How secure is your empty site or vacant property over the festive period?

How secure is your empty site or vacant property over the festive period?
How secure is your empty site or vacant property over the festive period?

Over the winter months there are always more security risks to empty sites and vacant properties due to the darker nights and people being on holiday. Coupled with the latest government advice for everyone to work from home where possible, this means more buildings will be left unoccupied, creating more security challenges.

Cold mornings, late sunrises and early sunsets – the winter period is in full swing. 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. However, 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.

We would expect to see construction sites shut down ahead of 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 stat, the says that “business data from The Insurer reveals that the number of theft claims increase by 35% in the months following the clocks going back, with November being the month when most burglaries take place.”

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)
  3. Adverse weather that could affect security systems and prevent them from functioning correctly
  4. Safety threats to staff due to adverse weather conditions

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

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

During the winter months, and the christmas period in particular, there are more security risks to sites and properties. With the latest initiative being for us all to work from home where possible it means even more buildings will be unoccupied, and that creates an even greater security challenge for business owners.

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