Taking a look at arson prevention in commercial premises

What can managers and responsible persons do to protect their business property!

When carrying out a fire risk assessment in a commercial building a responsible person must always consider arson as a possible cause of fire and take appropriate steps to reduce or eliminate it. It is the most common cause of fire in non-domestic buildings and has been a growing problem in metropolitan areas. The following tips may help prevent an arson attack at your premises:

• Have there been any small fires or suspicious fires in the local area? This may be an indication of a larger fire to come.

• Has there been any recent graffiti or vandalism in the local area. If so contact the Council or Police as this is considered to be a possible sign of a future arson attack

• Annual staff fire training for staff should include informing all staff of arson threats. Adopt an arson policy and ensure all staff report any suspicious behaviour. Train employees to challenge any person who is acting in an odd or suspicious way

• Is there more than one entrance to the premises? Try to restrict entry and access to some of the entrances?

• Before locking up at night ensure:
o There is no combustible material lying around
o Lock away any liquid fire accelerants such as paints, oils etc
o No unauthorised persons still in the building
o Doors and windows are locked and any additional security measures attached to them are engaged
o Fire alarms, security systems and security lighting is switched on

• Consider investing in Closed Circuit TV

• Consider employing a security guard or company if you are based in a larger premises

• Are there any gaps under doors? Could lighted material be pushed under them?

• Install a metal letterbox that can contain any fires caused by lighted rags, paper or fireworks

• Ensure no keys are missing? Find missing keys and replace locks if they cannot be found.

• Identify any routes that burglars or intruders could use. For example could they gain access by a backyard, drain pipe, flat roof etc. Consider what can be done to prevent this. (Possible solutions, could include Non drying paint or grease, protective fencing or razor wire etc

• Storage areas and warehouses can be high risk to arson. Fires can used to try to cover up crimes. Ensure access to such areas is strictly monitored

• Manage waste materials and rubbish. For example:
o Do not let rubbish accumulate inside the building
o Do not store rubbish in bins close to the outside of your building
o Place in metal containers in locked areas or arrange for its disposal
o Arrange for regular disposal of rubbish if you accumulate high levels throughout the week

Fire risk assessment and staff fire training are the key points to preventing arson. Whilst no fire risk assessment can completely eliminate the occurrence of an arson attack, good management can prevent or reduce the chance of a random attack. Suitably trained fire marshal or fire wardens who have attended fire marshal courses or Fire marshal training on-site courses will also be a useful tool to combat arson in premises.

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