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SBD Official Police Security Initiative. Secured by Design Homes 2016 Version 1; February 2016: 'There are increasing crime problems associated with letter plate apertures, such as identity theft, arson, hate crime, lock manipulation and 'fishing' for personal items (which may include post, vehicle and house key, credit cards, etc.).'

ASFP Guide to Inspecting Passive Fire Protection for Fire Risk Assessors (2012): 'If the door has a letterplate, consideration should be given to fitting a device, which can help prevent arson attack e.g. by items or flammable liquid being passed through the door.'

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How to protect the letter plate (letterbox)

To address the letter plate related problems when designing new houses, the advice from the experts is to avoid introducing mail slots into front doors. From the property security point of view, it is preferable to have a secure mailbox outside. IdealGuard™/M secure by design multifunctional eco mailbox is the most advanced and cost-effective secure mailbox product.

Where a letter plate is required or already installed on the front door, the property and the occupants should be protected from letter plate - related risks such as vandalism, mail theft, arson, fire, heat loss and flooding. This can be achieved by fitting a security letter box mounted behind the letter plate, which is designed to stop penetration of hazards and fire into the property.

The only security letter box capable of safeguarding a letter plate at a low level is IdealGuard™ product. It also works with a letter plate at a high level.  

For the protection of the letter plate, which is fitted at a high level, there are a number of different quality 'secure letter box' products on the market. The principle of caveat emptor applies when you are buying a secure letter box, meaning that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. 

Make sure that you choose the right type of secure letter box product, unless you want to end up with a half-measure at best or a further problem at worst. The quality of the secure letter box product is directly related to your and your loved one's life safety.

Fitting of secure metal letter boxes, which can help prevent arson attack, on the inside of letter flaps for each building type is recommended by many expert sources, for example, by Fire Safety Order Guides published by CLG (Communities and Local Government) in 2006. The anti-arson letter box must be made of metal because it must be capable of withstanding the heat of fire. The metal body of the letter box should also protect against attempts to breach the letter box by pushing mechanical implements through the aperture of the letter plate and making it insecure against the introduction of hazards, especially liquids.

For those reasons, do not consider mailbags made of cloth or fabric. The low quality and fundamentally insecure products are claimed to protect against 'small fires' only. They are pushed onto the market by offering a relatively lower price and easy installation. But they are cutting their costs and prices by cutting away the customers' protection. The dubious claim that they are less intrusive than metal containers is only valid when they are compared against some metal containers and only in the instance when the mailbag isn't stuffed with the mail items when it expands in thickness.   

Also, beware of another dark side of the mailbags and certain metal 'anti-arson' and 'fireproof' letter boxes, which are available on the market with or without a fire extinguisher. The little fire extinguisher is only meant for "small fires," like a smouldering piece of paper. In any event, it will be completely useless if another attack happens after it has discharged in the initial fire incident.   

Another reason why these products give a false sense of security is because they essentially rely on the containment of the hazards introduced through the letter plate, rather than on the principles of prevention as required by The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRO), the fire safety guides and good engineering.

In reality, relying purely on these containment tactics may result in the premises being blown up from within. When a substance or liquid accelerant, which was introduced via the letter plate into the sealed container, is ignited, this can lead to an explosion like the one that was caught on video.

There is an often-repeated statement that one cupful of petrol in a small space is the same as 16 sticks of dynamite

A fire or explosion in the letter box container can cause the building of excessive internal pressure and explosive ruptures of the sealed container. This will send shrapnel and fire in every direction, at high velocity. Fitting products that may act like a tinderbox can be more dangerous than not having any at all.  

Why, then, should you let harmful items, particularly liquids, to enter your letter box or mailbox? Even if they weren't combustible, having to clean the mess out would be unpleasant.  

Then you might come across the letter box products that are claimed to meet the requirements of the Door and Hardware Federation's technical specification TS 008 (mailbox products to TS 009). A major problem with these products is that they too rely on the containment of the hazards and give a false sense of security against arson.

Consider this: the first patent for Protected insertion letter box that would expel any volume of liquid from the letter/mail box at the letter plate point was granted in the UK in 2000. Since 2006, IdealGuard™ anti-arson security letter/mail box products that expel any volume of liquid from the letter/mail box at the letter plate point have become available on the market. Ten and six years later, respectively, this does not appear to be a strong enough argument for DHF, which released TS 008:2012 and TS 009:2012 instructing for arson protection testing of the enhanced security letter plate and letter/mail box products against 100mL of petrol.

Why the unsubstantiated small volume of 100mL? Can we impose this on the arson perpetrators to use the liquid accelerant up to this small volume?  According to the Fire and Rescue Service, arson attacks on homes typically involve pouring one to five litres of petrol through the letterbox and setting it on fire. A fire that killed 37 people was started by pouring petrol from a two gallon (9 litres) canister through a letter plate. If this happens, where will the property occupants find themselves with the TS 008:2012 and TS 009:2012 compliant products?

As if this weren't strange enough, the tests against arson attack and fire resistance are completely eliminated in the updated version TS 009:2015. In the updated versions TS 008:2015 and TS 008:2022, 100mL is replaced by 500mL, but a 'No performance determined' option is still permitted for classification of the products, which are not tested for protection against arson attack, fire resistance, and resistance to water penetration.

Thanks to TS 008, manufacturers can advertise products that cannot protect the premises and the occupants from real-life risks as 'enhanced security' products. There is evidence that manufacturers are simply referring to compliance with TS 008 and TS 009 without mentioning the year, so it is unclear if they have tested the products against arson with 100mL or 500mL of petrol, or used the 'No performance determined' option and have not tested the products against letterbox arson at all.

Here comes to mind Dame Judith Hackitt's Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: 'A number of people engaged in the system have said that the test conditions used do not adequately reflect real-life conditions.' And Final Report conclusion: 'The current process for testing and 'certifying' products for use in construction is disjointed, confusing, unhelpful, and lacks any sort of transparency.'

A security letter box product that cannot protect the premises and the occupants from real-life risks is nonsense. These unsafe products continue to go on sale and pose a great risk to the customers. In contrast, installing the appropriate IdealGuard™ secure by design product model will solve the problem.

The only products that protect against real-life risks while adhering to the principles of risk prevention are the IdealGuard™ family of secure letter and mailbox products

To a large extent, this is achieved by ruling out most hazards at letter plate point rather than focusing on providing protection after there is a developed problem inside the letter box. Any volume of liquid is pushed out by the force of gravity and most solid hazards are filtered out too. IdealGuard™ product will prevent most real-world accidents, such as when litres of liquid accelerant are poured in and ignited.

Clearly, it is preferable to prevent hazards rather than rely on any measures, including fire extinguishers, after a problem, such as a fire, have developed. IdealGuard™products, manufactured from strong steel, will also protect against those hazards that were not filtered out. The problem is solved.

Click to see how the IdealGuard™/U secure by design multifunctional eco letter/mailbox will keep smoke contained and from penetrating the property, whether it is cold or hot smoke.  

For specifying IdealGuard™/U  models go to Specifying IdealGuard.

Click to learn about the latest IdealGuard™/T  models.