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Tips On Securing Your Front Door

Securing The Main Entrance To Your Home Or Business

Although most break-ins are, as we have seen, at the rear and through a window, some are made through front doors if they look likely to yield without too much trouble.

The average lock used on most front doors is one of the easiest things to open by even a semi-skilled thief. It can be sprung open by means of a thin piece of plastic such as a credit card pushed against the latch on the door and frame – an alternative criminal use of the credit card! If the door has a glass or thin wooden panel near the lock, it can be broken and the hand inserted to turn the lock from the inside.

Many locks have the staple (the part of the frame that the bolt engages with) fixed by short screws into the wood. A shoulder charge or levering with a jemmy can easily loosen the ease and forced them out.

Any such conventional locks or spring latches as they are more accurately termed, should be immediately replaced with a deadlock. This is a lock with a bolt that cannot be retracted without a key, that is one that you cannot slam shut but must be locked with a key when leaving. It cannot be sprung open with a card; nor can be opened from the inside without the key. Thus preventing the front door being used as an exit route.

Most spring-latches have a two-lever mechanism and, if other means of opening them fail, can be picked without too much trouble. Security deadlocks have a minimum of five levers; some have up to 10 levers and are virtually impossible to pick. Another desirable feature is the provision of steel rollers set inside the bolt: any attempt to saw through with a hacksaw is then futile.

It is generally held that a mortice lock, i.e. one that is fitted in the door rather than screwed to its surface, offers the greatest security. This is because it cannot be removed from the inside by an intruder who has gained access at some other point and wishes to establish an exit route; nor can it be burst off the door by force.

However, this needs qualification. Wood has to be removed from the door to make a cavity in the order to fit the lock. Thus the door is weakened at that point. If the door is thin, as many modern ones are, there may only be a thin shell of wood enclosing the lock. The application of force could splinter the wood away, rendering the door lock useless. In addition, the staple is let into the door frame, and the same weakness could exist there if the frame is insubstantial. So rather than improving security, a mortice lock could considerably reduce it.

Some modern mortice locks are made especially thin to overcome this problem, and less wood has to be excavated. Even so, for a thin door, the value of a mortice lock is dubious. It could be added that a thin door in itself is a security hazard and should really be replaced by something more substantial.

If there is some doubt about the matter it would be better to fit security surface lock such as a deadlock, which offers better protection. Bolts from the key plate at the front of the door pass rate through the door to the lock on the back, and which woodscrews enter the doors sideways through the side flange in some models. The lock is thus impossible to remove from the outside or inside while the door is closed. As it exerts a clamping effect on the door, it strengthens rather than weakens it. An attempt at forcing an entry is thus unlikely to succeed. The staple is also secured by sideways screws which are concealed when the door is closed and will resist a considerable amount of force.

The type of dead latch illustrated does not need to be locked shut but can be slammed just like a spring latch, and so is more convenient when leaving. However, the shape of the latch and its action make it very difficult to spring open with a card. Another feature is the double locking facility. The lock has a keyhole on the inside as well as the outside. When the inside is locked the hand lever is immobilised so that it cannot be operated to open from the inside. The surface deadlatch is thus really preferable to the mortice lock, although the latter has the reputation being more secure.

It should be noted that the key of a mortice lock should always be left in the lock at night and a deadlatch should not double be double locked at night. This is in case of fire. Intruder security measures should never jeopardise a fire escape route; better be burgled than burnt.

Often expensive locks are installed on a stout door, but the door frame is thin and so forms the weak link. The door may remain intact after a hefty charge, but the frame may splinter, so rendering all the security devices useless. The frame must, therefore, be critically examined.

One trick that has been used by burglars is to spring the door frame apart with a carjack at the point where the lock is fitted. Often it can be bowed sufficiently to disengage the lock bolt from the staple or rebate plate. To minimise this possibility the frame should have a solid support at the sides. Weak materials such as plaster should be excavated and replaced with concrete on both sides of the door, especially near the locks, and any gaps should be filled with the same material. The rebate itself should not be less than three-quarters of an inch (20mm) thick.

Further security can be achieved by having to locks spaced well apart. This adds to the inconvenience of locking and then unlocking and means an extra key; it is one of those decisions that have to be made as to the degree of security considered necessary. In high crime areas or if valuables are kept in the house, it would be advisable.

Where are very high security is required, even a stout wooden door may be insufficient. Battering rams have been used to break down doors. A wooden door can be reinforced by covering the outside surface with mild steel of 16 gauge or thicker. The edge should be turned over and secured to all four door edges by rows of countersunk wood screws.

In addition, coach bolts should be fitted at intervals of not more than 9 inches, with the heads on the outside, and passing through the styles and rails (the main vertical and horizontal door members). On the inside, large washers should be fitted underneath the nuts, and the bolt ends should be burred over the nuts.

A good quality mortice deadlock of at least five levers should be fitted, together with mortice lockable bolts if the door is not to be used as the final exit. If it is, then at least one other similar lock should be fitted. Then increased weight will require an extra pair of hinges, and dog bolts should be also fitted on the hinge side.

This will give an extremely attack-resistant door, but do not overlook the frame, which could now be the weak link. As before, it must be well supported by concrete at the sides. In addition, a strip of angle iron screwed to the frame at the opening side prevents the insertion of a jemmy to force the door and frame apart. It may need hardly be added that such a measure is not usually necessary for a domestic front door. It has been described for cases where special security may be required.

For more help and advice on securing your home or business, call IFire UK Ltd on 0330 121 1234

Physical Security Procedures

Make Sure Your Property Is Physically Protected

It is remarkable the number of property owners in Edinburgh who fit costly alarm systems and however ignore fundamental physical security procedures. A property with an alarm but providing easy access may persuade a burglar to risk it, grab a few valuables, then make a fast escape. He may risk the fact that because of the frequency of false alarms, the general public often does not take any notice of an activated alarm unless it runs on for too long. He may even attempt, and succeed, in stopping it.

The alarm system should always be regarded as the second line of defence, and their reliance should never be placed solely upon it, however good it may be. The first and main defence is a perimeter that is as solid and impending symbol as it can reasonably be made. Before an alarm system is even considered, the physical security of all possible access points must be assessed and improved if found below standard.

This is becoming increasingly important with the incidence of ‘smash in’s’ in which intruders smash their way through doors regardless of the noise, while the occupants are at home and likely paralysed with fear. They take a few valuables, usually your mobile and laptop, and are gone, all within two or three minutes. An intruder detection system is obviously of no help, although an alarm system having a panic button could be. However, substantial physical protection could delay the thugs sufficiently to make a 999 telephone call, or deter them enough to make them go elsewhere where the entrance is easier.

Even so, while a good level of security is desirable, it can also be too high. Unnecessary security cannot only be a waste of money but, what is even worse, impose irksome restrictions and limitations on everyday life. The occupants could feel that they are living in a fortress. Remember that the security system must be lived with. month in and month out, year in and year out, for years to come. The goal should, therefore, be friendly security – friendly that is to the occupants.

Most break-ins are opportunists, often by youths or even children. If they find a weak point they will take advantage of it, but this, not they are likely to try elsewhere. Why waste time and effort cracking a hard nut when there is one with a soft shell around the corner?

Of course, if your premises are known or believed to contain articles of high-value, they may attract the attention of the professional burglar. He will not be so easily deterred, and a much higher level of security will be required; the added inconvenience must then be accepted.

In general, security arrangements should cause as little inconvenience as possible, although some are inevitable. The danger with irksome over security is that sooner or later it is relaxed and neglected, thus making the premises more vulnerable than they would be with more moderate security that is kept up. The important thing is to identify and protect the vulnerable points while being less fussy on more low-risk areas. Also if there is more than one way of achieving a similar degree of protection, this method should be chosen that will be the least inconvenient to operate and use. This will be a significant factor and IFire UK Ltd can provide you with free help and advice in achieving this.

Modus Operandi

We will first briefly take a look at the burglar’s modus operandi – the things he looks for, how he gets in, and what he does when he’s in.

The favourite method of access to properties in Edinburgh is a rear window. He is less inclined to be noticed at the rear than at the main entrance, or be detected by a person coming home at the main entrance. Furthermore, people are often careless of security at the back of the house. Frequently, front doors can be seen fairly bristling with high-security locks and bolts, while the rear doors have just a simple lock, and windows have virtually no protection at all. It is not usual for a rear window to be left open, which is as good as displaying a burglar’s welcome sign.

Windows or doors that are screened from public view by high walls, bushes, trees are especially welcomed by the burglar, as are darkened areas away from the street lighting.

After the breaking in, the burglar’s first task is to establish an exit route by opening an exterior door. This enables him to carry out bulky items and also to make a quick escape if he should be disturbed. If he is unable to do this he is forced to leave the way he came in, usually through a window. This may be difficult, so he feels trapped and vulnerable and is unlikely to stay long, or remove large objects. The blocking of all possible exit routes is thus an important line of defence which will minimise loss should an entry be made.

Usually, the exit chosen is the back door, and often the burglar will bolt the front door, when bolts are fitted, to prevent anyone coming home and catching him. Securing the back door against both entry and exit is thus vital in thwarting the preferred exit route. Bolts on the front door are therefore of dubious value: they cannot be used when the premises are vacated, yet they can be used by the intruder keep you out. While they increase security at night, they reduce it at other times. One solution would be to withdraw and conceal removable bolts each morning and replace them at night. Having taken that brief look at how the burglar operates we will now consider more closely the individual access points and what can be done to secure them.

Installing Security Lighting

Installing security lights is quite straightforward so long as they are on the house wall since they can be wired up as an extension of your existing indoor circuits. Lights on the ground must have their own circuit.

You could simply switch them on at dusk and off at dawn (if you turn them off at bedtime, you lose the deterrent effect), or fit a photoelectric switch which will do the same thing automatically. But a better and less expensive solution is to have the lights controlled by a movement detector which switches them on when it detects an intruder within its field of view. The sudden burst of light will be an unexpected surprise that will quickly have him scurrying for cover. A built-in timer then turns the light off again after a preset time, avoiding any unnecessary waste of electricity. Most models have a light-sensitive switch so they can be operated only at night.

Planning Outside Lighting

You need to light up all possible approach routes to your house. Remember that outside lighting has other benefits apart from the caring burglars; you do not have to approach your front door in the dark, and it shows that we are visitors too. You will be able to see your way to the dustbin, the garage of the garden shed, and even enjoy the garden after dark.

Start at the front door. You need a low-level fitting here so you can see to unlock the door and to identify callers. Depending on the size of your front garden and the degree of illumination this light provides, you may also need a high-level light to illuminate the whole front garden, not just the vicinity of the door itself. Check that this will not dazzle drivers.

At the back of the house, you need a high-level light to deter anyone entering the property from that direction. You may also want less bright low-level lights for illuminating the patio.

If there is access down either side of your house, it pays to have lights there too, but check that the lights will not bother your neighbours. A light on the corner of the house may be able to cast its light along two walls.

Lights to illuminate a long drive or front path must have their own circuit unless they are the low-voltage type; the latter is in any case not really bright enough to use as security lighting.

Use a garage inspection lamp with a long lead to work out the ideal position for the various fittings, aiming to create overlapping pools of light that eliminate any areas of shadow where a burglar could approach the house unseen.

Choosing The Fittings

A wide range of styles is available. Choose decorative types of lighting for up front doors and patios in low-level positions where the fitting will be a feature of the building and more functional types installed at a high level for deterring burglars. The fittings available fall into three main groups:
those taking a standard tungsten lamp (or a compact fluorescent lamp; these are ideal for outdoor use because of the long life)
those taking sealed spotlights, and
those with a halogen tube (far too powerful for most properties unless there are extensive grounds)

Choosing The Controls

You can control your outside lighting with manual or photoelectric switches, but movement detectors (PIR or passive infra-red detectors) are much more practical. You can buy fittings in a range of styles that incorporate their own detector, or fit a separate sensor that controls one or more lights – generally, a cheaper option, especially when you’re ready have the lights and simply want to bring them under PIR control.

When buying such detectors, either separately or combined with a light fitting, check the field of view and detection range so you can select one that suits your property. Other features to look for include the option of manual override by a separate switch, a variable lamp-on time and ease of changing the lamp.

With most movement detectors, it is possible for a burglar to sidle up to the detector and mask it without triggering the lights if you can reach the unit. He may also be able to reach and sever any surface mounted cables. You should, therefore, aim to site it at least 2.4 m above the ground.

Fitting The Lights

First, work out which indoor circuit you will extend to provide power for the new fittings. Check what wattage your lighting circuits are currently supplying. If they are close to the limit of 1150Watts per circuit, you should not extend them, especially if you’re running powerful floodlights. The alternative is to wire up a fused spur from one of your circuit power sockets. If you have a separate upstairs circuit, use that; it will be less heavily loaded than the downstairs circuit, and the wiring is at a more convenient level for supplying light fittings installed at eaves level.

Take cable to each fitting through a hole drilled in the house wall, ideally immediately behind the light position so the cable will be completely concealed. Make the connections, mount the fitting on the wall and waterproof around its base plate with silicone mastic.

If you are using a movement detector, adjust the unit to give the optimum coverage. Check that it will not be activated by pedestrians or cars passing your property.

Contact IFireUK Ltd on 0330 121 1234

 

Securing Your Garden

Outside your home

The best we of preventing unauthorised access to your property is to make sure you have secure boundaries. This is especially important if your property adjoins a road, a footpath, a railway line or a public space.

If your fences or walls are easily climbed, broken down on missing altogether, a burglar can get over or through them. He can push through many hedges and other types of perimeter planting. If you have gates that are not bolted or locked, all he has to do is open them. And if you have high walls or hedges at the front of your property, these provide the perfect cover once he is on the property.

To deter anyone trying to get into your back garden, you need 2-metre high perimeter walls or fences that are sturdy and difficult to climb. Impenetrable thorny plants grown up trellises can also do the trick.

Garden walls

A masonry garden wall should be a minimum of 1.8m high; you can build one to a height of 2m without the need for planning permission unless the boundary adjoins a highway, where consent is needed for a wall over 1m high. Consent and professional advice must be sought if you intend building perimeter walls higher than 2m.

The wall should be at least 225mm thick and should have reinforcing piers 450mm square every 3m for strength. A straight run more than 6m long should also include flexible vertical joints running from top to bottom to accommodate any slight movement in the wall structure. To make climbing difficult, joints in the outer face of the wall should be flush-pointed and the top of the wall should be finished with a tailed ridge. Broken glass set in mortar is not recommended, but if you want to prevent unauthorised access a row of steel spikes is an effective deterrent.

Fences

As with walls, you can erect fences up to 2-metre high around your back garden without planning permission unless it adjoins a highway when consent is needed for fences over 1m high. The most secure type of fencing is a post and rail type clad on the outer face with overlapping vertical boards since this is both strong and difficult to climb. Top it with trellises 600 mm high to deter intruders further; growing plants up this will also improve your privacy without infringing the planning rules.

Panel fences are less secure for several reasons. Most are only 1.8m high, their horizontal components provide useful footholds, and they are generally relatively flimsy.

Avoid ranch-style fencing with horizontal boards, even if these are closely spaced; they are as simple as a ladder to climb over.

Gates

If you have a gate in your back garden that leads to the front of the house, fit barrel bolts to its garden side low enough to prevent anyone reaching over the gate and undoing them. If it leads to a rear access or public property, lock it; use a stout hasp and staple on a wooden gate and a chain on an ornamental metal one, both secured by a sturdy padlock, and keep it locked except when you need to use it

Back Garden Security

If, despite your best efforts, a would-be burglar gains access to your back garden, do not make it easy for him to steal things or to use your garden or DIY equipment to break into the house.
Make sure that outbuildings are securely locked up
If you have to store a ladder in the garden, hang it on stout brackets attached to a wall or fence and secure it to them with a padlocked chain.
Burglars have been known to use garden furniture or ornaments to smash rear windows, especially at remote properties where the noise will not alert anyone, so store furniture under lock and key when it not in use, and if possible secure ornaments to solid masonry.

Front Garden Security

It is more difficult to make your front garden secure, and in general, you need to provide free access to your front door for deliveries and callers. Make sure that your front door is as secure as possible and that accessible windows are fitted with locks or other security devices. Hang nets or cafe curtains at downstairs windows to deter snoopers, and install an automatic light that will come on as soon as someone sets foot on the property. Make sure that there is no easy access around the sides of the house to the back garden, by keeping side gates bolted and fences in good order.

Choosing An Burglar Alarm Installer

Anyone can set up a security company in this country, but there are two bodies in the security industry. The Security Systems and Inspection Board (S.S.A.I.B) and the United Kingdom Accredited Standards (UKAS) – which set standards and controls for their member firms. IFire UK Ltd is a full member of both these organisations.

Whoever you employ should state that the installation and maintenance of the alarm systems they sell conform to the British Standard for intruder alarms in buildings (BS4737)

You can also get details of local alarm installers with a proven track record from the police; contact your local crime prevention officer for advice.

Choosing The Alarm System

The first choice you have to make is whether to have a stand-alone alarm or one linked to a monitoring station. The latter will generally cost more, but gives you the additional peace of mind of knowing that someone will call the police if the system detects a break-in at any time of day or night. Most systems also offer fire protection, and some feature personal emergency pager – worth considering if you live alone and are frail, disabled or in poor health.

The second choice is the system itself. He or she should ask you about how you use your home, should identify any weak points that need additional protection, and should thoroughly explain the system on offer and its components. You can choose from a fully wired alarm system or wireless alarm system.

Specific points to ask about include the following.

Zones – the system should allow you to protect separate zones of the house individually, especially the downstairs at night and rooms where pets sleep (most systems can be set not to react to small creatures). It is useful to have spare zone capacity in case you want to expand the system in the future.

Personal attacks and fire protection – the system should include panic buttons by the front door and in the master bedroom so that you can trigger the alarm even if it is not set. A monitored system offering fire protection is connected to a serious of smoke detectors.

Tamper circuits – the system should be designed to detect attempts at cutting off any of the detection zones or the wires to the external bell box. The more separate circuits it has, the easier it is to find where the tampering has occurred.

Walk test facility – this allows you to check the operation of the detection devices without triggering the external alarm.

Code numbers – modern alarms have a numeric keypad and are set and disarmed by entering a four-digit code which you can select and change at will. Some offer the option of having two or more different codes, allowing one to be used as a temporary code – by a neighbour minding the house while you are on holiday, for example. Some control panels have a separate keypad, allowing you to position the main control panel out of sight – a cupboard, say.

Power supply – ask how the system will be powered, and how much any necessary mains wiring will cost. The ideal is for the system to have its own circuit, which should not be protected by a residual current device (RCD) the case an electrical fault elsewhere in the house cuts its power supply, and its backup battery runs down.

Phone codes changes – in view of the fact that UK national dialling codes may change from time to time, ask what is involved in any necessary reprogramming of a monitored alarm system and who has to pay for the work.

Maintenance

Alarm companies generally encourage you to sign a service or maintenance contract with them, such a contract is mandatory with monitored alarms to cover the cost of the monitoring system service. The police and BS4737 both recommend regular servicing since around 90% of alarms are falsely activated. However, it pays to examine the cost and the length of such a contract; IFire UK Ltd offers always maintains a clear and concise contract policy with all its clients.

If you have a bell only alarm, you’re not obliged to take out a contract with the firm installing unless your house insurance company insists. Whatever service contract you take on, check that what will it be covered in terms of parts, labour and callout charges, especially outside normal working hours. All IFire UK Ltd service contracts include all of those mentioned.

Rent or Buy?

Most firms offer a choice of outright purchase of the equipment or a rental agreement where you buy the circuit wiring but rent the other system components. Purchasing outright is generally the more expensive option, but does avoid the risk of tying yourself to contractual obligations. Beware of unscrupulous security companies who issue rental agreement’s that allows the firm to increase prices at will, often obliges you to agree to a lengthy maintenance contract and gives the firm the right to remove the equipment if a dispute arises over costs or service levels. Here at IFire UK Ltd we always treat our clients with the respect they deserve and never tie them into an unnecessary complex and long contract periods.

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Investing In A Burglar Alarm

To make your home even more secure, fit a burglar alarm.

Wireless Systems

With a wireless alarm system, the various movement detectors and door/window contacts transmit signals to the control panel using radio waves, which greatly speeds up the installation; a typical system will take some three or four hours to fit. However, with most, there is still some wiring to do – linking the external alarm to the control panel, for example, and providing a mains power supply. You can simply plug or wire the alarm into a power socket, but if your house has a residual current device (RCD) protecting it’s power-circuit wiring, you should take the alarms power supply from its own five-amp fuseway in the consumer unit to avoid the slight chance of a tripped off RCD cutting off the supply and draining the alarm batteries.

    The main components of a typical system are:
  • The main control panel (which usually has a backup battery)
  • An internal sounder
  • An external bell, often incorporating a flashing strobe light and in some cases a backup battery
  • Interior movement detectors
  • Door/window contacts
  • Panic buttons, which allow you to set off the alarm immediately, even if the system is not itself armed, if an intruder barges past you as you open the front door, or if you hear suspicious noises downstairs during the night. Most panic buttons are shielded to prevent their accidental operation and need a key to switch them off once they have been activated.

 

Most wireless alarm kits contain only the bare essentials – enough to protect a flat or a very small house. However, this type of system does have one big advantage over wired systems: you can take it with you when you move house. You may also be able to use it to protect garages and garden sheds.

Other features to check when choosing a system include the number of separate control zones it offers to enable you, for instance, to move around upstairs while the ground floor is alarmed, how long a period you have to leave the house after setting the alarm and how quickly you have to deactivate it on your return. Look, too, for the presence of features designed to prevent tampering with the external bell, for example, to cut off the external bell after a preset time and to reset the system automatically after the alarm has sounded. Most systems have a beeper to remind you that the alarm is on when you come home.

Most manufacturers also offer additional options. Including glass break detectors, remote control units, autodiallers (these call a preset telephone number if the alarm is triggered) and smoke detectors.

The most difficult part of fitting a wireless alarm is ensuring that the movement detectors cover as much as possible of the room in which they are installed. Set them in position and test the efficiency with just the internal sounder connected to avoid unduly annoying your neighbours. When citing detectors, try to avoid obvious obstructions to the viewing angle. Do not use them in rooms containing a real fire unless you can screen it from view when you go out; moving flames can trigger the detector. Test the system at least once a year by simulating a break-in and checking the operation of movement detectors.

If you install a wireless system and live near public services that use radio communication systems – police, fire or ambulance station or an airport, for example – check with the kit manufacturer about the possibility of radio-frequency interference.

Also, remember to tell your local authority’s environmental health department that you have installed an alarm, so they know whom to contact in the event of a real or false alarm. If possible, appoint a trusted neighbour as a keyholder. Make sure the keyholder knows how to deactivate the alarm and, if necessary how to reset it.

Wired Systems

Wired alarm systems consist of broadly the same components and offer many of the same features as wireless ones, with the obvious difference that everything is linked by slim wires instead of radio waves, so they cost less; another advantage is that the at any additional components are also much cheaper to buy and than their wireless equivalents. However, the installation can be very time consuming – especially if you want to conceal the wiring everywhere – although it is not difficult so long as you follow the instructions carefully. Allow about a full working day for installation – more if you want contacts on all your windows and doors.

As with wireless alarm systems, you should inform your the environmental health department of your local authority, and appoint someone to act as keyholder if you are unavailable in the event of a real or false alarm. Test the system at least annually.

Alarms For Outbuildings

If you store tools, ladders and the like in a garage or outbuilding, protecting them with their own burglar alarm will give you both peace of mind and also an early warning that an intruder is about. Unless you have a wireless alarm system that can be extended to cover outbuildings, you will need a separate alarm.

Several manufacturers now offer small battery powered alarms which can be attached to the garage and shed doors, and which emit a piercing sound when triggered. Some are key operated; others are operated by entering a code on a keypad.

You could in theory also use one or more of these door alarms as a rudimentary alarm system for your home. The sound of the alarm will act as a valuable burglar deterrent if you are out, and you will give you extra night – time security when everyone is asleep.

For more information or advice on securing your home or business call our office on 0330 121 1234

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Think About Home Security

Like it or not, your home stands a very real chance of being burgled this year, next year – and for the foreseeable future. It is therefore up to you to tip the odds against the burglar. You can do this by making your property as secure as it is compatible with a realistic lifestyle – no one should have to live in a fortress – and be thinking about security all the time. One lapse is all the burglar needs.

80% of burglaries happen when the house is empty. In many cases carelessness on the part of the householder is largely to blame; you may only have gone next door for a few minutes and left the door ajar, or popped out to the shops without locking the garage, but that is all the opportunity a burglar needs. And if you advertise the fact that that the house is empty in the evening or when you go on holiday, you will give him all the time in the world. You need to think security and be on your guard at all times.

 

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