|The CertAlarm scheme is today the only European certification scheme that has been endorsed by the EA|
Today, manufacturers who plan to sell their fire and security products in different European countries are faced with uncertainty regarding the standards against which their products should be developed, tested and certified.
There are no harmonised EU-wide standards or certification schemes for security equipment, instead there is a suite of EN standards plus a variety of country-specific requirements, none of which are mandatory. And while the starting position is different in the fire market, where the Construction Product Regulation (CPR) obligates manufacturers to have their products tested and certified by third-party test laboratories and certification bodies, the resulting situation is the same: Depending on the country where the product is to be sold, there are in most cases additional national requirements the manufacturer has to take into consideration. These national standards and procedures are imposed by insurers, local inspectorates, law enforcement agencies and well-established certification bodies.
Over the years, this has led to a market situation which forces the manufacturer not only to develop products in line with current EN standards, but also with these national variations. What makes it worse is that many countries also require the manufacturer to prove compliance by having a product re-tested and re-certified by local test and certification bodies – a highly expensive, frustrating and time-consuming process that needs to be repeated in each territory.
Considering there are 28 members of the European Union, not to mention the additional members of the European Economic Area, the costs in terms of time and money are potentially substantial, creating artificial barriers in a single market that should in theory be completely open.
CertAlarm EU-wide testing and certification
In contrast, CertAlarm offers a unique European quality mark based on third-party, one-stop testing and certification to EN 54 fire standards and EN 5013X security standards. The CertAlarm scheme is today the only European certification scheme that has been endorsed by the European co-operation for Accreditation (EA) with the objective to ensure the highest possible quality of fire and security products in Europe and to increase the level of safety and security for Europe and its citizens. The CertAlarm scheme is a type 5 scheme according to ISO/IEC 17067, combining factory inspection, quality management review, product testing and ongoing surveillance in one package. This makes CertAlarm the most rigorous EU-wide scheme, providing a high degree of confidence for installers and end users that they are getting a quality product.
When the Brussels-based non-profit organisation was founded in 2010, there was a great deal of excitement for CertAlarm across an industry that regarded the new pan-European mark as the answer to the myriad of local national standards that manufacturers faced when intending to sell their fire products across Europe.
Some countries and their insurers and certification bodies are still trying to cling onto their monopolistic income stream by playing ‘hard to get’, however, the scheme has already gained significant acceptance across the EU
How CertAlarm scheme works?
With CertAlarm, a manufacturer can take its product to any of CertAlarm’s recognised test laboratories (RTLs) for a quote. After selecting the best quote, the product is tested according to the CertAlarm scheme by the selected CertAlarm RTL and once the product has successfully passed all tests, the selected CertAlarm contracted certification body (CCB) issues the certificate. The manufacturer is then able to sell the product throughout Europe, having spent a fraction of the price it would have cost to receive all of the individual national marks. Manufacturers pay a one-off registration fee to CertAlarm of €3,150 and then the quoted testing price to the selected RTL and certification fee to the selected CCB. The cost for using the label fee is €105 per certificate for the first year and €420 per certificate for subsequent years. To date, there are six contracted certification bodies and eight recognised test laboratories that manufacturers can test and certify their products with, based in Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Norway, Germany and the UK.
Acceptance across the EU
Anja Kinsky, General Manager of CertAlarm, spoke at IFSEC International in June about the benefits of the CertAlarm scheme for manufacturers of fire and security products and discussed the progress the scheme is making. “Since CertAlarm was founded, one of the biggest challenges has been the time that it takes to negotiate with the various stakeholders present in each country to gain acceptance of CertAlarm. Some countries and their insurers and certification bodies are still trying to cling onto their monopolistic income stream by playing ‘hard to get’, however, the scheme has already gained significant acceptance across the EU and other countries will follow in the near future.”
The fact that CertAlarm recently gained acceptance in Spain has been regarded as a major step forward. Following the introduction by the Spanish Government and the Ministry of Interior of four ministerial orders legislating the Spanish security industry, enforcement began in August 2011 for systems requiring a police response. Prior to the introduction of the legislation, the false alarm rate was over 95%. To ensure the quality of the systems installed, the private security authorities are now obliged to only accept product certificates that have been issued according to certification schemes of system 3 or higher.
Nevertheless the question remains. If CertAlarm is widely recognised as the way forward for harmonised testing and certification, why isn’t it being used by everybody? In short, it’s the market, comments Kinsky: “It sounds so logical. From a legal point of view, as an EA-endorsed scheme, CertAlarm should be accepted throughout Europe. There are no legal reasons why it shouldn’t be accepted everywhere. But in some countries, like France and Germany, the market continues to ask for the country-specific marks – and that is what makes it so tough. It is a marketing issue.”
There is, however, help from the legislative side. In 2012, the European Commission launched a dedicated initiative on a Security Industry Policy to “establish an EU harmonised certification system for alarm systems”. CertAlarm is actively participating in this initiative as one of the stakeholders identified by the Commission to provide guidance and expert knowledge. One of the options the EC is currently assessing is the adoption of legislation. The next step will be a proposal which is expected to be presented by mid of 2016 and will be followed by discussions and negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council which may take a while. Change will not come overnight but one thing is clear: It is likely that Europe will sooner or later accept harmonised standards and certification procedures applicable to and recognised equally in each Member State.