After a 20-year wait, specifiers have been acclimatising to a European performance standard (EN 1627: 2011) for security products. But don't assume that it will fully mitigate risks, says Richard Flint.
1 July 2014
Identifying fit-for-purpose physical security products such as doors, windows, grilles, and undertaking associated compliance audits is less than straightforward for FM.
This is partly because security performance is not yet a mandated requirement in construction regulations. As a result manufacturers can make voluntary declarations of security performance against available test standards such as LPS 1175, PAS 24 and relative newcomer EN 1627, published three years ago.
EN 1627 has eased barriers to EU trade in security products, but does not set any new bars in security performance, nor is it a panacea for assessed risks. FMs should make sure they fully understand the performance assurances behind the standard and consider whether they address the threats faced.
While EN 1627 was still being published in the 1990s, LPS 1175 had already been introduced to provide insurers with a reliable measure of the effectiveness of security equipment based on current and predicted crime trends. As part of the BRE Global portfolio of test standards, it is used by BRE Global's fire and security certification body, LPCB, to certify façade and other protection products listed in the Red Book.
Criminals generally adopt an entrepreneurial approach, investing greater time and resources in gaining entry as the perceived returns get bigger. The function of physical security equipment is to delay the attack sufficiently to allow detection and response in time to stop the crime.
EN 1627 (classed RC1 to RC6) and LPS 1175 (classed SR1 to SR8) recognise similar magnitudes of delay, but comparisons largely stop there. Beyond this, there are many differences between the testing requirements and regimes that define their performance classifications. Those differences greatly affect the suitability of the products approved to these standards in different threat environments.
Notably, EN 1627 has very low performance requirements for glazing, based mainly on the assumption that intruders will use stealth, and avoid making noise by breaking glass. In contrast, LPS 1175 recognises that noise may not be a deterrent to an assailant focused on forcing entry as rapidly as possible, or who is working in a remote area.
The scope of tools defined in each standard varies, too. EN 1627 largely uses tool kits prevalent in the late 1980s and 1990s. LPS 1175, however, updates test tools based on government and police advice to ensure that they reflect those available to today's criminal, as well as those likely to be available to criminals in the near future. So, unlike LPS 1175, EN 1627 does not include: basic hand tools, such as a claw hammer; common battery-powered tools, such as 18V drills and reciprocating saws; or more powerful equipment such as petrol-driven grinders used by criminal gangs.
EN 1627 testing is also based on attackers being physically much bigger than assumed for LPS 1175; delay times in EN 1627 are therefore based on assailants needing to make a bigger hole in, say, a curtain wall, to get in.
Although the performance requirements set by the security standard are clearly crucial, so is the quality of the third-party testing process verifying that products have met them. Any organisation can conduct testing and evaluation services to EN 1627, and they are not legally required to show competence. There is no central body responsible for assessing the quality and consistency of testing and its conformity with test criteria, or for policing misleading claims made for the standard.
As there may be consistency issues in the performance of EN 1627-badged products, depending on the credentials and diligence of the third party approval test house, it is important to ensure that testing to EN 1627 was conducted by a laboratory accredited by an International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) member such as UKAS.
As a security standard exclusive to LPCB certification, LPS 1175 products are tested and approved by a single organisation working to the leading testing ethos and quality standards of BRE Global. LPCB approval is not solely based on a type test, but involves a continuing audit of product conformity to LPS 1175 - an assurance not harnessed in the EN 1627 standard.
Specifiers should also be aware that EN 1627 can only be applied to product types in its scope - doorsets, windows, curtain walling, grilles and shutters. Its tests are unsuitable for certifying equipment outside this. The scope of products covered by LPS 1175 is arguably the broadest of any physical security standard. This offers opportunities to implement a consistent performance level through a greater proportion of the building fabric.
The security market is lucrative, so there are suppliers who will make inaccurate claims, reassuring buyers of product performance while touting attractive cost savings. It's even been known for suppliers to say a product has been tested to a certain performance standard, omitting that it actually failed! This leaves the customer vulnerable to risks they think they are secure against. After a break-in, an investigation could show management was at fault.
Some 95 per cent of products submitted for testing fail first time, hinting at the great disparity in performance between security products on the market and reliability of unverified claims made by some suppliers. It also indicates that LPS 1175 through LPCB certification offers a robust standard to protect property and assets.
Richard Flint, physical security certification scheme manager for LPCB (Loss Prevention Certification Board), part of BRE Global