Advice for businesses to prevent deliberate fires (arson)

The most common cause of fire in commercial and retail premises is arson. Arson is the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to a property. Most arson attacks are unplanned and opportunistic. Find out what to do if you see suspicious activity and follow our top tips to protect your business.

Always report suspicious activity

If there have been small fires without an obvious, non-deliberate cause at your own or neighbouring premises, call the police. Call them on 101 and Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. It could be a warning of worse to come.

Vandalism and anti-social behaviour can also be linked to arson. Report such behaviour through your local neighbourhood policing team, neighbourhood watch team or through Crimestoppers.

You should also report any accumulated or abandoned refuse to your local council. Don't let it become a fuel source.

Top tips to protect your business

1. Identify and manage risks

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Make sure you have considered the risk of arson in your Fire Risk Assessment. Think of ways someone could start a fire inside or outside your property and what you can do to reduce the risk.

Nominate someone to secure the building at the end of the day and ensure you have a thorough closing down procedure.

This should include:

  • making sure external doors are locked
  • internal doors are closed
  • no unauthorised people are left on the premises
  • security alarms are switched on.

Risks

  • Make sure you lock cupboards and storerooms when not in use, especially those located on escape routes. Only give access to the keys to those staff who need them.
  • Secure unused parts of the building against unauthorised access. Where these areas also form part of an escape route you will need to ensure they can still be used in an emergency. More advice on door-fastening devices is in the government Fire Safety Risk Assessment guides.
  • Do not store combustible materials, such as pallets, against fences or walls, where it would be easy for someone to ignite them.
  • Store flammable liquids in suitable lockable storage facilities.
  • Ensure waste containers are locked shut when not in use and are emptied regularly. They should be kept well away from windows or door openings and should not be under overhanging roofs e.g. loading areas. Where possible, keep waste containers and other combustible storage away from the building in a secured compound.
  • Clear rubbish and dry undergrowth from the site.
  • If you have an intruder alarm or fire alarm system installed, ensure it is maintained in working order and acted on.

2. Security measures

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  • Only allow authorised visitors on site (supervised if necessary) and have a system to book visitors in and out.
  • Keyholders should be clearly identified and missing keys reported.
  • Remove access rights for staff who have been dismissed.
  • Secure all outbuildings such as garages, storage, waste compounds, and sheds when not in use.
  • Doors and windows should be well maintained and kept locked when not in use. You will need to ensure fire exit doors can still be easily opened in an emergency.
  • Prevent access to flat roofs and any derelict or unused buildings.

3. Staff training

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Well trained staff can reduce the risk of arson and fire training should be taken very seriously. Lives and jobs could be at stake if there is a serious fire.

  • Include arson prevention and awareness in your regular basic staff training.
  • Encourage staff to be vigilant and keep an eye out for strangers acting suspiciously near the site.
  • Make sure you have a process in place for staff to report concerns.
  • Ensure you have enough staff trained in the safe use of firefighting equipment.

4. Additional deterrents

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  • Fit secure metal letterboxes on the inside of letter flaps. They will catch any burning materials that are pushed through. Or, use external letterboxes which are fire-resisting.
  • Perimeter fences, walls and gates, will help to secure your site. They should be high enough and strong enough to discourage intruders. Consider fencing which prevents criminal activity from being carried out undetected.
  • Security lights, intruder alarms and CCTV cameras are all good ways to prevent crime. We recommend you get expert advice before installing any such system.
  • Consider connecting your alarm system to an Alarm Receiving Centre. They will monitor the system for you and notify the emergency services in the event of an activation.
  • Automatic suppression systems, such as sprinklers, can greatly reduce the effects of arson. We encourage the use of sprinklers in both domestic and non-domestic (Commercial) premises. They protect life and reduce the cost of fire in any building they are installed in.

Where you can get help

You can speak to your neighbourhood police team or contact our fire safety team.

Keep our communities safer

Share information and your experience of arson and crime prevention with other local businesses. Report instances to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.