Empty buildings are far more vulnerable than those that are occupied: every day, up to 60 fires occur in or next to an empty property in the UK.

Fires can start because of faulty gas or elec­tric­i­ty pow­er sup­plies, or by van­dals; an emp­ty prop­er­ty is prone to neglect if it is not mon­i­tored or reg­u­lar­ly inspect­ed, and provides an eas­i­er tar­get than an occu­pied one. But there are some sim­ple steps prop­er­ty own­ers can take to help reduce the risks of fire sig­nif­i­cant­ly, and some of these would apply just as much to occu­pied premises.

Five tips to reduce the risks of fire

1.   Remove combustible materials from inside or near the site

Clear paper rubbish and remove furniture or plastic that the previous tenants may have left behind, or may be gathering (such as post) whilst the property is left vacant. (a letterbox seal is an easy low-tech way to prevent the build-up of unopened post). If there’s a skip or bins outside, make sure they are regularly emptied. There were 85,000 refuse fires last year.

2.   Turn off the utilities

Turn the electricity, water and gas off, and ensure they are kept securely off by using special locks, (another low-tech solution), which prevents accidental or malicious turning on of supplies. But be careful you are not compromising the terms of your insurance – during the winter for example, some insurers insist a temperature level of 15 degrees centigrade is maintained in order to comply with their terms. In these circumstances, ensure the alerts systems in 3. below are in place.

3.    Install alarms and alert systems

There were no automated fire alarm systems in over 40% of all commercial and public buildings fires last year. Metal theft of copper pipes dramatically increases the chances of fire damage if the pipes are providing mains gas supplies. For some sites, consider installing combined alarm and camera systems that not only detect intruders or fire risks, but also deter vandalism.

4.    Regularly monitor and inspect sites

Keeping a regular eye on empty sites helps to ensure no build-up of combustible materials or possible damage to utility supplies has taken place since the last inspection.

 5.    Perimeter security

There are many options for protecting and securing vacant properties. Walking the perimeter will help identify any obvious weaknesses that might encourage vandalism or theft. Hard­wood screens for ground floor windows, for example, are not as effective as metal screens, and are subject to attempts of arson in themselves.

VPS (UK) Ltd have won multiple peer-reviewed awards including Supplier of the Year, Best Innovation, and, just a few weeks ago, Customer Care Initiative of the Year in the IFSEC Security and Fire Excellence Awards for their market-leading customer portal. They also provide a property guardians security option where vacant properties are better protected by being occupied.

VPS      www.vpsgroup.com     Phone: 0330 005 5300

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