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How secure is your empty site or vacant property in the winter?

How secure is your empty site or vacant property in the winter?
How secure is your empty site or vacant property in the winter?

With the clocks being turned back, daylight hours getting shorter and the shops starting to stock Christmas decorations – the winter is nearly upon us. But have you thought about your security?

The winter months bring several safety concerns and security risks to empty sites, vacant properties and building sites due to the darker nights and absence of staff during holidays. Typically, we see more buildings and sites being left unoccupied or unprotected during the dark hours leading to theft and very costly delays as a result.


Have you thought about your winter security strategy?

Whilst domestically, it’s the season of boiler maintenance, fixing less than adequate roofing and – spurred by the darker evenings – getting your home security in order, the preparation for winter isn’t just limited to households.

Construction site owners, vacant property owners – or anyone who manages property of any description for that matter – need to be extra vigilant at this time of year.

Heading into November, the clocks go back, meaning longer, colder and darker nights. Whilst some theft is spontaneous and opportunistic (such as unattended vans being broken into or machinery left unattended), there are increased reports of machinery being stolen under the cover of darkness. When the lights are off, thieves and other criminals can operate under the cover of darkness, making it harder to notice them – especially during winter.

Looking ahead to Christmas, we would expect to see construction sites shut down for the holiday period. Traditionally, businesses involved in the construction industry close from Christmas eve through to the 1st week of January.

Construction firms simply cannot afford to be complacent during this time. According to BFM magazine, construction site theft costs companies around £800 million per year – a substantial sum.

To compound this statistic, the says that “business data from The Insurer reveals that the number of theft claims increases by 35% in the months following the clocks going back, with November being the month when most burglaries take place.”

Construction Site Security from Clearway

What are the biggest risks to empty sites during the winter?

Site and property owners face a number of winter risks, many of which have only been exacerbated by the pandemic in recent years. Empty sites/properties face four main threats during winter:

  1. Squatters moving in due to the colder weather and the need to find accommodation quickly as temperatures drop.
  2. Theft due to darker nights (and the fact that more theft happens under the cover of darkness). Vacant properties and sites are often targeted by vandals and thieves, who may steal materials, equipment, or copper wiring, leading to financial losses and potential damage to the property
  3. Adverse weather that could affect security systems and prevent them from functioning correctly, or lead to flooding or wind damage
  4. Safety threats to staff due to adverse weather conditions
  5. Insurance issues – Vacant properties and sites often have specific insurance requirements, and inadequate coverage can leave property owners vulnerable to financial losses and liability claims

There is a lot at stake on a construction site, with risks ranging from theft of plant machinery and vandalism through to fires being lit by squatters. Further to this, in the current climate, materials and vehicles are particularly difficult to replace, so the need for tight security measures has never been more vital.

We’ve put together 5 tips to help mitigate these risks and ensure your construction site / empty property is prepared for a long winter.

1. Remove the cover of darkness

Don’t allow criminals to enter your site unseen. Set up flood lights that operate throughout the hours of darkness, illuminating your access points as well as high-value items, such as supply stores.

If you are worried about the cost of site lighting, you can reduce it by using LEDs. These require 75 percent less energy than conventional incandescent counterparts.

You can further reduce costs by combining lights with motion sensors. Lights will only illuminate your site if they detect movement, saving energy and eliminating any false alarms should you have an alarm system set up.

Also, check any environmental features that could cast shadows that might hide the movement of thieves, such as hedgerows or trees. Prune back overgrown plants or add additional directional lighting to prevent dark spots.  

2. Store valuables off-site

Thieves know that the majority of construction companies (and vacant property owners), keep valuables on-site. It’s the main incentive for breaking into your site.

Fortunately, the solution is simple: if there are valuables on your site, store them elsewhere. When thieves find nothing at your premises they can steal, they will soon move on.

3. Review your health and safety protocols

Naturally, the darker days / mornings result in more accidents, with trip hazards becoming less visible and surface conditions becoming slippery or even icy. There are two main safety issues in the winter for construction workers:

  1. Cold stress – The cold itself can cause skin and internal body temperatures to drop resulting in conditions such as trench foot, frostbite and hypothermia if construction site workers are not properly protected from the elements when working outside.
  2. Falls – Ice can build up on surfaces such as scaffolding, ladders, walkways, stairs and work platforms. It’s highly likely that these areas will remain untouched during vacant periods, so it’s important to deal with this build up as soon as possible to prevent any falls from height.

Remember, that pedestrians often have some access to construction sites so their safety is at risk also.

Identify the outdoor areas that are most likely to be affected by ice, for example: scaffolding poles, access points, car parks and roads, pedestrian walkways and shortcuts. Use signs, cones and grit to mitigate any accident risks. Don’t forget to review your procedures in the event of an accident.

4. Secure entry and exit points

During winter, you’ll also need to secure both your entry and exit points, as opportunistic thieves will seek these points as a means of easy entry.

You can do this in several ways. The first is to deploy comprehensive CCTV coverage. Cameras act as a major deterrent and allow you to catch perpetrators in the act to pursue prosecutions.

You should also protect access points with window and door screens. These are made of perforated, prefabricated steel and fit over your building’s points of entry, preventing thieves from accessing it easily. Clearway’s steel doors and screens can be hand-cut to size to fit simple and complex shapes.

Clearway Steel Screens


5. Keep an eye on your properties

Combining cameras with active alarm monitoring offers an even higher level of protection. At Clearway we monitor your property for you, sending out trained responders in the event of any intrusion. Operators watch sites day and night, seven days a week, ensuring that criminals and squatters cannot enter.

There are only a handful of such monitoring centres in the UK. However, they offer site owners peace of mind, knowing that their premises are being guarded 24/7 by trained professionals, protecting their assets.

station for cctv monitoring in Manchester


Contact Clearway Today

If you’re looking for more information on how to secure a vacant property or construction site during the winter months, get in touch with Clearway. We have delivered rapid, effective and robust construction site security solutions for several sites in the UK, ensuring workers and equipment are protected. We can provide a site risk assessment/void property inspection and assemble a list of recommendations to secure your site’s most vulnerable areas. Learn more about vacant property management services.

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