Minimising the Risk of Arson in Small Businesses
Source: Aviva (2012)
Arson (malicious ignition) continues to be a significant cause of industrial and commercial fires in the UK.
In 2006, according to the Communities and Local Government UK Fire Statistics, there were over 2,000 deliberate fires involving shops, vehicle trade premises, hotels, boarding houses, restaurants, cafes etc.
Most malicious fires are started during hours of darkness. However this does not mean that premises are safe during working hours as fires are easily started in parts of commercial and industrial premises that are not continuously occupied.
In buildings, most malicious fires occur in places such as storerooms or warehouses which provide both cover and fuel and are often unoccupied. In the open, fires are frequently started in waste, rubbish, undergrowth and stacks of combustible material such as timber including pallets.
The risk of arson can be reduced by carrying out an arson risk assessment which includes a review of the security measures, fire precautions, storage arrangements, visitor control, employee training and supervision.
The following paragraphs suggest how the risk of arson can be minimised.
- The owner or a manager needs to be made responsible for fire safety including protection from arson attack
- Be aware of any fires in the locality or any other forms of vandalism e.g. graffiti. Graffiti and any other damage needs to be removed/ repaired immediately
Assessing the Risks
Carry out an arson risk assessment:
- Identify the susceptibility of the building and the security measures adopted - both internally and externally
- Identify the potential hazards e.g. presence of combustible materials, sources of ignition
- Identify the potential arsonist - intruders, visitors, contractors, staff
- Eliminate, control or avoid the threat identified
- Review existing security and fire arrangements
Physical Security - Externally and Internally
- Perimeter fences, walls and gates - keep in good repair. These should be high enough and strong enough to deter entry
- All points of entry should be supervised. If this is not possible, those which are left unattended should be locked (apart from fire exits)
- Doors, windows and any other accessible openings, e.g. roof lights and hatches - ensure the building is secure with good quality locks
- Know the location of all keys - chase up any that are missing
- Gaps beneath external doors should be kept as small as possible and sealed where practicable
- Letter boxes, when integral to the building, should have metal receptacles fitted on the inside
- The provision of good lighting is a valuable deterrent. Well lit premises are less likely to be attacked
- Make a named individual responsible for securing the building at the end of each working day
Intruder and Fire Detection
- Automatic intruder alarm. If physical security measures are breached it is important that an intruder is detected early. Provide good coverage and ensure there will be a response to the alarm, if activated, by linking to a 24 hour manned alarm receiving centre using a secure monitored connection
- CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) coverage can act both as a deterrent and possible means of identification of an intruder or fire-raiser
- Automatic fire/smoke detection systems (possibly linked in with an intruder alarm) can aid the early detection of fires and so help to minimise damage
Regularly ensure extinguishers are in their correct positions and (with any hose reels), remain undamaged and unused.
Carry out appropriate weekly bell tests on sprinkler installations and automatic fire alarms
Sources of Further Information
Your local Fire Brigade
Arson Prevention Bureau - Tel 020 7216 7522 or http://www.arsonpreventionbureau.org.uk
The Fire Safety Advice Centre - www.firesafe.org.uk/html/guides/arson.htm
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