non-accredited ARCs. Most of it consists of whether the ARC is accredited to specific regulations that will ensure a police response can be guaranteed if required. It is important to inquire about these regulations when choosing an ARC provider. 

The inspectorates – the NSI and the SSAIB

The NSI and the SSAIB are the UK’s most highly trusted and respected security and fire safety certification bodies. 

ARC Gold is the NSI standard specifically for ARCs. First County Monitoring has been approved as ARC Gold since the British ARC standard was created many years ago. This shows that we meet the industry’s highest technical standards and are committed to continual improvement. The scope of ARC Gold is outlined on our certificate of approval. We will discuss the specifics of the scope in the rest of this blog. 

Non-accredited ARCs do not have to meet the strict standards set out by the British and European standards and are not inspected by one of the inspectorates mentioned above.  Consequently, they are not able to guarantee a police response when required.  The police require very specific requirements for ARC to be able to pass directly through to their control rooms.  This information is contained within their alarms policy which is set out and approved by the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC). 

ISO 9001 – quality management systems

The ISO 9001 standard is the best-known quality management standard for organisations looking to improve the quality of their products and services and consistently meet their customers’ expectations. 

This standard is based on several quality management principles including a strong customer focus, the motivation and implication of top management, the process approach, and continual improvement. 

At First County Monitoring, we pride ourselves on providing first-class customer services where you are ‘more than just a number.’  Good customer service is critical for building a good relationship with every one of our customers. 

Because this standard focuses on quality management systems, ARCs that are not certified to ISO 9001 may not be as committed to providing top service to their customers. 

BS7858 – screening of individuals

ARCs hold incredibly sensitive data, so this data must be kept safe and secure from mistrustful individuals. This standard helps employers screen individuals before they employ them. It gives best practice recommendations and sets the standard for the security screening of staff. 

You may think that this standard is required for all organisations. However, if you are not a certified organisation, you do not have to screen your employees. This could result in the wrong people having access to sensitive data, service contracts, and confidential records. 

BS5979 – planning, construction, facilities, and operation of remote monitoring centres

BS5979 is a standard that covers the security of the ARC itself. ARCs certified to BS5979 must be resistant to smoke, vandalism, floods, explosions, ram raids, gas attacks, unauthorised access, power failure, and even lightning strikes. 

It also covers the operation of the ARC, staffing levels and operational procedures that are required. 

At First County Monitoring, we are regularly audited so as to ensure that our NSI Gold Accreditation continues, so we are proud to say that we meet all the above specifications. 

If an ARC does not hold this certification, it will most likely not meet the specifications. Due to this, the ARC is more susceptible to all the above risks. 

BS9518 – processing of alarm signals

This standard gives recommendations for the processing of signals by an ARC from alarm systems. It consists of recommendations and guidelines that cover the key considerations for ARCs. It can help ARCs identify and reduce the number of ‘false’ calls that are passed on to the police. 

BS 9518 is a useful addition to the portfolio of security standards. ARCs without this certification will not receive the recommendations and are likely to be inefficient and unable to manage risks. 

BS8418 – detector-activated CCTV systems

The BS8418 standard gives recommendations for the design, installation, commissioning, maintenance, operation, and remote monitoring of detector-activated CCTV systems. If customers want a guaranteed police response, they must have cameras installed and monitored to the BS8418 standard. This is because the BS8418 standard can qualify for a Unique Reference Number (URN) which is issued by the local police authority to guarantee police response.  

If an ARC is not accredited to BS8418, it will not be able to guarantee police response. This means that if there is an emergency, it may not be seen to by the police as quickly as you would like. 

BS8484 section 7 – lone worker

BS8484 is the standard for providers of lone working safety services. Section 7 of the standard gives details on how lone worker safety providers should manage their ARCs. It simply suggests that ARCs should meet standards such as using trained operators, recording false alarms, directing appropriate responses, ensuring 24/7/365 operation, etc. 

ARCs that are not BS8484 certified will still be able to provide lone worker services but will not be guaranteed a priority response from the Police. However, it should be seen as a mark of quality that you may want to look out for when looking at the market for a lone worker solution. 

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