Security experts believe that there will be a likely rise in property damage during this further period of extended lockdown, and it could signal the need for property owners and facility managers to take extra measures to manage the risks.
Paul Corten, sales director for specialist property firm, The VPS Group, warns that the legal requirement to stay at home, with limited, specific exceptions, could give rise to an ideal opportunity for both organised and opportunistic criminals to exploit the quieter streets and commercial estates.
"There's a reason why security personnel are regarded as key workers during lockdown," said Mr Corten. "Essentially, they have the potential to reduce demand on policing by supporting law and order. Protecting vacant commercial, retail or residential premises, via manned guarding or monitoring through CCTV and innovative solutions such as property guardians, could save the police service, property owners and insurance companies millions.
"We’ve already seen examples of an increase in vacant premises being targeted for illegal raves in the last fortnight,” Mr Corten continued. “And only this week an organised metal theft gang has been prosecuted for stealing 92km of power lines and cabling - that's a seriously damaging run of thefts that dangerously halted power to more than 45,000 homes. But it's not just stealing, vandalism or arson that can substantially damage vacant properties. The rain, freezing weather and snow at this time of year will also take its toll on buildings left empty."
The security experts VPS, has laid out a 6-point plan for property owners and facilities managers with empty properties under their control:
1. Assess the risk
Is the property in a high crime area? Is it particularly vulnerable, either highly visible or in a remote or quiet location? One property VPS was requested to inspect was a large old country mansion situated in parkland. "Parks are rammed with visitors at the moment, so, on one hand, this Georgian pile was under the constant gaze of thousands of visitors, but on the downside, it meant that many people could see it was empty, looked like it might contain items of value, such as old fireplaces, and could certainly attract attention from intruders under the cover of darkness," Mr Corten said.
2. Review the security
Once you have carried out at the assessment, walk the site, checking the perimeter fencing, all the potential entrance points including doors and windows, and, during the cold weather spells, that the utilities are turned off and drained down, or any insurance compliant internal temperatures are maintained. Hiring an expert to provide the initial site risk assessment will pay dividends and is usually free of charge.
3. Implement improvements fast
There is no point in assessing and reviewing the risks and then delaying plugging in the identified weaknesses and gaps in security. There were 1m200 metal thefts every month last year. And 67,000 deliberate fires were started in England in the year to June 2020. That is more than 180 a day.
4. Deploy solutions from the full range of security options available
Whether it is a humble letterbox seal, better locks, guards and inspectors, or stronger fencing, 24/7 monitored alarm or CCTV systems and video-verified technologies, there is a solution or a mix of solutions that will fit all premises and budgets. Simple utility locks, Smart Doors with Bluetooth entry mechanisms or the innovative solution of 'protection via occupation' - deploying property guardians to live in a temporarily vacant property, at no cost to the owner - all options should be considered as appropriate.
5. Regular inspections
Check premises regularly to see if there has been any damage from weather or attempted security breaches, or use a covid-secure inspection service by trained personnel. A burst water pipe left to run for a week can cause thousands of pounds of damage if unattended. Regular inspections will alert you to any signs of water ingress, and there are Smart Alarms that incorporate flood detection sensors to safeguard the property in between inspections.
6. Lockdown does not mean you have to leave it for now
When choosing a security provider, select trained operational personnel that hold SIA key worker status, allowing them to continue the ever-important work in supporting customers in protecting their people, property and assets.
"We have over the past number of months put extra measures in place to ensure the safety of our colleagues and our customers, enabling us to continue working diligently with our customers on the delivery of security and risk mitigation services across the UK. VPS is here throughout the lockdown to support businesses, with safety as our priority. Our covid-secure operation allows us to carry out critical work securing assets, so that’s one less thing for our customers to worry about," Mr Corten concluded.
Notes for editors:
VPS secures more than 50,000 properties and employs more than 1200 staff in locations across the UK and mainland Europe. It specialises in securing, maintaining and managing vacant property across a wide range of customer and industry sectors. Core building services cover the vacant, unoccupied and void property lifecycle from an initial risk assessment, to security, including guarding, monitoring, clearing, cleaning, maintenance and preparation. These services protect properties against unauthorised access and a variety of hazards such as arson, theft, squatting and unauthorised occupation.
For more information call Brenda Mathis +44(0)77 222 82 946
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