Most existing security alarms are non-compliant with NPAAR Guidelines for police response.

VIDEO verification of alarm events must be mandatory for all low risk domestic and small business alarm systems as the impact of the National Police Alarm Activation Response Guideline filters through the ANZ alarm monitoring market.

The NPAAR Guideline creates a uniformity of police response to alarms across ANZ and was put together by the National Emergency Communications Working Group – Australia and New Zealand in consultation with ASIAL. It categorises alarm types, monitoring service levels, the security levels of sites and most importantly, it categorises those alarm types police may not respond to in order to make more efficient use of police resources.

Without getting buried in the multifarious layers of alarm types, it’s worth dropping anchor here and establishing the types of alarms will police not respond to, because it seems many existing alarm systems are going to be non-compliant with the guidelines in one way or another. The requirements of NPAAR are interesting and are certain to impact on the way monitoring stations manage their services and installers build their alarm systems.

When it comes to AS-compliant Type B multi-sector and multi-break alarm installed at any premises and monitored by an approved monitoring provider, 2 or more sectors must be activated or there must be 2 or more alarm events on the same sector and keys must be available to police in 30 mins. Further, a call to police can only be made after an on-site inspection and when access to premises is available – “but only after the employees in the alarm monitoring centre have contacted the client or a neighbour, or monitored any available CCTV link to ensure that the alarm has not been triggered by accident or by a malfunction”.

There’s a further caveat to all this: Detection devices capable of generating a multi-sector alarm must be programmed to a separate, individual alarm zone on the alarm control panel and alarm events from this zone must be generated as a result of “multiple individually alarmed sectors being activated”. Even taking the vagaries of definition into account, it’s hard to imagine that many current single area, 8-zone residential or small business alarm systems are configured in this way.

And there’s more to consider. Police will not respond to multiple sector alarms installed in domestic premises without easy access to the premises – that means any low-rise or high-rise apartment or walled terrace. Nor will police respond to alarm activations from such systems even with ready access, unless the monitoring station has ascertained by site inspection or ‘independent verification’ that a crime is being, or has been, committed. There’s only one reliable way monitoring stations can reliably confirm an actual intrusion and it’s not with an intrusion detection sensor, it’s with video verification.

Nor will they respond to Type C single sector alarms,  nor to any site which a monitoring station can’t reach by phone. They will not attend any other Type C alarm events – that includes alarms that are not multi-break/multi-sensor, unmonitored alarms (too bad for DIY users), medical alarms, fire or smoke alarms, power fail alarms, or activated strobes. It does not matter if such an alarm is monitored by an approved monitoring provider, or if the system is AS compliant.

The NPAAR Guideline outlines a 3 strikes policy for all alarm types, which applies when police have been called out to false alarms 3 times in 3 months. A system that gets 3 strikes is downgraded to a Category C alarm and alarm events generated by it will not be attended by police until the false alarm issue is dealt with. There’s also a 2-strikes hold-up alarm policy – if there are 2 false alarms from an hold-up alarm in 12 months, police will downgrade that site to category C, meaning there will be no-response.

There’s challenge and serious opportunity baked into the NPAAR Guidelines. There are hundreds of thousands of alarm systems across Australia that now fall into the dreaded Category C – they will not be attended by police unless their functionality is significantly upgraded and site access procedures are revised for effective management in real time.

Monitoring providers and bureau installers who move fast using quality solutions carefully designed to meet the guidelines are going to get the jump on competitors who drag their feet. Failure to incorporate video verification into low risk or hard-to-access Type B and Type C alarm systems guarantees monitoring stations will be unable to meet the guidelines for police response to alarm events. After unverifiable intrusion with no police attendance, they are going to have to explain alarm system non-compliance to their customers.