Quick guide to selecting an alarm system

The following is a guide to choosing a home alarm system, taking into account all the different factors like will it deter burglars through to how quickly people will respond to the alarm system.

Alarm systems in the UK are getting increasingly complex, driven by the advancements in technology - especially smart phone technology.  Because of this, we've put together this guide to burglar alarms (UK-orientated) so you get a better idea of what types of questions you should be asking when selecting an alarm system.

Research shows that people require a burglar alarm that ……

  • Deters intruders (From even thinking of breaking in!)
  • Detects a problem quickly (An attempted break-in or someone in danger.)

Gets immediate response (Before loss, injury or damage occurs.)

  • Is easy to use.
  • Is reliable.
  • Is cost effective in achieving all the above

How are these needs best satisfied / things you should consider when buying an alarm system …

Deterring Intruders A high profile “bell” box and warning signs are the first things to deter an intruder AMCO provides both – As an additional deterrent we offer £1,000 reward to anyone providing information.
Detecting an intruder or emergency Alarm systems should have enough devices
to immediately detect an intruder
or other emergency
AMCO systems have sufficient tamper proof devices to immediately detect intruders or signal other emergencies


Getting an immediate response The sole purpose of a burglar alarm is to stop intruders by attracting a response.
Traditionally this was done by sounding an alarm. Unfortunately many people, including the police, no longer respond to alarms sounding. To overcome this, specialist 24/7 monitoring systems have been introduced
There are 3 types of monitoring, each delivering a different level of response –


Types of monitored alarm response Self monitoring – this uses automatic dialing equipment. It dials 3 or more key holders warning of an alarm activation. They then have to visit the property to check it out before the police can be called. This is slow and causes worry.

Call-back Monitoring – this sends a coded signal to a 24/7 monitoring facility. The operator then telephones the site to ascertain if anyone is present. If no one answers, he/she then either telephones a key holder* or if two signals are received and the system is registered with the police, they can be called.
(*NOTE – If the “Call back” Monitoring system has key holder response only, it is the same a self monitoring!)
AMCO interactive audio monitoring – this sends a coded signal to a 24/7 monitoring facility. The operator immediately listens into the property via microphone(s) and then challenges intruders over a loudspeaker. If the appropriate response is not received the police are called and the intruder is told to await their arrival!
(In 17 years every single burglar has run away – 99.9% empty handed!)
Ease of use The main thing that you need to do is to set and unset the alarm. There are two ways –

  1. Fob or proximity card – Turning on and off with a fob involves pressing single button, with a proximity card it has to be swiped over a keypad.
  2. Key pad – Turning on and off with a key pad requires one press of a button to set and a secret 4 digit code to unset.
Advantages & Disadvantages

  1. Fob or proximity card – Advantage – quick & easy. Disadvantage – can be lost stolen, or even be forcibly removed by mugging thus allowing a criminal full access to the property.
  2. Key pad – Advantage – quick, easy & secure. There are no disadvantages.

AMCO always installs key pads, can supply fobs & proximity cards, but warns about their vulnerability.
Reliability When it comes to reliability – simple is best – The less complicated the electronics, the less things can go wrong. However, an alarm system must have a number of secure features to prevent an outsider from tampering with it or by passing it.
If it does go wrong a system that can be fixed over the telephone is far better than one that needs an engineer.
AMCO installs a range of alarm components, mainly British manufactured. They are designed to be fault free throughout their long life. In the rare event of a fault or operator error, systems are designed so that problems can be immediately remedied without incurring expense. All AMCO systems are designed and installed by AMCO trained engineers with the sole objective of being failsafe in detecting, deterring and capturing intruders.
Cost Effectiveness The best way to decide on the cost effectiveness of an alarm is to compare quotations and systems in detail :-

  • Look at alternative alarm types;
  • Check out response levels;
  • Compare total costs over the life of the system.
There are 5 possible costs –

  • Supply & installation
  • A rental charge if the system is rented
    • Monitoring if the system is monitored
    • Telephone charges
    • Maintenance – Routine and remedial callouts
Types of alarms

There are 2 basic types of alarms –

Wired systems have all their components and services wired back to the main control unit –

Advantages – They are electronically simple and more reliable
They have a very long life – up to 25 years
They do not need batteries in each detector, sensor, keypad or fob
They are much cheaper to add to or repair as they accept all manufacturers components
Disadvantages – They take longer to install and can cause minor disruption during installation
Wireless systems have most of of their components and services linked by radio signals –
Advantages – They cause less disruption when being installed
Disadvantages – They tend to be more complicated and therefore less reliable
They require batteries in each detector, sensor, keypad or fob

Their life is anticipated as less than 10 years
Each manufacturer is unique and only accepts their own components if they need replacing
There is a risk of radio wave interference, jamming and cloning
  AMCO sells both wired and wireless
Considering all the costs? When buying or improving an alarm there are several costs to be considered… Initial Cost –
Supply and installation – Buying or renting? – some companies charge for installation but rent out their equipment.
Monitoring – Some companies charge for police registration and monitoring connection charges On-going costs –

Monitoring – Charges and contracts vary – Contracts can tie you in to a company for 1 to 5 years, with required notice to cease ranging from 3 months to 1 year.
Telephone Charges – These vary widely with the worst case being companies that programme daily calls on high cost premium numbers.
Maintenance – There can be charges for annual maintenance and remedial maintenance.
Call-out charges – The requirement for call-outs varies as do the charges. The worst case being companies that programme “Engineer Resets” and “Engineer Maintenance” into panels then charge £100’s for sending an engineer.
Replacement parts – Modern alarm systems do not have many faults, but might occasionally require replacement parts – batteries are the main parts that will require replacing on a routine basis. All alarm panels have a self-charging back-up battery which should last a minimum of 5 years. Wireless alarms have batteries in each of the detectors and remote units. These need changing more often 1-3 years. Companies that rent systems normally charge for this service.
Rental charges – if the system is rented. AMCO does not rent out equipment nor charge for registration – the price quoted is the total cost

AMCO’s contract is for a minimum 1 year with 3 months notice
All charges are clearly stated – what you see is what you get.

In summary the best and most cost effective burglar alarm is one that…

  • deters burglars from even thinking of breaking in
  • immediately detects an intruder or emergency
  • gets an immediate response
  • frightens away an intruder before loss or damage occurs
  • Is easy to use
  • Is reliable and does not require frequent engineer attention
  • does all the above at a sensible price.
….AMCO burglar alarm systems are designed to do all of the above.


The definition of “Alarm” is a signal that warns people of danger so that they can react immediately – Beware –
Many so called “monitored alarms” have become “communication systems” that do not allow immediate re-action.


For more information call for technical advice on 01347 822111