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The speed and accuracy of ECHO ensures that we’re policing the right events – five minutes with David Mair

In an emergency, every second counts. The Electronic Call Handling Operations (ECHO) initiative is designed to transform the way ARCs communicate with blue light services.

In this blog, we speak to David Mair, Manager of the Security Systems Unit at the Metropolitan Police. He’s responsible for overseeing the process of commercial alarm systems that receive a police response, including dealing with a variety of escalations.

David also represents the police at a national level. For over 20 years, he’s sat on various technical boards such as the BSI, and he’s also the NPCC Security Systems Group Technical Representative. It’s his role to ensure that when looking at security system design, police interests are taken into consideration.

We discuss the ongoing ECHO rollout, and the importance of ECHO-compliant alarm systems to police forces, ARCs, and the public.

Q: In situations where ECHO isn’t used, what are some of the challenges found within blue light emergency response to triggered alarms?

The main challenge is that the process can be quite lengthy, and there’s room for error. ARCs need to manually inform what type of alarm it is, which can cause confusion and have a big impact if reported incorrectly.

For example, during the Hatton Garden safe deposit burglary which hit the headlines in April 2015, there was some confusion between the MPS and ARC operators over the type of alarm, and as a result officers didn’t attend.

Ultimately, in this case, it didn’t make much difference as the keyholder was late to the scene, meaning that even if the police did attend, they wouldn’t have seen anything untoward and would likely have left. Nonetheless, both the speed and accuracy of the blue light emergency response suffered because of the manual process.

Q: How can ECHO help to overcome these challenges?

ECHO can help to overcome challenges regarding the accuracy of information. It ensures that we’re policing the right events. If the information on an ECHO system is incorrect, it presents an error message with an incident number, and the ARC knows very clearly that the police are not on their way. They can then act on that. Without the straightforward rejection process that ECHO offers, initial data from the ARC might get overlooked. This means that more inaccuracies are flagged and dealt with effectively.

Q: What other benefits does ECHO bring to all stakeholders involved?

We can see evidence of cancellations being dealt with better than they were before. Officer call-outs are being canceled in good time, often early in the deployment so they are not racing to a false call, and the occupiers aren’t being penalised for as many false calls either. False calls are costly and time-consuming, and ECHO ensures that the police are not constantly responding to poorly performing systems.

Q: What’s the difference between so-called ‘Type A’ and ‘Type B’ alarm systems, and how does that relate to the conversation around ECHO?

Using a ‘Type A’ alarm with an active, level 1 Unique Reference Number (URN) and where the messages are sent by ECHO means that there will be a unit deployed with an ‘I’ grade, meaning an immediate response. In the Metropolitan Police Service, this means around 80% of cases responded to using this system will be resolved in under 10 minutes and the remaining 20% in under 15 minutes. On the other hand, in the MPS, less than 40% of cases are responded to using a ‘Type B’ system. In many other forces there is virtually no attendance to type B systems. If they do get a response, it may not be an I grade but an S (1 hour response) or an E (24 hours response). If they do get an I graded response through a 999 or 101 call, the time it takes for a police call handler to carry out the filtering process is likely to take around 5 to 10 minutes longer than the URN process of a Type A system. It’s key that ARCs, installers and customers with the alarm system understand the difference.

Q: What more can be done to educate people?

It’s about making sure that ARCs and installers know it’s a no-brainer. It’s such a smooth process and, in urban areas particularly, it can make a significant difference. An intruder might take their chances when an alarm goes off and expect the police to take a while to get there. If we start turning up a little earlier, it’s a massive deterrent. It keeps them on their toes.

Q: What’s the future of ECHO / alarm signalling?

As a phase two, the police are going to include additional result information to the ARC. If we can provide feedback on the effectiveness of their systems, the ARC will recognise their crucial role in policing. Ultimately, we’ll get a better idea as more forces come on board. ARCs have been sitting with incorrect data for quite some time, and the long-term benefit of the technology will have a huge impact on policing.

To find out about our ECHO compliant portfolio click here or get in touch with your Regional Account Manager.

Regional Account Managers:

Garry McCallum

(Scotland and Northern Ireland)

07971 821134

Neil Richards

(North West)
07889 978251

Salim Saleh
(North East)
07795 980019

Joanne Watkins

(South West & Wales)
07483 314331

Raj Patel

(Central & Midlands)
07889 644413

Raff Miah

(East Anglia & North London)
07484 928326

Baz Choudhury

(South East & South London)
07703 502155



Regional Desk Based Account Managers:

Rebecca Mellor

07483 951833

Naomi Helps

07483 437444