How do alarm systems tell apart pets and thieves?

A recent letter to the Guardian’s Consumer Champions section queried the sensitivity settings of an intruder alarm which did not activate during a home invasion.  The homeowners lost a lot of valuable property and were shocked to find that their National Security Inspectorate (NSI) approved system had been set to allow for pets, despite the owners having no animals and clearly stating this on their installation paperwork.  They tested the sensors and found that they were not set off even when passing at a height of 1.3 metres, much taller than the average dog.

Their insurance company disputed the pay-out as a result of the apparent alarm fault, and it was only when the Guardian got involved that the situation was resolved.  Insurance companies offer discounts and lower premiums for homeowners with an NSI approved alarm system, but as we see from this case, there can still be problems with claims when the systems are not properly set up, at no fault of the homeowner.

When considering a home burglar alarm the first thing to check for, is whether the system and supplier are NSI approved.  Insurers require a certain standard of home alarm system to be able to offer any reduction in premium, so homeowners would be well advised to ensure that their preferred system meets the requirements of the insurance company.  The homeowners in this example did their due diligence and used an NSI approved supplier, so they had confidence in the system to work as they expected it to.

During the installation process, homeowners should also monitor the settings of the system, working with the engineer to test the sensitivity and height settings of movement sensors.  If the pet-less customers in our example had done this, they may have realised that their system was not set up as they thought, and they could have potentially avoided the problems with their insurance company.

Every pet is different, so understanding their behaviour and patterns around the house is vital to ensure the sensors are not set in a place where they will be triggered by the smallest movement.  Cats may be short when they are on the floor, but if they climb up on to tables and other furniture they will set off a sensor that has been set for a taller height.  In order to make an alarm system function well even with the presence of pets, requires careful sensor placement and testing; as we see from the Guardian example, sometimes the sensitivity settings mean a sensor will not trigger when there is a genuine intruder, so it may be the case that pets need to be shut out of certain areas of the house while the alarm system is set.  This means the sensitivity need not be reduced to the point of redundancy, as the potential for false positives has been eliminated. We always recommend a pet is restricted, but being pet owners ourselves, we realise this isn’t always possible.

Having an NSI approved alarm system set to disregard pet movements is sometimes the only way that a homeowner can satisfy their need for pets and home security, but the consequences may be that the alarm is triggered frequently by an innocent animal, or that the integrity of the system is compromised by not being sensitive enough to detect people in the home.  At P&R Alarms we always strive to do the best for our customers and will advise on the best locations for sensors that will not detect small animals in the house, giving you peace of mind that your NSI approved alarm system is doing the job you expect.