Of All Out of Hours Alarm Calls, 5% Are Genuine Break-Ins. What Can Keyholders Do?

Incidents of traditional business crime total 3.8 billion and cost around £12.9 billion every year. Consequently, 71% of smaller businesses have implemented physical security, better insurance cover, anti-fraud procedures and have sought police advice to protect staff, premises and assets.

There is an increasing demand for 24-hour security, an alarm system alone is no longer good enough. As security advances, keyholders are now more vital than ever to property and people’s security. Yet, many businesses remain unaware of what a keyholder is, how to select the right keyholder and the associated benefits, so, we’re going to answer those questions for you.

What is Keyholding?

Keyholding is a service, an individual, multiple individuals or a professional company will keep spare keys to a property providing access, safety and security 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It requires a high level of professionalism, responsibility and trust.

Who is a Keyholder?

Often one or more senior employees for their experience and knowledge, a keyholder is responsible all day, every day for responding to all types of alarm activations as soon as it’s received. The task can also be outsourced to a professional security service with well-trained specialists.

An untrained keyholder increases security risk. External and internal keyholders must be properly trained for the task, know what to do in all situations, able to verify identification of all persons on-site and communicate with the ARC/RVRC (Alarm Receiving Centres/Remote Video Response Centres), also referred to as the monitoring centre. They must also know the ins and outs of the security system, updating, maintaining and fixing issues when necessary.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Keyholder?

This is not an exhaustive list.

First Response, Activations and Emergency Contact

Keyholders, whether external or internal, are both the first response to alarm activations and contact, for police and monitoring centre, in an emergency. This is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

All activation should be attended and recorded in an alarm record book. When the cause is a telephone line or signalling path fault, keyholders must acknowledge it could be deliberate and a responsible person must stay on-site until it’s resolved.

Opening (Unlocking) and Closing (Locking)

The keyholder has a duty to lock and unlock the premises, set and unset the alarm system. Motion sensor lighting should be fitted. Unlocks and locks should be carried out by more than one keyholder, no one should be alone there will always be a risk of violent intruders.

Keyholders should first check from a distance that everything is as it should be, when unlocking the premises. If it is, the keyholder can then enter, turn on the lights, carry out an inspection and deactivate the system. Where there is suspicious activity, call the police and don’t enter.

Keyholders should lock up together, reactivate the alarm system, make sure everything is secure and leave the site at the same time.

Set pre-agreed open and closing times with your monitoring centre, with 30 minutes leeway, to mitigate false alarms. If times changes, the centre must be advised.

Consider introducing personal attack facilities connected to the monitoring centre. Personal attack facilities are silent and dual control to minimise false activations. Where two false activations have occurred, police response will be withdrawn until an intervention, call back, audio or visual intervention, can be employed as a second level of confirmation for police assistance.

Securing the Keys

Keyholders have a duty to safeguard the keys and any alarm codes at all times, professional keyholders are trained to always meet the correct standards and regulations, BS 7984-1, in securing keys. On-site key storage can have negative consequences on insurance cover, key boxes shouldn’t be used without first assessing its security.

For any safes on-site, it’s better if keyholders are not responsible for holding the keys or combinations. If unavoidable, two keyholders should be present for opening and closing, due to the heightened danger they must be trained on responding to a hold-up.

Alarm System Management

Keyholders must be competent in setting and unsetting the alarm system, keeping their codes or unsetting device secure. Keyholders should have individual codes to reduce the risk of a security breach. Alarm codes should not be kept in a key box on-site. Codes should be changed occasionally, particularly when an individual is no longer a keyholder. This is also true of deleting fobs and other unsetting devices.

The alarm system owner should make sure regular testing is done to ensure the system has not been sabotaged and is in good working order. A maintenance contract, often an insurance arrangement, should be in place with the alarm company to make inspections, recorded in a maintenance logbook. Anyone working on the alarm system must be authorised to do so. Signalling should be included in the maintenance contract.

Out of Hours Call Out

Check that all out of hours call outs are legitimate. This can be done by exchanging pre-established codes, looking at the caller ID and calling the ARC’s number you have on record, which may not be the same as what just called you.

If it’s thought the call out is false, call the police. Keyholders should have the number in their mobile phone of the nearest 24-hour police station. When waiting for police on the premises, don’t enter without them.

Upon Leaving the Site

Whatever the reason for being on-site, keyholders must make sure everything is secure and the alarm is set before leaving:

  • Windows and doors are locked.
  • No one is on-site, except keyholder and their staff escort.
  • Nothing in line with the motion detectors will cause a false alarm.
  • Nothing will limit the motion detector coverage.
  • Keyholders are ready to leave when they set the alarm.

Keyholders must be aware of any system abort procedures in case of false activation.

If the alarm cannot be set, the property must not be left unsecured. Keyholders should stay until the problem is fixed, unless relieved by the appropriate person, and act according to prearranged operational procedures.

Guidelines for Nominating Keyholders

Nominating keyholders is a serious consideration, it can be divided into non-commercial response (alarm owners’ employees, family, friends or neighbours) and commercial response, a professional security company.

Alarm system owners must understand the applicable legislation to the health and safety of keyholders. The alarm company, monitoring centre and police should be informed of your keyholders, their contact details and any changes to such details. Ask them about any specific requirements for your site. Police requirements must be met if the system is suitable for police response.

Business owners should consult with their insurers when procuring a commercial response. Non-compliance with the insurance policy can compromise insurance cover.

Non-Commercial Keyholders

At least four non-commercial keyholders should be nominated, within 20 minutes travel of the site. They must be prepared for the responsibility of being a keyholder, be trained in the correct security procedures across all parts of the property and have a charged mobile phone. The mobile phone should have numbers of; all other keyholders, the monitoring centre, business owner, alarm company, police and tradesmen.

Commercial Keyholders

Professional keyholders are engaged for an annual fee and additional call out charges, an alternative to non-commercial response and first response as opposed to police. The commercial response should have a separate code or device to unset and reset the alarm system. The service must be compliant to BS 7984-1, Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensing rules and police protocols.

Commercial response typically follows this process:

  • The company will visit and carry out an on-site survey, get to know the layout and security system to establish operational procedures.
  • A set of keys are handed over, exchanged for a receipt, to be stored safely and only used if an alarm is activated.
  • Upon activation, responding officers will be sent with keys to carry out an inspection in line with operational procedures. For false alarms, it will be reset, and the premises secured. In an emergency, the situation may require the owner or emergency contact.
  • A full comprehensive incident report will be sent to the property owner, ordinarily within 24 hours of the activation.

The Safety Factor

A written health and safety policy pertaining to keyholders, their actions and all possible activation attendances should be established from the business’ risk assessment. It must include instructions for keyholders for all potential situations when responding to an alarm. They should respond to activations in pairs wherever possible.

Keyholders should not be expected to go into a property if they feel it is not safe to do so. If there are signs of a break-in or an intruder, the keyholder must stay clear and contact the relevant authorities. The keyholder should provide the authorities with any appropriate information like car registration or description.

 There will always be more risk in premises with high-value goods or a significant amount of cash. Employers have a duty to, so far as is reasonably practicable, protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees, including lone workers, members of the public and anyone else on the premises.

What are Police Requirements?

Premises with Type A systems, monitored by an ARC/RVRC compliant to BS 5979 (Cat II), BS EN 50518 or BS 8591, must have two nominated keyholders.  Type A systems have two levels of police response, Level 1 – Immediate and Level 3 – Response Withdrawn, keyholder response only, as a result of three false alarm calls. Type A systems are eligible to be issued with a Unique Reference Number (URN) by the police.

Names, addresses and telephone numbers of keyholders must be retained by the monitoring centre or through a commercial keyholding service. Keyholders must be trained on the alarm system, contactable by phone and have transport to attend any time, within 20 minutes of being informed, with access to the essential parts of the premises. An alternative must be available when the keyholder is not.

Two failed keyholder attendances in a rolling twelve-month period will result in the withdrawal of police response for a three-month period. See more on police requirements here.

What Part do Insurers Play?

Insurers have the capability to enforce terms on responding to and using a security system. A policy may dictate the number of keyholders nominated, keyholder availability and response procedures, keys and alarm codes security as well as conditions of alarm malfunction.

Any agreement should be in writing. Inability to comply with policy requirements can harm your cover.

What’s Security Industry Authority (SIA) Licensing Got to Do with It?

An SIA keyholding licence must be held for any service with a contract to a consumer, when protecting or controlling access to any device operating a lock. It’s a criminal offence to carry out such activities without a licence. The licence is a letter to be kept with you.

No specific training or qualification is required for this licence, but a front line licence and qualifications may be necessary for any call out activities which come under manned guarding. To obtain a licence you must be 18 years of age, pass an identity and criminal record check.

See our guide about SIA licensing for more information.

The Benefits of Outsourcing Keyholding

The Reaction Time

Internal keyholders can create delays, if it’s the middle of the night you’re reliant on them waking up and getting to the site in good time. Delays can affect insurance cover and compromise safety. Employee keyholders may also not be equipped to cope with the situation once on the premises. Professional keyholding services means well-trained officers can be available 24/7, prepared to respond and maintain the security of your property.

Worth Your While

Crime can cost businesses a lot,  professional keyholding is a cost-effective solution. It safeguards against criminal damage and theft, may result in lower insurance premiums and eliminates the need for an expensive on-site security team, while affording the same protection.

At Your Convenience

Being a keyholder can be very disruptive to your life, always waiting for something to happen. Professional keyholding gives you more time and less stress. It means never having to worry about an alarm call out, forgetting keys on an attendance, the inconvenience of a false alarm, disturbed sleep or working tired the next day.

Employee and Business Safety

Outsourcing protects your employees, there’s no guarantee of what they’ll find when attending an activation and they may find themselves in danger, even if they’re competent and meet the selection criteria. A professional service can help you meet your health and safety obligations and shows your employees you are committed to them and their safety.

Expert, Thorough and Professional

A professional keyholding business has heaps of knowledge and experience, properly trained for every possible eventuality. They’ll follow all operational procedures accurately, very quickly come to understand your security system, work effectively with emergency services when required and know the value of succinct communication between keyholders.

Peace and Tranquillity

Utilising a professional service, meaning round the clock monitoring and protection, gives you the peace of mind that you and your property is in safe hands. So even if you’re on a beach holiday in Spain, any issues will be dealt with promptly, keeping your business is secure.

Holding Accountability

Having a keyholding company take on the responsibility, reduces the likelihood of human error and the risk to your employees. Poor knowledge can have serious effects on your security, when it’s not their natural role employees can forget basic procedures, such as not to have their phone on silent. It’s also almost inevitable that internal keyholders, coming from their homes, will arrive on-site at different times. This increases the possibility of harm.

Criminals Quashed

Criminals will be deterred by the sight of a physical security presence on-site, particularly beneficial for securing high-value assets or vacant properties. There will always be an officer available to respond and prevent the property from becoming a favoured haunt for criminals.

Manage Access Control

Professional keyholders make sure site access is well managed, they can be there to let in authorised personnel, supervise the visit and secure the premises when they leave. It also means having a spare set of keys, there whenever you may need them, and stops any damage caused by forced entry.

Boosts Morale

Showing your employees that you care, by using professional keyholders will positively impact their morale levels. Nominating employees as keyholders can do the opposite, outsourcing is worth it for the improvement in staff lives alone.

Preserve Your Reputation

The reputation of your business will benefit from using a keyholding service, showing that the premises, staff and any members of the public visiting are safe and secure. Officers know how to appropriately liaise with local authorities, maintaining a good relationship between your business and the local community.

Compliance, Claims and Requirements

Professional keyholders understand what needs to be done in the interest of security, even when your system is down. Keep in mind most insurers do not pay out for alarm malfunction, check with your insurer for terms of compliance. The service will also help you to meet the correct police requirements for keyholding.

The Legal Requirements

This is not a complete list.

  • The Environmental Protection Act 1990The Local Authority has a responsibility to investigate nuisance complaints, including noise, in dwellings and other premises.
  • The Noise Act 1996 The Local Authority has an obligation to deal with nuisance noise and can issue a fixed penalty.
  • The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 – This Act dictates that the responsible person for premises in an ‘alarm notification area’ or with an audible intruder alarm must nominate a keyholder, that meets the appropriate criteria, and notify the local authority as such. A fine can be issued for non-compliance.
  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974The HSW Act requires employers to manage health and safety risks to employees, members of the public and others who work on the premises. This will involve conducting a risk assessment.
  • The Management Regulations 1999The Management Regulations dictate that employers must carry out a risk assessment, set up emergency procedures, provide training and information to all workers on-site.
About ARK

Alarm Response and Keyholding is part of the Asset Protection Group and we specialise in providing professional keyholding and alarm response services across the UK. Securing your home or business to ensure the safety of your family and staff. We have been providing keyholding and guarding services since 1982. Because we take the responsibility for responding to out of hours of alarm activations.  As well as securing sites on behalf of owners with fully licensed SIA security officers.