Burglary risk assessment (EN50131/PD6662)

The term ‘risk assessment’ is most commonly associated with health & safety.  However, when it is applied to the design of security and fire safety systems, the phrase takes on a different meaning and this seems to be causing some confusion for people researching burglary risk assessment (EN50131/PD6662), especially when researching on the internet.

Risk assessment for designers of intruder alarms

The security and insurance industries use the term ‘risk assessment’ for the new European systems standard EN 50131-1 (or the British equivalent PD6662), which lays down a structured risk assessment procedure for designers of intruder alarm systems.

A properly completed risk assessment will lead to an appropriately designed and graded system. When designing a confirmable alarm system, insurers expect alarm installers to take into account the need to detect intruders before they reach the target, as well as the need to have confirmation of detection.

One of the most significant issues within the new EN standard is evaluating the risk associated with the premises and determining a grade of a system that will be directly proportional to the insurance value of the property and its contents.  Once the grade of a property has been determined, it will define the extent of its alarm system, the type of remote signaling (alarm monitoring) used, and the system’s tamper security (ie. the method used to protect an intruder alarm system against deliberate interference).

Security grades

Alarm Grade Level of Risk Type of Premises Insurance Approval Notification Options
1 Low DIY Type Installation NO NO
2 Low to Medium Residential & Low-Risk Commercial YES YES
3 Medium to High High-Risk Residential & Commercial YES YES
4 Very High Banks, Possible Terrorist Targets, etc YES YES

Another important aspect of the EN 50131 requirements is the concept of a security grade. In the EN, each installation’s grade of system is determined by various factors.  This grade is described in terms of the perceived type of burglar and how determined the burglar is likely to be.

Notification options

‘Notification’ is the term used to indicate how the alarm will notify someone if it detects an intruder.  This can be as simple as a sounder activating, through to the most sophisticated form of remote signalling.

‘Remote signalling’ is the term used to indicate the alarm system will notify someone remote to the site (for more details please see our Intruder Alarm Monitoring page).

The equipment that is used to signal these events is also subject to the grading structure and subject to a fairly complicated set of requirements.  There are varying levels of notification within a grade and these are normally denoted by a letter after the grade of the system.  For example, a system may be categorised as having a grade 2B means of notification for a fairly basic method of remote communication on a fairly simple installation, or, it may be a grade 3C for a more complex method on a higher grade of installation.

In the interests of simplicity; however, this equipment is categorised into either SP2, DP2, DP2+, DP3 and DP4 and in the real world, the detail of the notification grade itself usually has little impact on insurers requirements for the system.

It is also important to recognise that this equipment forms an integral part of the intruder alarm system.  Therefore, if the remote signalling grade of equipment is only a grade 2 but the rest of the installation is installed to a grade 3, the grade of the entire system will be reduced to a grade 2.  The same will be true& if the system is installed to a grade 2 standard but the signalling equipment is only categorised as a grade 3.  Unfortunately the overall system grade would only be a grade 2.

What are the grades?

Grade 1 is for a low risk of theft.  It applies to a property which is not likely to attract burglars.  In the application guide (DC CLC/TS 50131-7), it assumes that a thief is likely to be opportunistic rather than planning a theft and will simply break open a door.

Grade 2 is for a higher risk of theft.  Such a property is likely to have something of interest to an experienced thief who is likely to have some knowledge of how alarm systems work and possibly carry some tools to help him overcome a simple alarm system.  The thief is likely to check the building for easy access through doors, windows and other openings, therefore these are the principle areas of detection.

Grade 3 is for a property. which is a reasonably substantial risk, one which, might well contain objects of high value so there is good reason to assume it may be broken into.  An intruder is likely to be knowledgeable about intruder alarm systems and may attempt to overcome the system. The thief is likely to get in by penetrating doors, windows or other openings but can also be expected to gain access by penetration of floors, walls and ceilings so additional protection is required.

Grade 4 is for highest-risk properties.  Such properties are likely to be targeted by a gang of thieves who will probably have planned the burglary in advance.  They will know some techniques for preventing detection or tampering with intruder alarm systems, and therefore, the levels of sophistication need to be that much greater to prevent this happening.

What grade of system does my installation need?

To a large degree the choice of grade is dictated by the insurance companies but a rule of thumb guide is as follows:

  • Grade 1 would be for residential/properties (whose insurance policy does not require an alarm system)
  • Grade 2 would be for most residential/properties and low risk commercial premises (e.g. a florist)
  • Grade 3 would be for high-risk residentual/domestic and most commercial properties (e.g. an off-licence)
  • Grade 4 would be for extremely high-risk properties including terrorist threats and highest risk commercial properties (e.g. a bullion store)

Mixing components of different grades

The EN standard states that an installer can use different grades of component within the same intruder system.

For example, if the installation has a Grade 2 listing, it is acceptable to use a Grade 3 power supply.

However, if all the components or detection devices in a system are the same grade, that system is limited to that one grade.

It is possible to have a defined part of a system at a higher grade so long as all associated parts are at the same (or higher) grade. For example a system combining intruder and personal attack (hold-up) functionality could have a grade 4 personal attack system whilst the intruder parts were limited to a grade 3. But this example is only valid if the power supply, alarm transmission system and warning devices used by personal attack parts are all grade 4. This would still allow intruder parts such as PIR’s to be grade 3. The system as a whole is, of course, would only be grade 3.

Insurers are looking to the NSI (as part of their inspection programme) to ensure that installers carry out Risk Assessments professionally when designing systems and selecting a Risk Assessment Grade.

What are insurers looking for?

From our experience, insurers have the greatest influence on the grade of installation as they will be taking on the risk.  Therefore, CIA has worked closely with insurance companies to discuss with them the real needs of the customer and ensure the correct level of security will be installed.

In most cases, the grade of system and therefore the level of detection required by an insurer will be either a Grade 2 or a Grade 3.  However, it should be noted that insurers are not only interested in the grade of the detection installed but also focus on the type of remote signalling.  The grade of remote signalling required will usually be the same grade as the rest of the alarm system.  However, from experience we have also seen many insurers require much higher grades of remote signalling than the grade of intruder alarm we are installing.  It is vital therefore, that all aspects of their requirements are taken into consideration before systems are designed.

In practical terms there are substantial differences between two grades.  For example, when comparing grade 3 to grade 2 installations, not only are there different component parts of higher sophistication, but also there are more detection devices required to detect if intruders attempt to gain access through the fabric of the building.

For this reason, before accepting any quotation for a new intruder alarm system, we would strongly recommend that the design is approved by the insurance company.  Retrospectively altering the installation – if the design is not approved – can prove to be a costly experience.

CIA are NSI gold medal accredited and can carry out a full risk assessment to offer the right grade of protection for your property and completely satisfy insurance requirements.

Click here to download the BT RedCare risk assessment and grading for BS EN 50131-1 guide (risk_assessment_brochure.pdf 265KB)

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