The LWF Blog

Preventing Arson in facilities – Pt 2 Building entry methods

April 2, 2014 10:12 am

A determined arsonist, for example, not someone who wished to just set fire to your outdoors rubbish or engage in casual vandalism, will seek to gain entry to your premises in order to cause the maximum destruction.

Following on from our blog last week about preventing arson within your facility, where we looked at lighting and perimeter security, today we will discuss building entry methods and how you can look to prevent such a circumstance.

Doors and Windows

Doors and windows are the most obvious and often the easiest points of entry to a facility for an arsonist.

Indeed, with some doors, the arsonist does not even need to gain entry to the building himself in order to cause fire within the facility; he simply uses the letterbox. In cases where a letterbox is installed in an outside door of the building as a necessity, the vulnerability should be countered by the installation of a metal box on the inside of the door which would contain your mail on a normal basis but also help to contain fire and minimise internal damage in cases of burning materials, flammable liquids etc. being inserted into the letterbox.

Doors can also be removed via grinding the hinges, attaching a chain and pulling it free with a vehicle, or removing parts of the door assembly to enable access. It goes without saying that the more you are able to invest in a good quality security door for your facility, the less likely that those intent on causing damage within your premises will get inside.

Windows too can be reinforced to avoid outside entry with malicious intent. Locks for windows are easily purchased and installed; they can work as an effective deterrent. However it is worth remembering that keys for such locks can be obtained fairly easily too.

The integrity of the window itself can be reinforced on occasion by the fitting of internal steel bars to the aperture. This would ensure that even if the window itself were broken or opened, nobody could gain access through the window area. Steel bars blocking a window could also, however, be a fire hazard and potentially negate a rescue through that window in case of fire inside the building. All building works such as this should be discussed prior to installation by the local fire department.

It should also be noted that if your window can be broken from the outside, steel bars would not preclude an arsonist from pushing burning materials or liquids through the bars and causing a fire within the facility.

The provision of roller shutters for outside windows can be effective if they are sufficient for the building security needs (security shutters come with differing security levels) and are maintained over time.  Specially toughened glazing can also help to keep arsonists and vandals out of your premises.

Other points of entry

Although windows and doors are the main and most obvious points of entry for any arsonist, you should take note of any potential weakness which might allow an arsonist entry to your facility. These could be skylights, service inlets, ventilation ducts, drainpipes (for climbing), or tools left around which could facilitate entry. Each time it should be remembered, an arsonist does not always have to get his body into your premises, simply the fire.

Once an arsonist is inside your building, you may think that there is nothing more you can do, but at this point, prevention of fire would be taken over by your automatic fire prevention systems and fire suppression, such as sprinkler systems, if installed.

This blog has given an overview of arson prevention in facilities, however we accept that each facility has individual needs. If you would like a fire engineer to visit and advise you on your building’s fire security, please contact Peter Gyere on 020 8668 866.

Lawrence Webster Forrest (LWF) is a  specialist fire engineering and fire risk management consultancy, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings.

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