Most deliberate fires affecting businesses start outside the premises. The culprits are often young vandals whose motive is to cause trouble. They are opportunists who light their fires with anything readily to hand, including rubbish, packaging and waste in open skips.
In some cases arsonists also strike inside the premises – perhaps a member of staff with a grudge, or others trying to make a point or cover up another crime.
Chris Bailey is head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team. Part of his job involves working closely with police, ambulance, council, health and voluntary sector colleagues on a variety of initiatives to combat crime and disorder in Buckinghamshire.
Chris said: “As a business owner, there are a lot of simple, low-cost measures you can take to protect yourself from arson. Follow this simple guide and checklist to help reduce the risk of your business going up in smoke.”
- The owner, manager or a senior member of staff must be made responsible for fire safety, including protection from arson attack.
- Think about how easy it would be for intruders or arsonists to break into the premises. Take immediate steps to strengthen your defences.
- Tell the police if there have been any small fires or other signs of vandalism in your own or neighbouring premises – it could be a warning of something worse to come.
- Limit the number of entrances in use, but don’t lock or block fire exits!
- Outer fences, walls and gates should be high enough and strong enough to keep out intruders.
- Doors and windows must be in good repair and locked when not in use with good quality locks and padlocks. Gaps under doors should be as small as possible.
- Letter boxes should have metal containers fitted on the inside.
- Know who your key-holders are, and chase any that are missing. The same goes for security passes and swipe cards.
- Refuse and stored material of any kind should not be kept next to fences or walls where it could be set alight from outside. Arrange regular collections of refuse and waste by your district council or a contractor.
- Warn all staff of the threat from arson. Ask them to challenge anyone who should not be on the premises and to report any suspicious activities.
- Vet new employees.
- Keep an eye on outside contractors, and make sure you know where the whereabouts of visitors within the building.
- Make sure any equipment you have installed – extinguishers, hose-reels, alarms, detectors, sprinklers – is in good working order and protected against tampering.
- Secure the building at the end of each working day by checking that:
All doors and windows are secure
No combustible material is left lying around
No unauthorised people are on the premises
Alarms and outside lights are switched on
Any flammable liquids are locked away
For more information about arson prevention and workplace fire safety in Buckinghamshire, click HERE
For fire-risk assessment guides suitable for your type of business premises, click HERE
For information about managing process risks and highly flammable or explosive materials, visit www.hse.gov.uk
For advice on reducing the risk of arson, visit www.arsonpreventionbureau.org.uk
For advice on protecting your business from the risk of any sort of crime, visit www.thamesvalley.police.uk
For advice about commercial waste collections in Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern, South Bucks and Wycombe Districts visit www.bucksonline.gov.uk