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Arson – What a load of rubbish!

September 6, 2012
Arson threat for UK businesses

Taken at a UK national holiday-park group this this year. Spot the arson threat?

On carrying out a fire-risk assessment one often finds the best provision for fire safety is extinguishers followed by fire alarms. In many businesses evacuation planning, emergency lighting and staff training can be excellent. However still the most common cause of fire in shopping and retail businesses is ARSON!

Over 3,000 attacks on cafes, shops and retail premises occur every year in Britain. The attitude seems to be, ‘It’s never happened before.. It’s not that sort of area’. That attitude is similar to many people who buy a burglar alarm for the first time as they tell the security company, “You just don’t think it will happen to you… Do you?”

So the most common cause of fire generally gets the least attention with just a few lines in the risk assessment. How bizarre that a business is happy to invest in safety signs, extinguishers and emergency lights but pay little or no attention to the greatest threat posed to them.

The London Chamber of Commerce stated that up to 80% of businesses are seriously affected by a major fire whilst the insurance industry estimate that 70% of businesses either never recover or fail in the next three years following a major fire.

Whether a business employs a professional fire-risk-assessor or takes on the task themselves there is one thing they can be sure of – the owner is responsible.

The majority of Arson attacks take place outside the business premises so start there and carry out a good inspection looking for obvious potential threats. Arson offenders are often young vandals with a motive to cause trouble and upset. Therefore most Arson attacks are opportunistic i.e. if there are combustible materials that are easy to set light to… guess what?

Keep combustibles away from the building ideally in a fire-proof container. The refuse should be as far away as possible, never mind getting wet when emptying the bins! When building work is being carried out a business can be particularly vulnerable (e.g. rubbish and combustible building materials near the building or in an open-top skip.)

Security measures externally can be a massive boon to an anti-arson strategy. Dusk ‘til dawn lighting, CCTV and intruder alarms are all major deterrents.

There are other types of arson with varying motives and many other good policies which should, wherever possible, be adopted in to your fire-safety measures. See my previous blog for more detail.

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