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Standard


A row is brewing in the fire and security sector as the imposition of a new European standard threatens to prove costly to UK practitioners. Andrew Brister reports


practice T


he UK has a difficult relationship with Europe. The national psyche is perhaps underpinned by our island status. We may be in the EU but we stand alone – the distance between ourselves


and France so much more than a mere 20 miles or so (or should we say 34 kilometres?). It’s understandable, then, that the imposition of European


standards is often met with a disgruntled huff in Britain, and not just among members of UKIP – especially when they appear to make no sense whatsoever. Harmonisation in the electrotechnical sector may not make the headlines in the same way as the forcing of UK shopkeepers to ditch the pound in favour of the kilo, but the issue is no less heartfelt.


Alarm bells In the fire and security sector, BS 5979 is the standard relating to remote centres receiving signals from fire and security systems. This is the benchmark for alarm receiving centres (ARCs) in the world of intruder and hold-up alarms, CCTV monitoring, fire alarms, and lower risk categories such as monitoring alarms from retirement homes and hospitals, lone workers, and so on. It serves the industry well and is recognised by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) as the de facto standard for ARCs. But there is a new kid on the block, and he’s come in


from across the channel. Enter EN 50518. Of course, in theory there is nothing wrong with that. Harmonisation of standards across EU borders is part and parcel of membership of the union. It’s a must if there is to be a free market across Europe. Yet, what happens when the new standard is not a true replacement for the old? Will ACPO recognise it? Will all parts of the original be covered by the new standard? The British Standards Institution (BSI) is the body


Under scrutiny: the


European standards debate will continue to divide opinion


responsible for harmonisation. BSI committee GW/1/11 is looking at BS 5979 and its European counterpart and it appears that all is not harmonious at the moment. The Fire and Security Association (FSA), for one, is not happy. Stefan Hay, head of the FSA, explains: ‘The problem is that EN 50518 is an incomplete EN. So far, only one part has been published. Yet, the BSI position is that we now have to withdraw BS 5979 to implement the EN. How can we withdraw a BS that is complete, in favour of an EN that is far from complete?’


62 ECA Today May 2011


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