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Mike has been in the security industry for well over 36 years. He started with the family business as a locksmith and alarm engineer and fitted more than 1,000 systems before moving on to own and run his own company. He later sold out to a NACOSS company and became a self-employed inspector for the SSAIB. Alongside inspecting, he taught alarm installation and locksmithing for T K Consultants of Bolton. For the last nine years of his official working life, Mike was employed by the NSI, working with the marketing team. His main contribution to the NSI regime was to visit most of the new applicants and help them get up to NSI requirement. Since reaching retirement at 65 he does a little consultancy and has written an installers handbook. As Mike says, "The industry has given me a good living for a lot of years
May 7, 2015

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We Don’t Tolerate Unregulated Gas Engineers – So Why Tolerate Rogue Security Installers?

For as long as I can remember, the security industry has regulated itself on a voluntary basis.

It has standards to work to and organisations that control and regulate it, but there has always been the choice – become approved or not become approved.

Is that enough?

As far as intruder alarms are concerned (and CCTV is fast coming up behind) the insurance companies and police always insist on installers being approved if the risks are above a certain level or if the police are required to respond directly.

So the police and insurance companies are driving the requirement to work to standards for their own needs – but where does that leave the general public?

Basically they’re out in the cold.

Brilliant research
Some years ago then SSAIB chief David Hinge did a very simple but brilliant bit of research. He asked a major alarm equipment supplier how many delivery addresses they had.

He didn’t ask for names and addresses, which would have been unethical, just the number of delivery addresses. The answer was 22,000 and that research was 20 years ago.

At the time the SSAIB and the NSI had less than 2,000 enrolled companies between them. Even allowing for large companies having multiple addresses, a very conservative estimate would be that there were 10,000 unregistered installers out there fitting systems.

Today we can add fire, CCTV, locksmiths and access control into the equation, so how many unregulated companies are out there today is anybody’s guess. And just what they are fitting and to which standards they are working is an even wilder guess.

Here’s the crunch: in this country today you can come straight out of jail and set yourself up as a security company. It’s called equality, political correctness or freedom to trade and all that old rubbish and the public are blissfully unaware that the guy fitting the new lock to their front door learned his trade in the nick, or even that the guys fitting other forms of security could all be ex-offenders!

The powers that be have felt the need to regulate some trades and situations but not others.

For example we now have Part P for electricians, making it illegal for anyone without the proper qualifications to take a screwdriver to the electrics in a dwelling place. Or you have to be a registered gas installer before you can put your grubby mitts on a blowlamp.

Incidentally I agree with the regulation, but the bottom line is you can go out there and rob the customer blind with cheap inferior security but you’re not allowed to gas ‘em or electrocute ‘em. Am I missing something here or is the security industry considered to be the poor relation?

Corner-cutting brigade

There is a theory that the NSI and SSAIB have done too good a job. They’ve provided the people with higher risks a set of approved companies to pick from, but those self-same regulated companies have to compete with the corner-cutting brigade whose only selling point is “I can do it cheaper because I buy cheapo kit and cut corners.”

Then there are those companies that are just complete rogues – selling cheap kit to the unsuspecting at wickedly high prices. Companies selling on that scam should be forced into regulation for the good of the unsuspecting public – usually pensioners browbeaten into buying what they cannot afford.

How can we, as an industry, stand by and let this happen?

My vote is to make all security companies apply for a licence to trade based on competence and security screening.

Then we could have a level playing field where installers can charge enough to pay for their apprentices to be properly trained and we can finally say that all systems are fit for purpose, fitted by approved people.

I believe the security industry is under-regulated.


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May 29, 2015 8:37 pm

An interesting article Mike, but I would expect nothing less from you really. Unless changes occur in regulating our industry soon, I fear the days of the small independent professionally accredited security companies are sadly numbered. We can’t compete with the jack the lads at one end and the big boys who virtually give away their products to capitalise on the lucrative (and contractually binding) maintenance contracts. Of course the buying public to a certain extent have to take part of the blame, they are so intent on getting the lowest price, they do not even consider who they are… Read more »

June 9, 2015 4:41 pm

There are some good points above, however until NSI and SSAIB starting accreding IP security companies then this will be difficult..

June 9, 2015 5:09 pm

Hi Simon, perhaps someone from NSI or SSAIB would respond formally to your comment, but I see no reason why they should not provide accreditation to IP security companies. After all IP is an integral part of CCTV solutions now. Of course this assumes that these companies can demonstrate full compliance with the standards, have all of the appropriate controls in place and only use suitably certified products.

June 9, 2015 5:22 pm

Hi Eric, I completely agree but the accreditation (the last time we checked) was largely based on analogue systems. Obviously this is a completely different architecture and would require accreditation specific to IP.

June 9, 2015 9:14 pm

Hi Simon, I assume we are talking intruder alarms here as CCTV and access control are already heavily into IP systems? In which case the products themselves are approved and graded to EN 50131, it is what we used to describe as “Type Approval” Manufacturers had to demonstrate that the products are compliant and this is irrespective of the technology, they simply have to work according to the rules. It stops foreign manufacturers flooding the market with cheap imports that offer as much protection as the proverbial chocolate fireguard. There is an overwhelming move to IP, driven by public demand… Read more »

June 9, 2015 10:16 pm

Hi Eric, we’re are talking about accreditation. Both organisations do not currently provide accreditation for IP security companies, which is odd considering the way the industry is moving. Bizarrely, organisations have excluded IP security companies on the basis they don’t have this accreditation, which they couldn’t possibly achieve. This results in less superior systems being installed. This is the issue they must tackle before the industry leaves them well behind..