The LWF Blog

Preventing Arson in Facilities | Part 1 – Security options

March 26, 2014 11:23 am

Arson is a very real problem in the UK, with both private dwellings and businesses suffering loss of life and revenue every year. The government’s Fire Statistics Monitor gives figures for incidents reported by the Fire Service and in the year 2012-13, showed that fires which had been deliberately set comprised 40% of fires attended.

While this figure may seem shocking, it is actually a distinct improvement on the previous decade of figures which showed that the majority of fires were due to arson. One possible reason for this improvement is that more businesses, which are all too often the target of arson, are taking preventative measures seriously.

The design of the facility itself can have a substantial impact on how susceptible it is to arson, and this will be discussed in next week’s blog, but older buildings and those with more obvious vulnerabilities can be protected through alternative security options.

In order to prevent arson and to protect your facility from the effects of deliberate fire-setting, it is important to base your fire safety plan on three distinct factors:

  • Building security systems
  • Fire detection/suppression systems
  • Fire management principles and procedures

Of course, how these factors are applied to your facility will depend upon various situational aspects including the size and position of your premises, occupancy of the building and the type of building usage.

Undertaking a risk assessment, specifically with arson in mind, will help to clarify the weak spots and areas which will need support in order to become less of an arson fire risk. Each security option should accomplish one of the aims below:

  • Act as a deterrent to intruders
  • Make arson more difficult/time-consuming
  • Ensure the arsonist needs his own equipment to break in and/or set fire
  • Draw attention to the attacker
  • Ensure that the intruder can be identified or seen

Building security systems

With those points in mind, the person responsible for arming the facility against fire can begin to consider a security system for the premises. Sadly, as each building varies substantially from the next, in terms of building security and use, there is no ‘out of the box’ solution and any system should be designed specifically for your own facility.

Overkill should also be avoided. Consider how appropriate each measure is, how it fulfils your aims of arson prevention and choose the most appropriate. Balance the potential risk of loss with the likely risk factors.

An example of this is that it would be inadvisable to install a high wall around the facility perimeter if it is more likely that the threat of arson will come from a building employee or resident.

More points to consider when deciding on the best type of security are:

  • If a particular part of your business or facility attracts the attention of arsonists, consider removing it to another site or to another part of the building.
  • Fencing or a wall of at least 2.4m in height without footholds can be a formidable barrier to entry – be sure to make gates equally impenetrable.
  • Bear in mind that a fence can be seen through by passers-by, but a wall cannot, which provides privacy to the facility, but also, potentially, to an arsonist.
  • Drainpipes can be climbed – stop this by removing them or by adding fixed spike collars.


Surveillance within the building and its environs is useful to both prevent arson and to assist in catching those responsible. Intruder alarms which comply with the current British Standards also provide an effective and timely reminder that the intruder should not be in your premises and is likely to be caught.

The use of additional lighting should be considered carefully. While it can pay to lighten dark areas of your building which may prove vulnerable to an intruder or arsonist if the area is busy and they are likely to be spotted, it may simply prove to be an aid to the intruder if the area is quiet.

Also, too much lighting and your car park could become a popular hang-out spot at night. Ensure that lighting is provided where it is most useful, and not where it will simply attract unwanted attention.

Part two of this short series will look at how your facility can be reinforced to prevent entry by arsonists.

If you have any queries about this blog, or would like to discuss your facility’s arson security, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 866. LWF has been working with their clients for over 25 years to promote and provide fire safe design and planning.

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