UL 2050 certification: what it is and how to get it

Development of a UL 2050 room

Anyone already in the security business knows that obtaining an Underwriters Laboratories certificate is not an easy task. In contrast, getting a facility “certified” is a long and labyrinthine process that requires achieving a series of the highest standards and ongoing inspections to maintain them.

That said, it is far from impossible. Hundreds of security companies are certified across the country and thousands of UL 2050 certified facilities are in operation.

This article is primarily intended to help those companies looking to develop a UL 2050 room by gathering all the necessary information in one place. However, those who already own and operate these secure facilities, but are looking to change their security company, can also benefit.

A brief history of UL 2050

In 1993, the United States Department of Defense developed a set of standards and guidelines to ensure that its classified material, information, and equipment is developed, stored, or maintained by a government contractor. Specifically, these standards were set out in something called the National Industrial Safety Program Operational Manual, or NISPOM. This meant that in order to work for DOD, each contractor’s facility had to meet these particular standards and procedures.

Around the same time, an independent organization called Underwriters Laboratories developed a set of standards that would meet and often exceed the standards set out in NISPOM. The result was Underwriters Laboratories 2050 or UL 2050.

2050 has no particular meaning, except that it is how UL at this specific level of security. The DOD recognizes the meticulous standards of UL and UL, in turn, is authorized to certify security companies to create, monitor and inspect Sensitive Compartment Information or SCIF facilities.

SCIF and who uses them

In essence, an SCIF is any room or facility that will be used to research, manufacture, store, or support any project, information, equipment, or personnel for any branch of the Armed Forces or other agencies. They usually involve classified information or materials, but while this may evoke images directly from James Bond, they can be anything from a computer or chemical lab to warehouses and woodwork.

These SCIFs are almost always used by government contractors or those hoping to become one through tenders for military and government projects. In fact, UL 2050 is the Department of Defense standard. Any business wishing to work with the DOD, the Armed Forces, or any of the other twenty-two government agencies must have a UL 2050 certified SCIF. Since these contracts are wide-ranging and often insulated by a national budget, the Demand for UL 2050 certified SCIF generally remains fairly constant even in times of economic downturn.

Obtain a UL 2050 business certification

First of all, it is not a company or company that achieves UL 2050 certification, but a specific room or facility. UL 2050 means that the SCIF has been built and inspected to meet UL specifications based on DOD’s NISPOM. Either one or a hundred, this must be done separately for each SCIF.

However, and this is key, it is not UL that issues the certificate. Underwriters Laboratories deals directly with specific security companies. Every security company goes through a rigorous validation and certification process to achieve what UL calls the “CRZH” certification. CRZH does not mean anything, but refers only to the UL code assigned to this type of certificate.

The security company, by virtue of its CRZH certification, is authorized to consult, construct, inspect, monitor and certify an SCIF within a specific radius of approximately four hours of response time or 200 miles. It is the security company that sponsors a facility for certification and issues the UL 2050 certificate.

The first step

The first step towards UL 2050 certification is to contact a CRZH certified security company. UL maintains a directory of such companies on its website. Simply enter your location information and “CRZH” in the “UL Category Code” and you will be given a list of all certified companies in your area. Keep your search scope wide by using only state or country information. This will return more results that can be applied to you within a 200 mile radius.

Once you contact the security company, negotiations begin for the type of SCIF you need for what you are looking to do. Typically this will begin with an inspection of the proposed site and then continue with the systems and changes that will need to be implemented.

The importance of this security company cannot be overestimated. An SCIF must be built according to precise standards. Every step of construction, programming, electronics, and monitoring must be done by companies with their own particular levels of certification and quality. A CRZH security company is an invaluable resource for finding reliable companies, from builders to alarm monitors.

Consulting a CRZH-certified security company as soon as possible allows a company to develop realistic budgets and determine competitive bids for government contracts.

Mystery cloud

Anyone looking to develop their first SCIF may be put off by how unclear the public information is. Cost, for example, is rarely discussed in finite terms until well into the process. The reason, simply put, is that the cost must be determined on a case-by-case basis according to the changes that must be made to meet UL 2050 standards.

Similarly, the standards themselves, described in a single UL publication, are one of the most controlled documents in the country. Due to the level of security in question, a copy can only be issued when a security company registers with UL. Even then, it will only be given to a designated employee who is verified by address and contact information and the copy you receive is individually numbered and cataloged. It goes without saying that the consequences of duplicating or leaking the security standards of all Defense Department and Armed Forces projects in the country are truly dire.

Later online and long term

Once the room is developed, the security company is responsible for inspecting and monitoring the facility to ensure it meets and maintains UL 2050 standards. Underwriters Laboratories will perform its own inspection of every aspect of the facility. Once the installation is approved, the security company is authorized to issue an official UL 2050 certificate.

This certificate is a kind of link that guarantees that the installation will operate according to UL 2050 standards and that the security company that issues the certificate will facilitate and guarantee that level of operation. To do this, the security company will conduct periodic inspections of the facility, as will Underwriters Laboratories. These inspections are often unannounced and will be carried out at least once a year by both organizations.

Consequently, having a security company you trust is critical. Like other services, a good security company must have an extraordinary commitment to quality in installation, service, and response. After all, what is at stake is millions of dollars in government contracts.

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