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Lone Worker Alarms

This month our guest blogger is Connexion2 Managing Director Craig Swallow

Retail remains the largest private sector employer in the UK with close to three million people employed. In 2010/11 retail crime is estimated to have cost the U.K. industry a staggering £1.4 billion with a significant increase in violence directed at retail staff.
Many risks within the retail sector remain the same, such as the risk of theft and/or the risk of verbal abuse, however the time of risks, whether day or night has changed, with thieves becoming increasingly brazen.

More and more retailers are seeking to cover store opening times with ‘single staffing’ as a way of reducing overall operational costs. These factors combined with a change in risk locations within a retail store, such as attacks not only being at point of sale, means that risk profiles are changing.

The traditional ‘fixed panic alarms’ most commonly used within retail are limited in the help they can provide to vulnerable lone retail staff in the situations mentioned above. Statistics show at least 35,313 retail staff suffered physical or verbal attacks or threats in 2010/11.

Many security measures typically used within the sector aren’t able to capture the events and so many organisations are now changing to lone worker alarms for monitoring and recording purposes as well as their increased versatility and flexibility. To ensure a police escalation, such lone worker alarm solution providers must be audited and approved against the lone worker British Standard, BS8484.

A growing number of false alarms, combined with poor investment in modern alarming systems and an absence of robust reporting mechanisms is said to have lead to a strain in relationships between retailers and police forces.

Unique Reference Numbers (URNs) are the most effective way to elicit a police response and with many fixed PA’s, are often held by each individual store. The Association of Chief Police Officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (ACPO) has adopted a different model for lone worker device’s URNs, namely that they are allocated to the Alarm Receiving Centre and not to a specific lone worker device, user, or store and so lowers costs, particularly for large multiple retail businesses and helps to maintain a good relationship with police forces.

With many lone worker services, the URN is held at the Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC), not each individual store, helping to keep costs down and limit police wastage whilst also guaranteeing a level 1 police response – the highest available response. In order for an ARC to receive a URN, they must be approved against the British Standard, BS5979 Cat II and also be BS8484 approved (the British Standard for lone workers).

False alarms require valuable police time and are expensive to attend. In 2010, ACPO classified a total of 212,987 false alarms. Figures compiled by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) for the first six months of 2012 show that a total of 108,726 ARC managed lone worker alarms were in use in the UK In the same period a total of 780 alarms were passed to the police, of which only five were then subsequently classified as being false, representing a percentage of 0.64% compared to 85% for traditional alarm systems.

Whilst the volume of lone worker alarms deployed is significantly less than traditional alarm systems it is clear to see that the percentage of alarms that are deemed false and have incurred police time is significantly less.

Because lone worker device based systems deliver retailers a better and easier to implement solution that yields a lower number of false alarms, it is highly likely that more will continue to be deployed. Employers are therefore able to deliver a better ‘duty of care’ to their at risk employees, for a lower price, to help during such tough economic times.

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Craig Swallow, Managing Director of Connexion2

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