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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. It is preferable to have a secure mailbox outside. The most advanced and cost-effective mailbox product is IdealGuard™/M secure by design multifunctional eco mailbox.

Where a letter plate is required or it is already provided in the front door, the property and the occupants should be protected against the letter plate related risks, including vandalism, mail theft, arson, fire, heat loss and flooding. This can be achieved by fitting a secure container for mail (letterbox) mounted behind the letter plate, which is designed to stop penetration of hazards and fire into the property.

The only letterbox product, which is suitable for protection of the letter plate, which is fitted at a low level, is IdealGuard™ secure by design letterbox and it works with the letter plate at a high level too 

For the protection of the letter plate, which is fitted at a high level, there is a number of varied quality secure letterbox products on the market. The principle of caveat emptor applies when you are buying secure letterbox 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 the secure letterbox product unless you want to end up with a half-measure at best or a further problem at worst. The quality of the secure letterbox product is directly related to your and your loved one's life safety.

Fitting of secure metal letterboxes, 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 fireproof letterbox must be made of metal because as a fire protection element of the building hardware it must be capable to withstand the heat of fire up to 850oC for at least 30min as in BS EN 1634-2 fire doors hardware test. Furthermore, the letterbox metal body should also protect against the attempts to breach the letterbox by pushing mechanical implements through the aperture of the letter plate for 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 on 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 obtrusive than the metal containers is true only in comparison to some metal containers and only until the introduced mail items would fill the mailbag and it expands in thickness.  

Also, beware of another dark side of the mail bags and certain metal 'anti-arson' and 'fireproof' letterboxes, which are available on the market with or without a fire extinguisher. These products give a false sense of security 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, when a liquid accelerant, which was poured in and contained, is ignited, this can lead to an explosion.

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

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

Then you might come across the letterbox 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 letterbox that would expel any volume of liquid from the letter/mail box at the letter plate point was granted in the UK in 2000. IdealGuard™ anti-arson security letter/mail box products that expel any volume of liquid from the letter/mail box at the letter plate point became available on the market since 2006. Ten and six years later, respectively, this does not appear to be a strong enough case for DHF who publishes TS 008:2012 and TS 009:2012 advocating for arson protection testing of the enhanced security letter plate and letter/mail box products against 100ml volume of petrol.

Why the unsubstantiated small 100ml? Can we impose on the arson perpetrators to use the liquid accelerant up to this small volume? In real-life situations, litres of liquid accelerant are known to be introduced. If this happens where will the property occupants find themselves with the TS 008:2012 and TS 009:2012 compliant products?

As if this is not strange enough, in the updated version TS 009:2015 the tests against arson attack and fire resistance are totally withdrawn, whereas in the updated version TS 008:2015 100ml is replaced by 500ml, but it allows 'No performance determined' option for classification of the products, which are not tested for protection against arson attack, fire resistance and resistance to water penetration.

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.'

Thanks to TS 008:2015 manufacturers can advertise the products that cannot protect the premises and the occupants from the real-life risks as 'enhanced security' products. There is evidence that manufacturers are simply referring to the compliance with TS 008 and TS 009 without mentioning the year, so it is unclear if they have tested the products against arson by 100ml or 500ml volume of petrol or used 'No performance determined' option and have not tested the products at all.

A security letterbox 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. However, fitting IdealGuard™ secure by design multifunctional eco letterbox will resolve the problem.

IdealGuard™secure letterbox is the only product that protects against the real-life risks and conforms to the principles of prevention of the risks

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 letterbox. 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 of the real-world accidents, such as when litres of liquid accelerant is poured in and ignited.

Clearly, it is preferable to prevent hazards rather than relying on any measures, including fire extinguishers, after a problem, such as fire, have developed. Manufactured from strong metal IdealGuard™product will also protect against those hazards that were not filtered out. Problem solved.

Click to view how IdealGuard™/U  series secure by design multifunctional eco letter/mailbox will ensure that be it cold or hot smoke it will be contained and not penetrate the property.  

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

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