Should your home security system keep you up at night?
The latest crime statistics released for the 2015/2016 financial year indicates that 20,820 home robberies took place between April 2015 and March 2016. Although targeted interventions by SAPS have done a lot in curbing the rate at which these incidents increase, it is still a reality that South Africans have to live with: Common robberies in our homes are now almost twice as prevalent as they were 10 years ago.
There is only so much you can do to keep yourself, family and belongings safe. There are the basics that we all know about, like remaining vigilant, keeping doors and windows locked, reporting suspicious people…the list goes on. You can be forgiven, though, for assuming that if you have installed a top-of-the-range, complete electronic alarm system, over and above the safety and security basics, that you have done all you can to ensure the safety of your family.
Would you still feel this way if you knew that some neighbourhood security companies are installing alarm systems without accreditation from the industry watchdog? The South African Intruder Detection Services Association (SAIDSA) currently has 228 registered members. Cheryl Ogle, general secretary of SAIDSA, says that there are not currently any statistics available on the number of providers operating across the country without SAIDSA membership.
Is your installer accredited?
We did, however, do a quick search on the SAIDSA database to see if our local neighbourhood watch, which does alarm installations, is a registered member and found this specific company is, in fact, not. “SAIDSA is a voluntary association and will only give accreditation to a company that complies with our minimum specifications as prescribed in our by-laws,” explains Ogle.
This means that, although your installer is not legally required to become a SAIDSA member, it is not subject to the same stringent standards enforced by SAIDSA if it elects to not be accredited by the association. The association ensures on-going compliance with regards to control rooms, installations, and reaction times’ standards -all aspects a consumer would want complete confidence in when it comes to you and your property’s safety.
Ogle says that it is very easy to check if your provider is indeed accredited. “Simply visit our website where you will find a complete database of all members, per province. We provide consumers with the name, contact details and even information on what exactly the specific member is accredited for.” Check your provider’s membership here.
Ideally a consumer would use the database to find an accredited provider from the get-go. This would also give the consumer recourse when complaints arise. “We receive complaints daily, either through an email or the complaints form which is available on our website,” explains Ogle. “It doesn’t help if an installer is not a member; we can’t do anything then.”
If a complaint is lodged against a SAIDSA member the executive committee of SAIDSA investigates it and if not satisfactorily resolved the member could be removed from the register.
What do insurers think about SAIDSA membership?
Dawie Loots, CEO of MUA Insurance Acceptances, says that whether or not insurers require that an alarm is installed by a certified installer will differ from each company. It is therefore vital that you check with your insurer and make sure you understand what their stance is on this particular matter.
“The assessment of each case depends on differing scenarios and factors. Generally speaking an insurer would insist on burglar bars or that the alarm is in working order and activated when leaving the home,” explains Loots. “Depending on the insurer, a claim might be rejected, or cover severely restricted, when a loss is suffered due to a burglary and it is determined that the alarm was not in working order or not activated at the time of the loss.”
Based on this, you need to ask yourself if you are fine with using an installer that does not have to comply with the SAIDSA standards for accreditation. “The fact that SAIDSA members need to comply with stringent standards would definitely have an impact on the quality of the alarm installation,” says Loots. “However, homeowners still have the responsibility of ensuring on-going maintenance of the alarm system after the initial installation. A lack of maintenance could result in a malfunctioning system.”
It seems that the onus ultimately rests on the homeowner to ensure that their alarm system is correctly installed and maintained, or risk insurance claims being rejected or restricted. This, it can be argued, becomes increasingly difficult when working with an installer that is not accredited by the industry watchdog.
What to expect (and demand) from your alarm guy
Robert Blackburn, general manager (technical) at Stallion Security, says that a good alarm installation company (whether SAIDSA accredited or not) should be able to assess your unique situation and tell you exactly what electronic system will be your most effective solution. According to Blackburn though, there are some basics that every security-conscious South African should have. “A good personal security system is like an onion, with different layers until you reach the centre layer – the last thing protecting you and your loved one’s safety,” says Blackburn.
1. In this case the centre layer relates to personal safety, the ability to summon help such as a panic button for example. The next layer is the passive system. This system is most functional in protecting your assets as it cannot be armed while you are moving in the home.
Although a consumer could argue that it therefore becomes less important in the personal safety of themselves and their loved ones, Blackburn says that it should not be excluded as a part of the “onion”.
“People forget that entry can be gained through the roof,” he cautions. “So at night while the family is sleeping, once the burglar is inside the home there is very little protecting them from potential danger, even if they have the best internal perimeter security installed.”
The third layer refers to the internal perimeter. These are the magnetic contact strips on windows and doors that activate when armed and someone tries to gain entry through these areas. These systems can also be tailored to suit each person’s requirements, so no need to exclude it because you have a small animal needing the patio sliding door open or need your bedroom window cracked open for fresh air. Blackburn emphasises that a good alarm installation company will go through these details with you and suggest a solution that will work.
The fourth layer refers to outdoor beams. This acts as an early-warning system if you are in your home when someone gains entry. It provides opportunity to react, move family to safety and call for help – a vital component for the safety of homeowners and their loved ones. The final layer of your “onion” or component of an effective security system refers to methods securing the outside perimeter of the property, such as electric fences, and acts as a chief deterrent for criminals if maintained properly.
Even if you get the best advice and purchase the most impressive electronic alarm system it all comes down to correct installation and maintenance. Relying on a company to install your system, and provide your reaction services, who does not have to adhere to stringent industry standards could potentially leave you exposed to not only insurance risk, but the personal safety of you and your loved ones.