It’s always important for customers and clients to know they’re getting the best possible service. That’s why standards, such as those issued by the British Standards Institute (BSI), exist in the first place. We’re proud that our lone worker devices are rated BS 8484:2016 Gold Certified, the highest possible level. But when it comes to standards at Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC), there can be some confusion. So we thought it would be worth spending some time clarifying ARC standards in the UK – and to show that, with their BS 5979 Category II, our partners provide the best-in-class solution.
ARC standards: what’s new and what’s changed
We talked in a recent blog about the excellence of our Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC), provided by our trusted partners. By working with these partners, we’re able to provide access to a system that is faster, more agile and more resilient that anything that we could create in-house. It also enables us to create customised solutions for our clients, for example those that are based in overseas markets who require local response capability or who simply wish to handle alerts internally via their own call centres.
BS 8484 is the key standard for suppliers of lone worker systems such as Safe Hub. It covers the devices and smartphone apps, the ARC and alarm handling process and general supplier criteria.
As well as BS 8484, ARCs are required to hold one of three other standards:
BS 5979 Category II Remote Centres Receiving Signals from Fire and Security Systems – Code of Practice; or
BS EN 50518 Monitoring and Alarm Receiving Centres; or
BS 8591 Category II Remote Centres Receiving Signals From Alarm Systems – Code of Practice.
BS 5979 has been the standard for UK ARCs for many years. It gives recommendations for the planning, construction and facilities of manned and unmanned remote centres, and for the operation of ARCs which receive signals from security systems e.g. intruder, fire, social and CCTV. The last revision of this standard was BS 5979:2007 and has two categories of certification: Category I and Category II (the higher standard of the two). Over the last few years a new series of European alarm monitoring standards have been developed, known as BS EN 50518. However, BS EN 50518 did not cover the breadth of monitoring services that BS 5979 did. Therefore the BSI issued a new third standard, BS 8591:2014 ‘Remote centres receiving signals from alarm systems’.
What does this mean in terms of escalating lone worker alerts to the police?
We appreciate that this presents a confusing picture when selecting a lone worker safety system, and some companies have sought to cast doubt on the validity of other accreditations. But in fact all three standards (BS 5979, BS EN 50518, or BS 8591) are valid routes for ARC accreditation.
The fundamental test for an ARC is how they work with the emergency services. Crucially, the police allow suppliers of lone worker systems to make use of ARCs certified to any one of the three standards above. Where an incident warrants such escalation, alerts can be routed through to police and receive a Level 1 response (bypassing normal 999 procedures). The police currently have no requirement for ARCs that are already certified to BS 5979 to migrate to BS EN 50518 or BS 8591.
What’s more, the UK security inspectorates state that BS 5979 should be viewed as an equivalent to BS EN 50518 and BS 8591 when it comes to escalating alarms to the police. Indeed, the following is a recent extract from the website of the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).
“Fortunately for those ARC that are already certificated to BS 5979:2007, the police and insurance industry continue to recognise and accept them and at present there is no suggestion that any UK stakeholder will require ARC to change to the European Standard. Other related standards, BS 8418 – Detector activated CCTV and BS 8484 – Lone Worker Services, continue to include reference to BS 5979 as an acceptable standard for the construction and facilities of an ARC.”
Real-life alerts and the highest ARC standards
At heart, then, the crucial aspect of alarm response is unchanged regardless of the accreditation held. All three standards (BS 5979, BS EN 50518, or BS 8591) are a valid route for an ARC to summon emergency services directly. We’re confident that our services, and our ARC partners, are rated and certified at the highest possible levels. In fact, the alarm response we commit to contractually for our clients actually exceeds the requirements of BS EN 50518. In the last 12 months alone we have handled 75,000 alerts with 779 genuine emergencies requiring escalation directly to emergency services. Our average response time to inbound alerts is just 8.6 seconds.
What’s more, our ARC partners have industry-leading standards for resilience and business continuity too. They have robust back-ups and alternative sites which provide the same high levels of service. And in the event of a catastrophic failure at one of our partners, we would still provide a seamless service. That’s because we work with several BS 5979 Category II-rated partners, and we have contingencies in place to ensure a transition to an alternative accredited alarm response provider without disruption. We believe that’s what makes Safe Hub such a good lone worker safety solution.