Decoding the Alarm System Certificate

April 1999


Decoding the Alarm System Certificate

The third part of this series shows how to understand what protection your system provides

by david seXTon, cpcu jewelers mutual insurance co. This guide will help you understand your UL burglar alarm system certificate. Let's start at the top.

System Description
This first subentry explains what parts of your property are covered with alarms (store premises, stockroom, safe, etc.) and the extent of protection for each.

Your premises can be protected by devices that signal possible forced entry or the presence of an intruder based on detecting sound, movement or vibration. Extent 1,which provides the most extensive and expensive protection, is used by government agencies but rarely, if ever, in the jewelry industry (essentially it's overkill and prohibitively expensive).

Extent 2and Extent 3,which are typical for jewelry businesses, provide a high level of security that may include motion and sound detection and detectors on your store's perimeter (doors, walls, windows, etc.).

Extent 4provides the least-extensive protection. It may be appropriate for some jewelers located in low-population areas where crime is minimal.

Alarm Transmission Methods
Underwriters Laboratories – a national testing facility for devices, systems and materials – recognizes eight methods for transmitting an alarm signal from your store to a UL central station. Systems using telephone wires as the signal carrier are: direct wire, McCulloh, multiplex, digital alarm communicator and derived channel. The others are one-way radio, two-way radio and cellular telephone. Some burglar alarm systems use two or more transmission methods to reduce the risk of compromise or failure. These may be appropriate for stores in high-crime areas with a lot of high-value merchandise. We'll discuss these in a future column.

Line Security
Many alarm systems incorporate line security to supervise the communication channel, which transmits signals between your store and the UL central station or remote monitoring facility. The line is supervised to detect a burglar's attempt to compromise the signal and enter the store undetected.

Alarm Investigator Response
When a UL central station receives an alarm signal, the staff responds in one of several ways. A response runner can be sent:

  • Without keys to search the perimeter and wait for you to arrive.
  • With keys to search the interior when police arrive.
  • With keys to search the interior when a second responder (police or guard) arrives. The UL central station certificate also lists how quickly the responder must arrive at the business (15 minutes to 60 minutes).

What response time is ideal or acceptable? It depends. If you're store is located in a high-crime area, has a high concentration of values and has a safe that can be compromised in 30 minutes, you want a guard response time of no more than 30 minutes. In some areas, you may not be able to get guard response in less than 60 minutes. In this case, you want a more secure safe, for example, or you should store your inventory in several safes.

UL certificates provide significant assurances to you and your insurance provider that your store's burglar alarm system will perform reliably. For many people, UL certificates mean a good night's rest. Next issue: how alarm signals are transmitted.

David Sexton leads the large accounts underwriting department at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., Neenah, WI. He also is a corporate member of UL's Burglary Protection Council and the Central Station Alarm Association.

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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