Security standards and their importance to security professionals
Security standards can help you minimize risk, reduce insurance premiums and stay on the right side of the law, but do you know what’s available and how standards work?
Here we provide an overview of the full range of British and international security standards and outline why they can be such useful tools for security professionals.
What is a standard?
It’s simply a document written by subject experts which distils and codifies best practice. Standards have been written covering pretty much everything you can think of – from how to test forged steel eyebolts to the ethical hazards of robotics. Along the way a large number of standards have been written on security issues. These standards – written with the help of security professionals and experts from a number of industry perspectives – are a way for everyone in the sector to check and prove they are doing things in the best way possible. Security standards cover three broad areas: electronic security products, security management systems and security services.
Standards on electronic security products
If you’re responsible for a CCTV system do you know exactly how to oversee it? There are three standards covering different aspects of their management and operation, from how to commission and install systems to how network video systems should interact with web-based services.
So called “remote centres” – also known as Alarm Receiving Centres (ARCs) – have their own British Standard (BS 8591) which gives recommendations on how to plan, build and operate both manned and unmanned ARCs. There are also “access control” standards which cover things like the performance requirements and methods of test for electronic security systems.
Last in this category are standards on alarm systems. They give guidance on how systems should be commissioned, installed and maintained, as well as how alarm verification methods can be applied.
Within the “alarm systems” range there are yet more standards on transmission equipment and networks, and on security system components. These cover topics such as a specification for secure sheathed cables for interconnecting wiring, and requirements for active infrared beam detectors.
Security management systems
Another category of security standards deal with security management systems. These standards are designed to help organizations identify opportunities to do things more effectively and more efficiently and thereby – in some circumstances – gain competitive advantage.
There are three key security management systems standards. BS 16000 clarifies the basic principles of security management. BS EN 16747 covers maritime and port security services (the “BS” means published by BSI in English in the UK, the “EN” tells you it’s a European standard produced under the auspices of CEN (Comité Européen de Normalisation)). Finally BS ISO 18788 is an international standard on the requirements of a management system for private security operations for application in areas of low governance or high risk, otherwise known as “complex environments”.
Security services standards include codes of practice for lone workers, the use of dogs for security, contracted security consultancy, guarding services, the provision of investigative services, vacant property protection services and keyholding services.
Lone workers are an area of particular focus because such individuals are at what the standard defines as “environmental risk”, as well as “people risk”. The standard recommends how to provide safety, security and reassurance for lone working employees.
The standards on security dogs (BS 8517) has two parts: the first for general purpose patrol and guarding dogs, the second for “detection dogs” – sometimes called “sniffer dogs”– which are trained to use their senses to detect substances such as firearms, munitions, explosives, illegal drugs, blood or even cadavers.
Finally, the British Standard on the provision of investigative services (BS 102000) offers recommendations on the conduct, management, staffing and operational accountability of private investigation services.
What standards can do
Why should security professionals use standards? Partly because they provide the most authoritative and comprehensive information available. They’re also regularly reviewed and updated to stay relevant and current. And partly because standards are a considerable help with regulatory compliance.
Standards are also trusted. If you can demonstrate that you or your products meet the requirements of a standard, it gives you a lot of credibility. That’s really important in security where service providers and manufacturers need to establish that they’re operating with integrity. Standards are also hugely useful to organizations which are buying security equipment and services.
For example, BS 7984 provides recommendations for keyholding and response services. Its provisions cover all the bases in terms of how such services should be managed, staffed and operated, from who to hire and how they should be trained, to how potential evidence of security breaches should be preserved.
The standard is valuable to anyone buying such services as it tells them what to look out for to ensure their keys are in safe hands. Meanwhile operators adhering to the guidance in the standard will not only know they’re doing the best possible job, but – perhaps even more importantly – that they’re meeting their obligations under the Security Industry Act 2001.
A standard such as BS 7984 is therefore incredibly useful to all concerned. Like all formal standards it provides a roadmap that everyone can rely on. It means there’s no need to guess what’s good, no need to risk non-compliance and no need for trial and error. And in the realm of security, that’s surely critical.
Lead Programme Manager
Defence and Security Governance and Resilience Sector, BSI British Standards