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[ Focus: Standards ]

Standard issues The normal procedure on harmonisation is that a country must withdraw national standards that are in confl ict with an incoming EN. It is debateable, in the case of BS 5979 and EN 50518, whether the two standards are in confl ict. Steve Kimber, as well as being chairman of the FSA, is managing director of monitoring centres Southern Monitoring Services and Northern Monitoring Services. He is a practitioner at the sharp end of the proposed changes. ‘EN 50518 deals with the construction and operation of monitoring centres for intruder alarms and hold-ups – and that’s it. BS 5979 deals with those, as well as those centres monitoring fi re alarms, social care, CCTV and lone worker tracking. So it is only in confl ict with the EN in one part.’ Kimber acknowledges that the UK cannot bury its head

in the sand and make out that the EN does not exist. ‘As a country, we have to acknowledge EN 50518 – when all three parts are ready to go and published. If a new ARC is built today and is only monitoring intruder alarms and hold- ups, then it should be built to the EN. If they are outside of that and wish to be assessed for fi re alarms and the rest, then they should be assessed to BS 5979. Therefore, we believe that there should be no date of withdrawal on BS 5979 and that the EN should run in parallel.’ Many in the fi re and security sector will have a strange

sense of déjà vu. The standard for the installation of intruder alarms, BS 4737, was similarly withdrawn in favour of an emerging EN (EN 50131) before it was ready to go. ‘In a sense, we are revisiting something that we’ve got wrong before,’ comments Kimber. ‘The BSI insisted on a date of withdrawal for BS 4737 even though the new EN suite wasn’t ready. The result was that the installation sector had to put in place a series of costly enabling documents.’

Wrong track Others in the industry feel the same way. Mike Cahalane sits on the GW/1/11 committee, representing the Association of Security Consultants. ‘The wrongful DOW (date of withdrawal) imposed on BS 4737 is well documented and led to years of instability, costs and bureaucracy imposed on the 2,000 UK security systems installers who best fi t the description micro businesses. We are all well aware of the unfortunate result of relying on BSI advice over BS 4737 and it would clearly be wrong to go down this track again.’ Yet here we are again, with the BSI urging a DOW

for BS 5979, against the wishes of most committee members, a move which, according to Cahalane, is in clear contravention of guidelines on DOWs issued by CEN, the European Committee for Standardisation. ‘It is clear that the ridiculous attempt by the BSI to persuade committee members to deviate from CEN guidance will lead to the sticking plaster of DDs and PDs [enabling documents] the industry associations and inspectorates will inevitably have to impose on the security systems industry if the BSI line is accepted,’ he says. ACPO would not withdraw the BS 5979 standards

it requires of monitoring centres. Therefore the industry would have no choice but to fi ll in the gaps created by the introduction of EN 50518 with enabling documents – a costly exercise.

What happens when the new standard is not a true replacement for the old?

Change call The French have already called for changes to EN 50518 and have a history of militancy when it comes to harmonisation. ‘The French and Germans avoided all of this industry debacle foisted on the UK security systems industry by derogating from EN 50131-1, and the French are once again pointing the right direction in regard to what is a clearly failed prEN 50518,’ says Cahalane. The debate appears to be about to come to a head.

Christopher Brown, BSI programme manager for risk, quality and security and secretary to the GW1/11 committee states: ‘With the recent ratifi cation by CENELEC of Parts 2 and 3, EN 50518 is now complete. As a condition of its membership of the European standardisation system, BSI is obliged to accord the status of “British Standard” to each European standard and to withdraw any material in a pre-existing national standard that is in confl ict with it. We are currently considering in detail the extent to which this applies to BS 5979.’ Whether in confl ict or not, Brown suggests that the

About the author

Andrew Brister Andrew Brister is a freelance journalist and editor. He has been involved in the building services sector for more than 20 years.

industry is unlikely to have to suffer a series of costly enabling documents, as was the case with BS 4737. ‘There is no question of withdrawing a national standard before the publication of a corresponding national standard. On the contrary, it is the usual practice for CENELEC standards such as EN 50518 to allow an extended period of co- existence. It is unlikely that any element of BS 5979 will be withdrawn before 2013.’ A cynic might argue that the BSI has a vested interest

in the introduction of European standards. After all, who is the reseller of the published ENs in the UK? What is clear is that European harmonisation will continue to divide opinions, long after the BS 5979 and EN 50518 debate has receded. Let’s hope that, on this occasion, history does not repeat itself.

May 2011 ECA Today 63

BS 5979 is the standard relating to remote centres

receiving signals from fi re and security systems

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