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Shop front protection guidelines – glazing, shutters and grilles

Securing your shop front will be one of your most important tasks as a retailer, as effective protection of your premises will help safeguard your customers and staff and protect your property, stocks and assets.

In the wake of August's urban riots, in which businesses were attacked and looted in some English cities, the need for adequate protection was made ever more clear.

This feature summarises new shop front protection guidelines published by RISC Authority (RISCA) and the Fire Protection Association.

Shop front security

Effective shop front protection can significantly reduce the risk of crime.

However, it is important retailers choose safeguards proportionate to their premises and needs and a security ‘risk assessment’ which factors in the potential risks faced and what protection could help prevent them, is an important first step.

According to RISCA guidelines, a consideration of overall shop front security needs to factor in several criteria, including: exterior environment, the condition of doors and windows, locks and locking systems, the type of glazing in place, alarms and/or CCTV.

RISCA has produced separate guides on alarms and ram raid protection, so their shop front guide concentrates on physical aspects of shop front protection, for example:

Glazing

According to RISCA guidelines, there are two main types of glass glazing usually used in shop fronts: toughened and laminated.

Toughened glass

This type of glazing is typically better-suited for shop doors and smaller windows, because the way it is made means it is restricted in size.

It is primarily intended as a safety material (being up to five times as tough as standard ‘float’ glass in terms of resistance to bodily impact), but is less useful from a security viewpoint as it can be easily shattered by tools.

Laminated glass

Laminated glass can meet most safety and security requirements. Because of its structure – interlayed sheets of glass – it can prevent or delay significant penetration. The thicker the glass, RISCA says, then ‘generally’ the stronger the product.

However – it is important to remember that glazing on its own may not be an adequate deterrent to a would-be burglar, given they are unlikely to be able tell different types apart, and in many cases an alternative or complementary visible deterrent, in the form of shutters or grilles, is advisable – if only to help protect the (expensive) glazing itself from breakage, e.g. by vandals.

Shutters & grilles

RISCA advises that shutters and grilles fitted internally are "generally" more secure than those fitted externally, because they are protected to a degree by the building perimeter behind which they are fitted.

When considering shutters and grilles, your security risk assessment will play an important part as it’s important to ensure the option you go for is proportionate to your needs.

Size of premises, value of stocks and assets will be relevant considerations.

We will now look at some of the main types of these products.

Metal roller shutters

Suitable for both internal and external use, metal roller shutters are usually made of aluminium or steel

Locking varies according to type and location but will generally be either by security padlocks, pin bolts, pad bolts welded to the bottom rail of the shutter or electrically-operated locking systems.

RISCA points out that the way in which metal roller shutters are operated can affect security.

For example: electric operating systems are now widely used, particularly for large shutters, and they will be opened and closed via an operating switch. This could be a simple push button or key switch, or something more sophisticated like a keypad or handheld fob (which operates like a car key).

In some cases it will be necessary for the operating switch to be located outside, like in the case of an exit route shutter, and this can represent a security risk because criminals have been known to 'hot wire' an external keyswitch, perhaps by knocking the switchbox off the wall to expose the wiring, then gaining entry to the premises.

RISCA advises that when part of an operating system is located externally, a coded transmitter device or a keypad switch is a better option than a push button or keyswitch.

Fixed and collapsible grilles

Fixed grilles, suitable for internal and external use, are usually made of steel welded into an angle iron or flat iron frame, screwed or bolted to the building structure.

For obvious security reasons, it is important that the grilles protect the full height of the shop front.

RISCA observes that fixed grilles can be vulnerable because of their 'open' design – damage could be inflicted through the apertures or a rope or chain could be attached to the grille and pulled off with the aid of a vehicle.

Collapsible grilles are typically made of metal and fitted inside the window. They are usually raised and lowered by cables and pulleys.

In terms of physical strength, they are usually inferior to other forms of shop front protection. Nevertheless, they can remain in place during business hours to provide protection as they provide good through visibility.

Planning

It is important to note that in most circumstances a change to the external appearance of premises requires planning permission.

According to RISCA, for shop front facades, permission would normally be required when:

A shutter or grille's boxed housing is fitted externally

A shutter or grille's housing is fixed internally or behind a façade, but the shutter unrolls on the external side

For a shutter or grille installed inside the shop front planning would not normally be needed, but it is wise to consult your local authority to be on the safe side.

Further reading

RISCA's guidelines for shop front protection

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