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Protect Your Business From Arson

Aug 18, 2007
Protection against arson, particularly by casual vandals and intruders, involves measures that afford a high degree of security. While it is commonly believed that fire safety and security directly conflict, because of the possible detrimental effects of security measures on means of escape, good security is itself a fire prevention measure.

Common security measures that are relevant to the prevention of arson include the following:

1. Secure boundaries to prevent intruders - in the case of a site, this involves the provision and maintenance of fences of adequate height and physical strength. For buildings, there is a need for all doors to be capable of being securely locked. This includes fire exits, for which suitable exit devices, such as panic bars, can be provided on the inside of the door. Security of windows should also be addressed.

2. Access control - to ensure that only authorised personnel enter the premises,

3. Security lighting - particularly in the case of open yards or large sites with open spaces between the perimeter fence and the buildings on the site.

4. Intruder alarms - to ensure that occupants may be alerted and the police summoned if unauthorised access to the site is gained. For a large site or building CCTV monitoring might also be appropriate.

5. Periodic patrols - either by on-site security personnel or by a third party company.

6. Vigilance by staff - who should be aware for the need for security measures and be encouraged to challenge persons whom they consider should not be there.

In assessing the risks attention should not only be paid to the likelihood of a large fire, for example, even a small fire in a residential home or hotel could lead to loss of life.

In addition, general good housekeeping contributes to the reduction of risk of fire and arson. Frequently rubbish and combustible material present an ideal source of fuel for the opportunist arsonist. These opportunities can be denied to the arsonist by their regular removal and proper disposal.

Combustible goods, timber pallets, rubbish bins or skips etc, should not be stored within at least 6 metres of a building. Failure to do this could give the arsonist the opportunity to start a fire without having to actually enter the building.

Liaison with the local police can assist in an awareness of the potential threat of arson and assist management in formulating an appropriate level of protection. Details of any arrangements made should be recorded within the fire risk assessment and reviewed regularly.

Managers should always remain vigilante to the possible threat of arson. The threat will vary from one organisation to the next and depend on such factors as:

1. The nature of the organisation - Larger organisations may be seen as a more legitimate target than a small family business. Schools are a particular target for vandals who may set fire to the premises, especially in the school holidays.

2. Business Vulnerability - Certain types of businesses are inherently more vulnerable than others, for example it is well documented that bus companies suffer losses from the ignition of seating with parked vehicles. Bus garages are often difficult to secure because of the need for regular access until late at night.

3. Employee relations - Organisations with better employee relations and higher morale are known to have fewer incidents of fires occurring.

4. Geographical location - Inner city areas are often at greater risk than more rural locations, although farms and outbuildings can also be the target of arsonists due to their isolated location.

5. Admission of the public - Public buildings suffer much more with the problem of arson than those whose access is limited to just employees.
About the Author
Freddy has been a regular author on topics concerning business fire safety consultancy. Specialising in the practical application of the fire safety risk assessment process with 17 years experience as an operational fire safety officer.

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