This article will briefly outline police and industry standards applying to providers of lone worker services within the UK. It describes how companies accredited as meeting these will be able to use the most effective means of seeking an emergency police response and conclude by summarising the advantages of accredited lone worker services rather than others not meeting the standards.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) policy entitled ‘Police Response to Security Systems’ outlines police requirements for lone worker services. The policy sets conditions on the use of a police allocated Unique Reference Number (URN) to contact police communications rooms when requesting police attendance at an incident. To comply with the policy, suppliers of lone worker services and Alarm Receiving Centres (ARC) must also be certified by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body.
To use the URN system companies supplying lone worker services must also provide Lone Worker Devices and services complying with several British Standard codes of practice. These include BS 8484: Provision of lone worker device services.
This code of practice defines approved device types and references other British Standards applying to the ARC used to relay activations to the police. These specify requirements dealing with building security, service resilience, staff vetting and similar security based requirements. All this is aimed at making sure that activation alerts from lone worker devices are professionally dealt with and false alarms filtered out before being passed to the police.
Lone Worker services which meet the requirements of the NPCC Security Systems Policy will be allocated a URN and receive a Level 1 – immediate/urgent police response. Lone worker services which do not meet these requirements will not be allocated a URN and will have to pass any calls using the 999 system which was set up in 1937 to give police operators a way of separating out emergency calls from routine police reports. In recent years the 999 number has been dialled more than 37 million times and as a result of this sort of volume the police have to further prioritise which incidents will be responded to first. In essence, the use of a URN further refines this process.
So what does this mean for users of BS 8484 accredited lone worker services as opposed to those that are not accredited? The first is that 999 calls may be used to seek assistance from either the police, fire or ambulance services. When the 999 operator answers the call the location of the caller and service required has to be verified. In the case of lone worker alerts, once the location of the incident (rather than the ARC) is confirmed the call is then passed to the relevant police communications/control room. The speed of any police response will then be prioritised depending on the volume and type of other ongoing 999 calls.
In comparison an ARC that complies with NPCC and the other industry standards contacts the relevant police communications room directly, provides the allocated URN number and any relevant information to the police who then attend as a Level 1 immediate/urgent police response.
Clearly, this is a much quicker process than the 999 system and will in most cases results in police arriving at the scene of the alert more promptly.
The success achieved by BS 8484 compliant companies in filtering out false alarms is staggering. Recent figures compiled by the British Security Industry Association show that in December 2013 there were over 120000 users of lone worker devices. During 2013 these generated around 33000 activation’s. 1200 of these were passed to the police and only 27 (around 2.2 % of those policed) were subsequently classed as false alarms. The low false alarm rate is likely to result in attending officers treating the incident as ‘real’ and encourage speedier response times.
Anecdotal evidence can be added here; in a recent Peoplesafe activation the user had felt ill at ease and possibly at risk when visiting premises in connection with an unpaid utility bill. The user had called 999 and had followed this up by raising an alert on the lone worker device.
This was picked up by the ARC controller who contacted the user and agreed that as there was no immediate threat and the user had contacted 999 then the controller would continue to listen in on the incident and take further action should the situation deteriorate. About twenty minutes later the situation became violent as the occupiers of the premises began throwing objects at the user. The ARC controller contacted the police using the URN system as the situation now matched the NPCC criteria for a level 1 response and within 10 minutes officers arrived and dealt with the incident.
Another incident involved a female worker in housing association premises having problems with a male tenant. The worker had rung 999 and locked herself in an office and as a result of officers not arriving she had made a further 999 call and then activated her Peoplesafe device.
She activated the device some 10 minutes after the first 999 call to the police. When the ARC contacted the police on the URN line the police confirmed a 999 call had already been received and that officers were on their way. Four minutes after the ARC contact two police vehicles arrived, one in response to the 999 call and the second (after only 4 minutes) in response to the URN call.
BS 8484 compliant companies must be accredited by a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited certification body. Peoplesafe hold the Gold Standard NSI accreditation and along with other BS 8484 compliant companies are audited at least yearly in order to retain accreditation. This ensures that compliant companies are financially sound, operate in a quality environment and provide quality lone worker services and devices.
Accredited companies are certified as complying with the industry standards referred to above and as such comply with NPCC policy and are allocated police URN’s. This is very likely to bring a quicker police response than non-compliant companies only able to use the 999 system.
So the question for a business thinking of providing staff with lone worker devices is why not use a BS 8484 compliant company rather than one restricted to 999 calls, not audited to the above standards and maybe supplying devices not meeting technical specifications contained within BS 8484? The alternative of using a compliant company is not necessarily more expensive but does provide the advantages described in this article.