arson attacks

As if businesses didn’t have enough to contend with at the moment, since lockdown began there have been several instances of them being badly affected by arson attacks.

One of the areas that has had problems is Greater Manchester, which has faced several workplace arson attacks since lockdown began. In the very first week of lockdown, Morton Mill in Failsworth, Oldham was attacked by arsonists. The fire devastated several businesses housed within it. Crews had to attend the scene for several days afterwards and the Mill had to be partially demolished. During that week, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue service attended 183 nuisance fires - more than double the number in the previous week.

With lockdown easing, it might have been hoped that there would be a reduction in the number of premises being targeted. But despite businesses reopening, incidents have continued. One attack took place at the start of August in Stockport at the Guy Salmon Land Rover and Jaguar showroom located on an industrial estate next to the M60. There was a massive blaze that damaged around a dozen vehicles as well as the building and caused a number of explosions. At its peak, seven fire engines plus a number of support vehicles were in attendance and photos taken the next day revealed what was termed a ‘car graveyard’. This incident serves to illustrate quite how persistent arsonists can be, with subsequent investigations indicating that the incident was connected to a previous attempt.

What can businesses do to reduce arson risk?

For some businesses, the risk of arson might have been exacerbated by issues such as refuse collections not taking place so regularly during the initial lockdown period, allowing for a greater build up of waste material.  And the lack of people present in workplaces might have created a greater level of temptation for criminals intent on causing trouble. But the reality is that arson has always been a problem for organisations and companies.  As part of the overall approach to managing fire risk, businesses need to look at what measures they can put in place to reduce the danger of becoming a target.

  • Secure storage areas and remove waste materials that have built up

As mentioned above, make sure any rubbish that’s built up over the lockdown period has been removed and then ensure processes are in place for the regular disposal of waste materials. Ideally bin storage areas should be secured and located away from buildings. Ensure good housekeeping in all storage areas too and secure these areas as tightly as possible.

  • Test security systems

It’s understandable that businesses will have been concentrating on getting measures in place to reduce virus transmission. But this might have come at the cost of time spent on arranging routine maintenance, including for security systems. So check that security systems such as intruder alarms, CCTV and access control are all functioning correctly and arrange for servicing to take place as soon as possible if any of them have fallen behind schedule. Do a check on lighting around the building as well to ensure they are all still operating properly. If you don’t use any of these systems, it might be worth finding out more about the cost-effective options available that can help protect your business from arson attacks and other security risks too.

  • Maintain physical security measures

Depending on your business, you might have perimeter fencing, walls and gates in place. Make sure they are well maintained to prevent access to your premises by intruders and trespassers.

Check that locks are in a good state of repair, and remind building users of the importance of locking up windows and external doors at the end of the working day and also making sure internal doors are left closed to reduce the speed a fire could spread. Consider installing anti-arson letterboxes to contain any ignited materials that might be pushed through.

Make sure any derelict or empty buildings that you are responsible for are secured too as they can be an easy target for arson attacks.

  • Stay alert

As illustrated by the Stockport showroom fire, in some instances arsonists might single out a target and make repeated attempts to damage it. Encourage employees to take note of anyone they think is behaving suspiciously in the surrounding area, and make sure they know where to report concerns.

With around 60% of businesses never recovering after a fire it’s vital that companies and organisations are doing everything they can to reduce the chances of being targeted by arsonists. If you need some help identifying the steps you need to take to reduce the risk then please do get in touch with us.