Professional Jeweler Archive: It's Alarming

March 2005

The Store | Managing Security


It's Alarming

Burglars have learned to work around some jewelers' alarm systems. Here's how to prevent it from happening to you

By William H. Donahue, Jr.


If your alarm system set-up or procedures don’t measure up, you may as well leave your front door open. Check out these stories of jewelry store burglaries:

In Haltom City, TX, police responded to a jewelry store alarm but found no one. The alarm was activated a second time. The owner responded, only to discover burglars had broken into his safe. The burglars entered through a shared wall from an adjoining restaurant.

In Cherry Hill, NJ, burglars broke through the roof of a Chinese restaurant, entered the jewelry store next door through a shared wall and drilled a hole in the safe to steal the contents.

In Memphis, TN, burglars cut a hole in a jewelry store roof and stole a large amount of merchandise. It’s unclear whether an alarm was set off.

These burglaries demonstrate what can happen when a jeweler’s alarm system is inadequate. To prevent such problems, you should meet three key requirements: Your alarm system must be adequate to your store’s security needs, it must be monitored carefully and it must be maintained properly.

UL Protection

David Sexton, vice president of loss prevention at Jewelers Mutual Insurance Co., Neenah, WI, recommends using Underwriters Laboratories-certified alarm systems and installations and a UL-listed alarm service company. To search in your area, go to www.ulalarmfinder.com. If you’re unable to use UL-listed systems and companies. contact your insurer to be sure your alarm is adequate.

To be UL-listed, an alarm service company must meet UL requirements for alarm service installation, maintenance, monitoring, testing and response. The same is true for a UL-listed central station (an alarm monitoring facility). These requirements cover building structure, equipment, response time, staffing and service.

UL-listed alarm service companies are authorized to issue certificates saying the entire system complies with UL Standards for Safety. A UL certificate also verifies the installation meets local or national standards and indicates the system is subject to periodic checks by UL. During these random on-site audits, UL field auditors examine the installation, design and operability of the system. Random audits are one of the most important features of a UL-certified installation, explains Sexton, because they are done by third parties, not the people who installed the system in the first place.

The UL certificate requires the alarm company to respond to and repair a system malfunction within a short time. It also provides information such as service center coverage, date of issue and expiration, type of protection, method of signal transmission, name and address of the property covered and name of the company providing the service.

The certificate is important for the jeweler because it spells out the store’s protection, says Sexton. It’s also important to your insurance carrier for essentially the same reason – it needs to know the level of protection you have in order to underwrite your insurance. Make sure your alarm company completes the paperwork, files the application with UL and issues the certificate. Besides needing it for your insurance company, you must have it before UL will do the field audits of your system.

Sexton also stresses the importance of reading your alarm company contract carefully. It controls your agreement with the company. Insist that the contract refer to your UL certification and list the requirements contained in the certification. You may want to review the contract with your attorney before signing. Your insurer also can answer your questions, but it can’t review the contract for you or give legal advice.

Other Tips

The Jewelers’ Security Alliance Manual of Jewelry Security provides these additional tips:

Make sure you have functioning line security, a special type of security for the signal your alarm sends to your alarm company. If you don’t, a burglar can disable your system without you or your alarm company knowing about it.

Provide your alarm company with keys to your store if asked. Otherwise, the guard who responds to an alarm can’t do a complete check of your premises.

Consider having two systems of alarm transmission. One could be used to protect the perimeter and the other the interior. If a burglar disables one system, there’s a backup.

Your alarm system must meet the requirements of your insurance company or your loss may not be insured.

False Alarms

JSA and Jewelers Mutual advise you not to take false alarms or malfunctioning alarm systems lightly. Sophisticated burglars have been known to tamper with systems to set off false alarms until a jeweler is lulled into ignoring them. If there appears to be a problem with your system, have it checked immediately. It’s also important to know what you should do to protect your property and what your insurance policy requires if your system fails.

Jewelers Mutual recommends you contact your alarm company immediately to have the system repaired. You also should contact your insurance company and notify the local police so they know what’s going on. Ask for additional patrols. Until the system is fully functional, keep someone in the store at all times. Have an armed guard if possible and keep on all lights.

False alarms use a great deal of police resources needlessly. Many cities are trying to reduce false alarms by adopting fees or fines when they have to respond to them. Alarm companies try to reduce false alarm response through enhanced call verification, which requires you to give your alarm company a second contact number. If it doesn’t get a response from the first contact, it will try the second number before contacting police or responding. Ask your alarm company if this is something it has instituted.

  • For more information on alarm systems and companies, go to www.ulalarmfinder.com, www.jewelerssecurity.org or www.jewelersmutual.com.
  • To obtain a copy of the Jewelers’ Security Alliance Manual of Jewelry Security, call JSA at (800) 537-0067.
Questions to Ask

UL recommends you ask the following questions of alarm companies:

“Is your company UL-listed?”

“Can you conduct a no-obligation survey of my business and an analysis of my alarm needs?”

“Does your company offer 24-hour response to problems?”

“Do you have a service center close enough to provide a runner or guard response in an emergency?”

“Who owns the alarm equipment? Will I own it or lease it?”

“Are there any added costs? If so, what are they? For example, do you charge for programming the system, making a phone connection or other system connections, installing phone jacks or responding to alarms?”

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications