As part of CFOA Business Safety Week, fire and rescue services are keen to point out the advice and help they can give businesses to prevent them becoming a victim of arson.
In the UK there are more than 3000 arson attacks on businesses each year. Most businesses never recover from a serious fire incident so it is worth taking measures to ensure your business is not an easy target. Most steps businesses can take are quite straightforward and simple.
Don’t fuel the fire
An arsonist will tend to look for any material to use a fuel. Rubbish is often used.
Make sure you manage waste correctly and efficiently. As we approach the Christmas period it may be that you have more waste than usual. Consider making plans so this waste does not accumulate. This may mean more frequently collections, using additional safe storage or even just making sure staff are breaking down items such as boxes correctly so bins are efficiently filled.
Try and keep combustible waste locked away or secured – arsonists will move the waste to a vulnerable or more secluded part of the business or move waste and wheelie bins and use them to climb to gain access to other areas. Waste should also be away from the buildings so if it is set alight it minimises the chances of spreading.
Make sure you review security at your business. Most arson attacks happen after hours when the business is unoccupied and in the cover of darkness. Make sure your business has robust security procedures and is securely locked.
CCTV and security lighting will make it harder for your business to be targeted. Make sure any trees or foliage is trimmed back and any cameras have good lines of sight. Make sure if someone gets onto your site they feel exposed and can be seen not just by cameras but any passing traffic or nearby buildings.
Lighting should be carefully planned as bad lighting can create shadows in which to hide or illuminate a secluded area to make it easier for an intruder to do damage. Infra- red lighting can panic an intruder and makes it less likely they can plan entry to the site.
Restrict access to your business out of hours. Try and keep access routes for pedestrians and vehicles to a minimum and ideally have these monitored. Signs to direct people to reception and designated areas for customer and staff parking will make people feel the site is managed and they are more likely to be questioned if they are off the normal route.
Look at places such as your front door- does post accumulate? Could combustibles be pushed through the door to start a fire? If so, an arson proof letter box which fits to the inside of the door or an external letter box are simple and cost effective precautions.
Talk to your neighbours
You may be aware of anti-social activity in your area. This might not present as fire setting but could be vandalism or evidence of anti-social gatherings. If this is the case this should be discouraged and it would be worth asking for advice from your local police. Work with other businesses to act as eyes and ears.
If there is any evidence of deliberate fire setting, no matter how small this should be reported. Tell your local fire and rescue service and the police. Small fires can be a precursor to a larger incident. But also make sure any neighbouring businesses are aware of incidents so you can work together.
Prevent fire spread
As CFOA have mentioned previously in the week staff training can be key to ensuring that incidents are responded to quickly and appropriately. Make sure staff are aware of the risk of arson particularly if small incidents have occurred.
Make all staff aware of the locking up procedure and abide by it. This is important to make sure the site is secure, but it should also include steps to mitigate fire spread if an incident should occur. This can be as simple as making sure all internal doors are closed before leaving the building at night.
Make sure you have an out of hours detection system in place with suitable procedures. In the event of a fire the quicker the fire service can attend the less damage is likely to occur.
You may wish to consider a sprinkler system or water mist system. Information can be provided about the benefits from your local fire service.