Home security advise Edinburgh

Home security advise

I have worked with house alarm for the past 30 years so you could say I have got a feel on house burglaries and get asked how can I secure my property. Well you would expect me to say get a burglar alarm but there are other forms of deterrent and a burglar alarm is just part of that.  My opinion has always been you will never stop house crime but you can deter the burglars and force them  to try elsewhere.

Burglar Security Prevention

In my view there is a lot of myths concerning the thinking of a burglar so lets look at some.

Burglars  watch your movement for 2-3 days before they act. Well sounds good but in reality most house break ins are opportunistic and random where the burglar enters a area and in a sense does a risk assessment on what properties are easier to break in to remember they want easy not hard.

So what securty advise can you give me to keep my possessions safe

Well you could start with the locks in your house so if you have say a standard Euro cylinder lock then think about upgrading it to a Euro high security lock that makes it harder to break in. Also your home insurance company will be pleased that you have fitted a higher grade of lock as it demonstrates you want to improve your home security.

Standard Euro lock
High security euro lock
High security euro keys

Also the current trend is to break in and steal the keys to the nice car in the drive so common sense is do not leave the car keys where they can be easily found and yes take them to bed with you plus human nature has a key hook in the kitchen where you can find the car spare key so find an alternative place for these . You don’t want to go out at night and return to see the car gone.

Also when you go away for a few days or on holiday you also need to apply this mentality  to things like bank or credit cards passports, tablets , laptops and driving license to ensure you do not get used for identity theft.

So if you do get broken into at least you can limit the damage to you and your family so no need to get paranoid just be more aware.

Another good idea is to take digital pictures of the rooms in your house along with expensive items like computers , phones, TV etc.

It is also a good idea to invest in a USB memory stick and take a copy of all your pictures and documents on your computer then put it in a safe place updating it if and when required so if you do get your laptop or computer stolen at least you will not lose those important documents and pictures.

Cannot reset my burglar alarm

Basic Problem

I get calls by the owner who report that their alarm panel will not reset and displays a message saying Engineer reset required.

So what is Engineer reset required message

Well when the alarm is installed the alarm company changed the engineers code and then they program the panel not to allow a customer reset on certain alarms ie Low battery voltage

Q. Why ?

A. Simple you need to call them out to reset the control panel at a cost to you.

Q.  Can they do this is it legal ?

A.  Well in my view No the Engineers reset function was only meant to put put in place at the instructions of the local police authority and only after 2-3 false alarms. This meant if the alarm was activated then the system would lock out forcing the owner to get a security company to check the system out

Q.  Do I have to call them out or will they give me the code ?

A. No they will cite security issues but in reality they want to charge  a call-out fee of anything from £125-£150 + VAT just to attend. One example was a company installed their systems in all of the new houses after 5-7 years the batteries started to fail and when they did the panel locked out and would not reset via the owners code. A resident called out the alarm company and was charge £135 for the first 30 minutes £45 and hour after that then £90 for the battery in total £270 +VAT = £324 in total . My charge for a house in the same street was £95 in total with the Engineers reset lockout removed.

Q. What if I do call them out ?

A. Well its your choice but before they visit ask what the cost will be and  you should insist that the Engineer reset facility is switched off plus the Engineers code be changed to one of your choosing.

Q. Can I call you out to do it and what would the cost be ?

A. Yes I charge £75 in total for this service plus £20 to replace the battery if required. Also if I cannot do it then there is no charge.

Home insurance discount with house alarm

There seems to be some confusion on this and also you have to be careful  as insurance companies are being being more proactive when it comes to claims and more importantly if they feel you have not complied with their conditions then they may not pay a claim.

So lets sort a few things out would you expect to have a claim settled if you did not lock your car or house ? Well of course not insurance companies are about risk so there is no surprise when they say sorry you do not have a valid claim.

The average house contents insurance is £250 per year and an insurance company may give you a discount on this of about 10% if you have a intruder burglar alarm but they do have conditions listed below

  1. The alarm system must be fitted by a registered installer .
  2. The owner must have a yearly maintenance contract.
  3. The owner must set the system every time they leave the property with no exemptions .

Registered installer

Insurance companies insist on this as companies have to have X number of employees to ensure there is emergency cover and that they comply with the current standards of servicing and installation

Yearly maintenance contract

Multimeter tester

This can cost anything from £200-£300 a year and is similar to a contract on your gas boiler but be careful intruder burglar alarm systems due to modern electronics are more reliable and with your gas boiler there are exemptions such as the control panel battery may no longer replaced free of charge via the maintenance contract

Setting the alarm

There is no discussion on this to comply with your insurance companies conditions you and more importantly your family must set your alarm every time you leave the house vacant.

Q. So whats the difference between the service you offer and a registered alarm company.

A. Well it depends on what type of service you are looking for as there are 2 types of customers.  One wants the security and backup of say a national company and want to pay for that service the other does not want to pay £200-£300 a year and would prefer a pay as required system and these are my customers.

Q. Is a maintenance contract worth the money.

A. Well again its down to choice some people want to know they have a set payment for their alarm system but ironically the most common problem is the battery and most alarm companies make an extra  charge for this . Where a lot of my customers prefer to pay for any repairs that they may require.

Q. Do I have to set my system every time I leave my house.

A. Well if you have a maintenance contract with alarm discount then yes where customers who don’t can suit themselves . Also if you ask your insurance company if this is the case the standard reply will be “Well yes this may affect any claim you make”

Case study 

Say you pay £250 a year maintenance with a £25 a year insurance discount well after 5 years you have paid £1250 with a £125 insurance discount so £1125 in total but someone who has not but get their system checked and their battery replace every 5 years then they have saved around  £1000 and yes they may have a problem but in my experience they feel they are still are financially better off plus they are not required to set their system all the time.


Your maintenance contract covers you for any breakdowns except battery change and any alterations you wish to make

Words of warning

If you have an intruder alarm system but do not have a maintenance contract then make sure you check with your insurance company that you are not getting the alarm discount because if you are then your policy could be null and void . This can happen when you call for a quote and you say yes you have an alarm then there can be confusion with the salesperson as they enter yes to you having a maintenance contract. So for the sake of a £20-£25 discount make sure you confirm with your company you have an alarm but you do not have a maintenance contract.

Power cut

Why does my alarm activate during  or after a power cut

Below is a question and answer listing on why security intruder burglar alarms activate after or during  a power cut

Q.   Why does this happen                                                                                          A.  Alarm systems have a rechargeable battery  inside the main control panel and outside sounder

Q.   So why is that. ?                                                                                                          A. Well the standards state that the control panel battery should maintain the alarm system for at least 8 hours during a loss of power. This is to ensure that there is no false alarms during
this period.

Q.   Why does a battery fail. ?

alarm battery

A. Batteries have a lifespan of approximately 5 years and if it is changed during these intervals then your system should not cause any undue false alarms during a loss of power.

Q.   So what can happen if you do not change or renew the battery. ?                          A. Well after 5 years the battery can deteriorate and could eventually damage the control panel as this unit also operates as a battery charger. If the battery is faulty or fails during a loss of
power it will not maintain the system during this period and because of this the external sounder   will activate independently  powered by its own on board battery leaving  the occupier with no way of silencing the unit.

Q.   Does it matter if my sounder activates  and if I cannot access my control panel. ?                                                                                                                   A. Well eventually the battery in the external sounder will run down but this could take between 30 to 60 minutes plus its common for a dip or loss of power in the middle of the night then this could  be a disruptive influence with your family and neighbours .

Q.   My alarm system is 7 years old and does not go into alarm during a brief loss of power. ?                                                                                                    A. Yes sometimes this is the case but be aware the battery may only have enough capacity to power your system for 30 minutes after that your system could cause a disturbance in your area and
if this scenario plays out in the middle of the night then you may be in a situation where the external sounder is activated and the owner has no way of silencing it.
Q.   What do you do with the old batteries you remove from alarm systems. ?                                                                                                                               A.     Each battery is dropped off at a local alarm equipment supplier who runs a recycling facility.


Can my alarm system be fixed or updated

Current  examples

Burglar alarm panel

Customer called with a 25 year old alarm that had not been working for the past couple of years but wanted minimum disruption in the property. I the panel battery had expired damaging the control panel so I recommended a front end upgrade replacing the control panel ,sounder,battery and sensing devices using the existing wiring. Leaving them happy as a neighbour had his alarm replaced with a wireless system that requires more maintenance with regards to the cost of changing batteries every so often.

Buying a property with a burglar alarm

Customer had just bought a property where the existing alarm system could not be used due to the previous owner either not having or giving them the user code or manual. I was called out within the first 7 days and managed to input a new user code of their choosing along with bringing the system back into operational use and sending the customer an electronic copy of the user manual. The owner made a claim to the previous owner under the 7 day liability rule.

Selling a property with a burglar alarm

Customer was selling their property but the alarm system was not working and they were concerned that this problem would be highlighted in the seven day defects liability to the new owner. I managed to get the alarm working assuring  a relieved customer the system was  back into operational use.