Combating arson in your unoccupied premises
In these challenging times, some fire and rescue services have reported a spike in deliberate fires. With firefighters working hard to ensure the safety of the community, and doing their upmost to protect the most vulnerable, it is important for building owners or building managers of unoccupied premises to do what they can to prevent their premises becoming a target for vandals and arsonists.
The following precautions may help prevent your premises from becoming a soft target:
- Not everyone will have the luxury of employing a security guard whilst the building is unoccupied, but security is key to reducing the risk of arson. Perimeter walls, fences and gates needs to be strong and high enough to keep out intruders. Make sure all doors and windows are locked and remember to switch on your alarm system.
- Arsonists do not like to be seen and often attack at night under the cover of darkness, so security lighting is a cost effective way of reducing incidents, with passive infrared detectors adding an element of surprise as well as being rather more acceptable in built up areas. CCTV is a great deterrent; if you have it, advertise this fact on your perimeter walls and boundaries.
- If you have a letterbox fitted to a front door, arrange to remove post both from the floor and the mouth of the letterbox on a regular basis. This will not only reduce ignition sources but shows that the building is being managed. Better still, fit an arson letterbox or have the letterbox fitted to an external wall, eliminating the risk of someone posting flammable materials through the front door.
- Remove any rubbish or recycling bins away from the building and, if possible, keep lids locked and bins stored in secure stores away from the building.
- Unused pallets are a temptation for arsonists, so ensure that they are moved well away from the building.
- Flammable liquids and gases should be in a locked storage facility away from the boundary of the site.
- Keep in touch with your neighbouring business owners if possible, and keep an eye on local media, as it is common for arsonists to return to the same area to repeat crimes, starting with small fires and progressing to larger ones. Information should be shared and security measures reassessed in the light of any new incidents.
Arson hurts everybody, needlessly risking the lives of firefighters, costing millions of pounds of damage to property and ruining the environment – so it is important that you take responsibility for your building even when unoccupied, and think of ways in which someone could start a fire inside or outside of your property. Act on any issues you find immediately and reduce the risk.