What Makes for an Effective Security Alarm System?

Find out why UL standards are just as important for everyday security alarm installations.

Another area that you will see in these systems is the level of protection in alarm systems. UL calls this “Extent 1, 2, 3 or 4” of protection. An example would be if you have both motion and perimeter door/window contacts, or just door/window contacts. It sounds very basic, but don’t forget to offer these options to the customer. If you would like to get a better overview, go to the Central Station Burglar Alarm Service document at the UL Web site (ul.com).

We must understand UL emphasizes that an integral part of all alarm systems comprises the alarm system, communications and performance of a local monitoring station. This will also include that the alarm monitoring central station adhere to UL standards such as UL 827 and 1981. Another good reference document is the Central Station Burglar Alarm Listing Evaluation, which will give you some good ideas of what is needed to meet UL performance and certification standards.   

A Quick Guide to the Guidelines

Below are what I would consider some core UL systems standards and solid ground to start investigating. Note that I have specifically addressed burglar system standards.

UL 681 – Installation and Classification of Burglar and Holdup-Alarm Systems: Presents guidelines for everything from proprietary to national industry security systems. It defines the levels of security at extent of protection. This is a very versatile standard and will help with providing security information for hold-up alarms, vaults, stockrooms, display cases and ATMs, to name a few. It’s a good place to start if you are new to the UL arena.

UL 827 – Central Station Alarm Services: Addresses the ability of a central station to receive, process and record signals received. It also deals with requirements for watchman, fire-alarm and supervisory services, and handles residential monitoring stations.

UL 1981 – Central Station Automation Systems: Complementing UL 827, this covers central station automation systems and software.

UL 1023 – Household Burglar-Alarm System Units: Covers single and multiunit residences. Additionally this standard covers combination fire/burglar alarm system control units. Care is taken that an electrical failure in the burglar alarm system will not interfere with life-safety fire systems. 

UL 1076 – Proprietary Burglar-Alarm Units and Systems: Intended for alarm systems that are connected directly or indirectly to an on-premise, constantly monitored central supervising station. 

UL 1641 – Installation and Classification of Residential Burglar-Alarm Systems: As the title states, this has to do with residential systems, which would have a sounding device such as a siren.

UL 2050 – National Industrial Security Systems for the Protection of Classified Materials: I thought I would throw in this one for good luck. If you look on UL’s Web site you will not find it.  I could tell you more about it, but then I’d have to kill you (kidding). But it is for the monitoring of special government high-security projects. You have to ask UL specifically for this one and have a good reason. Don’t say you heard about it here (not kidding).

UL 2802 – Performance Testing of Camera Image Quality: Now let me tell you about the new kid on the block. . This was recently released, so keep a close eye on manufacturers receiving this UL product listing. Since it is hot off the press, all I know is that this should help to determine today’s digital camera quality for criteria like image resolution, TV distortion, relative illumination, maximum frame rate, sensitivity and more. Also, be sure to check out the Video Camera Image Quality Whitepaper at the UL Library.

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About the Author


Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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