How to Protect your Business from an Arson Attack
30% of all fires in non-domestic buildings, from 2011 – 2012, were intentionally set – government statistics.
Unfortunately, not all fires are accidental. Arson is still the single largest cause of all fires in England and Wales, making it a greater risk than electrical appliances, heating devices and smoking materials – the other leading causes. This is a massive concern for business owners everywhere.
What is arson?
Arson is the act of intentionally setting fire to property with the intent to cause damage. It has been classified as a criminal act and an anti-social activity. Arsonists are most likely to be male and under the age of 21.
Impact on arson on businesses
Intentional fires can often be more damaging than accidental ones. They’re normally started when a building is unoccupied, meaning there is nobody about to report or fight the fire. This means that they have more time to spread and damage your building.
The loss of data, materials, working hours and labour are all major consequences of a fire. Some businesses never recover from an arson attack, especially now, at a time when the UK economy is shaky to say the least.
Which businesses are most at risk?
All businesses are not created equal – some companies are more at risk of facing an arson attack than others.
There were a total of 7,300 deliberate non-residential fires in 2011/12. The figures below show how many fires were results of arson in each type of building.
- Buildings providing recreational and cultural services — 40%
- Schools — 32%
- Agricultural premises — 31%
- Retail distribution centres — 25%
- Hospitals and healthcare practices — 22%
- Preschool, higher education, and further education premises –21%
- Pubs and catering facilities — 17%
- Industrial premises — 15%
Include arson attacks in your risk assessment
Arson attacks should be treated as a real risk. For this reason, they should be given consideration when your fire safety risk assessment is being carried out.
You can use your risk assessment to identify hazardous areas, possible entry routes and materials that should be locked away.
Employees are key to the fire safety of your building in general – the prevention of an arson attack is no exception.
- Make sure you know who your key holders are, and who has access to your building
- Be sure to follow up on any missing keys or passes
- Encourage your staff to report suspicious behaviour
- Hire security staff if your budget allows it
Check and improve your fire protection system
Protecting your business from arson isn’t just about preventing an attack. It’s also about managing one. If an attack does occur, will your fire protection system be able to detect, contain and extinguish the fire? Or will the fire be left to blaze?
- Fit your building with an appropriate fire detection system
- Ensure smoke alarms are fitted (at least) on every floor
- Make sure you have a sprinkler system installed – it will operate automatically
- Consider installing automatic fire extinguishers, especially if you have a machine, engineering or server room
Secure your building
Hopefully, your building will already be secure enough to prevent unauthorised entry. However, for a fire to ignite nobody needs to enter your building, it’s enough to be able to slide lit paper under your door or throw a petrol bomb through a window. Extra care needs to be taken to prevent lit material from entering your premises, too.
- Make sure all windows and doors have working locks
- Invest in shutters so that window and door glass cannot be broken
- Keep your outside bin and storage areas are secure and locked
- Fill any gaps between your doorway and the ground so nothing can be slid under your door
- Fit a metal container to the inside of your letterbox – it will catch and contain any lit material that’s posted through your door
- Install perimeter fencing if your site allows it
Control building access routes
By controlling your entry and exit routes you’ll find it easier to monitor who is entering and leaving your building. This means that if an arson attack does occur, you can narrow down the suspects
- Limit the number of entrances in use
- Think of other ways people could access your building, such as flat roofs, drain pipes, windows and fields
- Never block fire exits as this will compromise the safety of your building
- Where suitable, ensure that all visitors sign in, are issued with a guest pass and sign out again
Keep flammable materials locked away
Anything that’s flammable will help fuel the fire. By minimising the amount of flammable materials kept on site or out in the open, you can slow the spread of the fire.
Photo Credit: Redgum via photopin cc
- Keep flammable liquid and gases stored safely under lock and key – more on storing flammable liquids and gases here
- Dispose of any unwanted paper, packaging or rubbish build ups regularly
- If you work on an agricultural site, remove straw and hay from the field as soon as you can then keep it locked away
- Keep unoccupied areas clear of clutter and rubbish build ups
- Dispose of rubbish in a metal wheelie bin with a padlock