Alarm Basics, Part II

March 1999


Alarm Basics, Part II

The second part of this series looks at differences between mercantile & central station alarm systems

by David Sexton, CPCU
Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co.

A burglar alarm system detects an intruder's entry or attempted entry and signals it to others. Two types of systems commonly used in jewelry stores are mercantile and central station alarms, certified by Underwriters Laboratories, a national testing facility for devices, systems and materials.

Certificate Assurance
A UL certificate is important because it declares only UL-listed equipment was used in the installation of the system and it's covered by a maintenance contract that calls for prompt repair service and yearly inspection. The system also is subject to UL's field countercheck program, which sends inspectors to verify compliance with UL requirements.

With a basic mercantile burglar alarm, an intruder triggers a local alarm (bell or siren) designed to unnerve him or her. Some mercantile systems have supplemental remote monitoring that transmits a signal to a police station or remote monitoring facility. This system may be appropriate for jewelers in non-urban areas, but only when it's monitored remotely to provide effective response when an intruder is detected.

Central Station
More reliable burglar alarm protection is provided when the alarm signal sounds locally and central station service is provided by a commercial agency meeting UL-criteria for training, monitoring and maintenance of alarm systems. Trained operators and alarm investigators are present around the clock to supervise, record and respond to alarm signals. When an alarm is received, an operator notifies police and the business owner and dispatches alarm investigators to the site.

Central station service has other advantages. Have you ever left your store and forgotten to set the alarm? The UL central station monitors and documents opening and closing signals. By supervising these signals, the central station can determine "irregularities" in the time frames in which the signals are received and act accordingly. By contrast, many mercantile systems are under the sole control of the owner, with no back-up supervision or monitoring to assure they're activated at closing.

UL central station service isn't available everywhere. Experienced jewelers-block underwriters can help you evaluate your needs and the cost-effective alternatives available to you. This evaluation takes into account trade-offs between electronic and physical security because of limited options. Next month, some definitions.

  Changing Your Alarm System? Don't Forget Your Insurer

Always contact your insurer before changing your alarm system. A description of the system is part of your insurance application, so changes could jeopardize your insurance contract.

In some cases, alarm companies recommend changes to reduce the cost of the alarm service that drastically increase insurance premiums or even void your insurability.

In some parts of the country, alarm service has changed when one alarm company buys another one. If this happens to you, contact your insurer immediately.

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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