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Developing ASTM Standards for Building and Infrastructure Protection

One of the subcommittees of new Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications, namely E54.05 on Building and Infrastructure Protection, is shaping up to be a formidable activity. During its first meeting in St. Louis, Mo., in October 2003, the members of E54.05 established two task groups, one on fixed barriers, openings and electronic security and detection, and another on site perimeter security.

The first task group will focus on security barriers that are part of the building structure itself: fixed barriers such as walls, ceilings and floors; openings such as doors, hardware (locks, hinges, etc.), side-light and multi-light vision systems (building fronts, etc.), glazing materials and systems, windows, operable vents, ventilation grilles, duct work security grilles, vehicle doors (basement garages, etc.), and roof hatches; and electronic security control and detection systems associated with these products and systems.

The second task group will concentrate on site perimeter security barriers that are outside, and not part of, the building structure. Examples are various types of fencing such as chain link, expanded metal, and ornamental iron; fixed and deployable barriers such as barbed tape, pre-cast concrete, and containers; various types of gates for vehicles and personnel; vehicle barriers such as active or movable barriers (bollards, wedges, beams, cables), passive or fixed barriers (bollards, cables, jersey barriers, planters, decorative walls), and natural barriers (berms, boulders, water); and electronic controls and intrusion detection systems that are used with these systems.

A Draft Standard Guide

Let’s look at one standard being developed by the first task group above as an example of the kind of work being done by this subcommittee.

The task group on fixed barriers and openings has agreed that its first objective will be the production of an ASTM standard guide for the selection of anti-terrorism physical security measures for buildings. Related prior work that will be used as resource material includes standards developed by ASTM Committee F33 on Detention and Correctional Facilities, along with selected industry and government standards developed by such agencies and organizations as the Department of Defense; the National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers and its division, the Hollow Metal Manufacturers Association; Underwriters Laboratories; and the U.S. Department of State.

The task group anticipates that once this guide is produced, it will then work on performance and testing standards for security barrier components and systems. An approach that works well for Committee F33’s standards development efforts is to research terrorist threats, beginning with the ones that are potentially the most damaging to life and property, determine how the threat can be simulated in a testing laboratory or other controlled conditions, specify full-scale test assemblies and/or components that are likely to be exposed to the threat, and then conduct testing to determine the performance of the assembly or component.

Based upon this research and development, an ASTM standard test method can be written that could be the basis for the performance section of a specification for a particular security assembly that will go into the construction or renovation of the building. As these standards are created for various components, assemblies and systems, they can be coordinated so that the performance requirements for the individual components of an assembly or system are comparable. This will help ensure that there are no “weak links in the chain” of the system or assembly.

Past Experience

A good example of this method is the door impact test in ASTM standard F 1450, Test Method for Hollow Metal Swinging Door Assemblies for Detention Facilities. The research for this test dates back to the original work on this standard when F33 was a subcommittee under Committee A01 on Steel, Stainless Steel, and Related Alloys, and to the parallel work on the then-new standard for detention hollow metal doors and frames by the Hollow Metal Manufacturers Association, a division of the National Association of Architectural Metal Manufacturers.

The test simulates a group of inmates who, during a riot, have fashioned a battering ram from heavy objects, bed sheets and other items, and have worked together to repeatedly exert tremendous amounts of impact energy against a door in order to break through it.
The impact energy levels that can be created under this scenario were determined through testing using a custom-designed mechanical impact testing apparatus and measuring devices that could be reliably duplicated from one testing laboratory to the other. The number of impacts that could conceivably be inflicted upon the assembly per minute was determined, again through testing. The number of minutes required for staff to respond, which is the time and the number of impacts required for the assembly to stay closed, was determined through user input. The sequences of the impact testing and targets were determined based, again, upon user input regarding the most logical targets and priorities that inmates would attack.

All of this information was used to create a detailed test procedure and details of test apparatus design. The samples used were actual operating doors with hardware and glazing that were representative of the types that were most likely to be subjected to attack. Samples were installed in a rigid test wall simulating an actual field installation again, in order to stay in keeping with the principle of simulated service testing of assemblies and components that must work together to resist the threat.

Embracing the Data

It is important to understand that simulated service/threat testing may, and often does, expose weak points in supposedly “tried and true” products and systems. The reaction to these discoveries should not be fear, or attempts to “water down” the testing procedures, but to embrace these discoveries as valuable information to be used to upgrade products and systems.

Such was the case when manufacturers began testing their products under the first publication of ASTM F 1450. Many manufacturers embraced this new and important test data, using it to make improvements in their products and strengthen the weak points, again, so that their performance in the field during an actual attack or other emergency will be better assured, and that facility staff as well as the public could depend on their products in life threatening situations.


The testing approach successfully used by F33 in the corrections field, and by other technical committees, can also be used by E54 to create a body of performance standards that will be a major contribution to the vitally important effort toward constructing buildings to be more resistant to terrorist threats. To make this happen, E54 needs the involvement of as many design professionals, engineers, manufacturers, business leaders, and especially Department of Homeland Security professionals, as possible.

It is difficult to express what we all know to be the gravity of the situation regarding homeland security. All of us who are in the business of manufacturing and installing equipment used in life safety, protection and security applications, can and must respond to these needs with decisive and immediate action — E54 offers an excellent opportunity to do so. //

Copyright 2004, ASTM International

James A. Stapleton, Jr., P.E., has been president of Habersham Metal Products Co., Cornelia, Ga., since 1989. He has been a member of ASTM since 1980 and serves on Committee F33 on Detention and Correctional Facilities as well as E54 on Homeland Security Applications.