Many insurance companies insist that we fit our motorhomes with a Thatcham Approved alarm. But Why do they insist upon this and what does that mean exactly?
Well, there are hundreds of different alarms and after market alarm add ons, some are very good, plenty are poor and some are worse than nothing at all. Thankfully, an institution called Thatcham Research independently rates these different alarms and immobilisers by category ensuring that the alarms do as they claim to a set standard.
I say ‘independently’ but Thatcham was Established by the motor insurance industry in 1969 and its the motor insurance industry that funds the institute. Clearly if the insurance industry can contain or reduce the cost of motor insurance claims while maintaining safety standards, then they (and us) stand to benefit a great deal.
So, they set a standard of alarm, approve particular alarms as being effective and insist we fit one before they insure us, sounds fair enough. However The Thatcham Approved checkmark is only given to the actual alarm and while Thatcham do have an Approved Installer Scheme, the alarms quality assurance means nothing if it is fitted by a cowboy or a well intentioned but inexperienced fitter.
Here is a few tips on buying a Motorhome alarm.
Getting the right alarm fitter.
Choose an experienced fitter with a good reputation is imperative; ask on the forums, ask people you meet on sites or rallies. Do they recommend their alarm/installer combination. You’ll be paying a premium for that Thatcham Approved tag, its important you get the right fitter otherwise you might be wasting your money and putting any future insurance claim at risk. Motorhomes can be complicated beasts and your fitter should be experienced in alarming them. Chances are the guys that fit alarms to cars everyday and to Motorhomes just once a month are not going to be able to give you the best job. There are installers that specialise in Motorhome security and the service you receive from these is likely to be much better. While your choosing pick a fitter that has been around for at least as long as their guarantee.
Choose an alarm that is designed for Motorhomes
So many alarms fitted to Motorhomes are really designed to be regular car alarms. While these can be fitted and are likely to be a little cheaper they will always be a compromise. Car alarms are rarely able to properly cope with the large internals of the Motorhome;increasing the chances of false alarms, the ability to add extra internal sirens, sleep mode, pet mode and to secure lockers and bike racks often impossible or crudely added.
Don’t choose an overly complicated alarm.
Ask for a demonstration of the alarm, you want to know that it is easy to arm and disarm, some are fiddly, especially to get into sleep mode.
If your budget runs to it; look for an alarm that will communicate with your phone and let you know when it is triggered. Preferably with a map showing precisely where it is and better still if you can have it alert more than one phone.
No really loud chirps.
Choose a motorhome alarm system that flashes to indicate it is working, rather than one which loudly beeps or buzzes as this noise can make you pretty unpopular on a campsite.
Insist on interior sirens.
These are so much more important than external, (though you will want external as well) A loud internal siren is incapacitating and burglars will not stay long in a van with these screaming; leaving well hidden items undisturbed. Internal sirens need to be very loud to be effective, so its important that the internal sirens can be isolated for times when we leave pets in the van.
Choose an alarm that lets people know it is alarmed.
The biggest value that an alarm gives is one of deterrent. Warning stickers are good but in-your-face warning LED’s are better. So many alarms designed for cars which are sold to motorhomers; are not equipped with external warning LEDS, Of course internal ‘warning-I-am-alarmed’ are great in a car, flashing away on the dashboard, but in a motorhome, as soon as curtains and screens are in place burglars cannot see the vehicle is alarmed. You cannot have too many external lights. These should leave a burglar in no doubt that your vehicle is alarmed. This will push crooks toward softer targets.
Lockers need to be secured.
Lockers are an easy way into many motorhomes and should always be secured and alarmed. The best alarms also have alarm extension loops so you can easily secure exterior items such as bikes or trailers, bringing them under the protection of your alarm system. These loops are handy on site too as you can quickly loop all exterior items such as bikes chairs and BBQs and have them alarmed over night.
You need to specify a sleep mode. This should be easily and positively activated; if it is not then you will not use it. You should always sleep with this sleep mode activated, whether on site or not. We get used to noise from outside, especially when parked up on motorway service areas or busy sites, this makes us sleep pretty soundly and this is one of the reasons we are more vulnerable to theft when we are asleep that we might imagine. The sleep mode should activate your perimeter to include doors and lockers.
Good alarms have a panic button mode. Activate it and all the sirens sound. There are a number of scenarios where a panic button is a good idea. Especially when incorporated with a pager/phone system that lets others know you’re in trouble.
Last but not least.
Alarms have mechanical as well as electrical components and they involve a lot wire runs all over your motorhome. While a good alarm should last as long as a motorhome, it may well require servicing from time to time. So satisfy yourself, as much as you can, that the dealer you buy from is going to be around for a while and is professional enough to make detailed notes and photographs of your particular installation so should something go wrong in even years from now, they know exactly where to go to put it right.