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We recognise there is a fundamental need to secure your business critical assets, from vacant land, development sites and compounds, to plant, materials and fuel. As a leading provider of sustainable security, we are perfectly positioned to secure, monitor and protect your valuable assets.

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How to Protect a Vacant Building From Fire

How to Protect a Vacant Building From Fire
How to Protect a Vacant Building From Fire

It’s no surprise that vacant buildings and empty commercial units are at an elevated risk of fire, break-ins and criminal activity. Many reported fires that occur in an empty building are caused either by deliberate arson attacks or because of an issue such as faulty wiring sparking a blaze.

Protecting a vacant property from fire is essential, whether you own a residential home, a multi-storey office block or an industrial unit. If a fire breaks out and is not immediately identified, there is a substantial risk of extensive damage and potentially having a building that needs to be completely rebuilt.

As we’ve noted, fires can occur due to intentional criminal activity or environmental factors, so the best approach is to consider how to safeguard the property from unauthorised entry while having additional alarms that will alert you, the emergency services or a trained response team if any indication of a fire is detected.

empty commercial property

Don’t forget to install a fire alarm!

Before you consider installing preventative measures, it’s best that you cover all legal requirements for installing fire alarms in commercial buildings.

In the UK, the legal requirements for installing fire alarms in commercial buildings are primarily governed by several key pieces of legislation, including, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and The Building Regulations 2010. It’s a legal requirement to have a fire alarm installed – even if the property is empty. 

When considering fire alarm systems for an empty property, we can help you with selecting and installing a system that provides adequate protection whilst taking into account the empty building’s size, layout, and specific fire risks. Here are some considerations for selecting fire alarm systems for an empty property:

  • Basic Smoke Alarms: Installing battery-operated smoke alarms is a fundamental step in fire detection for empty properties. These alarms are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. Place them strategically throughout the property, particularly near areas prone to fire hazards such as kitchens or electrical panels.
  • Heat Detectors: Heat detectors are suitable for areas where smoke alarms may not be appropriate, such as kitchens or garages, where smoke from cooking or vehicle exhaust could trigger false alarms. Heat detectors activate when they detect a significant rise in temperature, indicating a potential fire.
  • Wireless Fire Alarm Systems: Wireless fire alarm systems are a practical option for empty properties as they do not require extensive wiring installation. These systems use radio frequency signals to communicate between detectors and control panels, making them ideal for temporary or vacant buildings.
  • Monitored Fire Alarm Systems: Consider installing a monitored fire alarm system that connects to a central monitoring station. In the event of an alarm activation, the monitoring station can alert the appropriate authorities, providing a rapid response to potential fires.

We recommend speaking with our experienced commercial fire consultants to establish which type of fire alarm system is right for your business.

Clearway business fire alarms

How to protect your vacant building from fire after installing a fire alarm

Step 1: Regular property inspections

The first recommendation we’d always make is to ensure your vacant property is subject to regular property inspections. There are so many reasons a fire may occur in an empty unit, in addition to arson:

  • Squatters using open flames for cooking or heating the building.
  • Poor maintenance where insects and pests may chew through wires.
  • Accumulated junk mail and other flammable materials.
  • High temperatures in the summer if an empty building isn’t well-ventilated.

Having your property inspected periodically is a pre-emptive and proactive way to identify and address any issues that crop up before they present a serious fire risk. For example, if a security inspector sees signs that a lock or door has been tampered with, finds evidence of intrusions or fly-tipping, or sees indications of deterioration within the building, these can be tackled swiftly.

It is also considerably less likely that an empty building that is routinely inspected will be the target of opportunist vandals, intruders, squatters and arsonists.

Clearway Property inspections

Step 2: Secure all common entry points

When it comes to protecting against fires, prevention is better than the cure. Making efforts to secure your empty property against illegal entry is the first line of defence and this starts with common entry points.

When we consider the risk points of a property, whether commercial or residential, we might believe that covert entry routes, concealed rear entrances and scalable fences are primary factors. However, crime figures show that the vast majority of burglars simply enter through the front door.

There are multiple options, with devices or screens that are engineered to keep unintentional trespassers away, protect members of the public from trip or fall risks, and prevent any deliberate attempts to enter your property. Solutions include:

  • Steel security doors, either operated with a security key or a keyless security number pad. These doors are perforated to allow for natural air flow but are securely fitted over the entirety of a door and frame – the robust, heavy gauge steel cannot be tampered with, crowbarred away or bypassed without the appropriate key or entry code.
  • Steel security screens are often fitted over windows and act similarly to a security door, albeit without a means of entering. Each screen has a framing system that does not impact the integrity of the window or brickwork underneath and protects glazing from vandalism and accidental breakages.
  • Concrete barrier blocks are used to prevent any vehicular access across a potentially broad area of land. Empty commercial units that back onto public access areas, fields, and land benefit from barriers that stop vehicles from getting close to the building.

Putting these preventative measures in place not only means that the potential for a person to access your building is considerably reduced – it means that if a fire were to break out for any reason, you would also be notified immediately.

Vacant Property Security Doors

Step 3: Remove Combustible Materials

Clear the building of any unnecessary combustible materials such as debris, trash, or flammable liquids. Dispose of any waste properly and keep the interior and exterior of the building clean and clutter-free to reduce the risk of fire ignition.

Extreme cleaning for vacant properties

Step 4: Install security measures

Wireless Alarm Systems for Vacant Properties

Alarm systems are a first line of defence and raise the alert if anything that requires an urgent response occurs. Wireless alarm systems are ideal for empty properties since they are rapidly deployable, do not require any mains power connection, and work autonomously 24/7.

Wireless fire alarm systems and intruder alarms can be positioned inside and outside an empty building and use cellular transmissions to send video footage, alarm activation notices and alerts to the building owner, designated security responder, or our Alarm Receiving Centre team.

You can access alarm system data through an app, arm and disarm alarms remotely, or use solutions like video-verified alarms to determine whether an alarm is a genuine emergency or has been triggered by wildlife or other environmental factors.

If you are positioning a wireless alarm outside the empty property, you may opt for a solar-powered system, which recharges independently during the day, storing backup power reserves in a battery. Other systems use commercial-grade batteries with a minimum lifespan of several years.

Wireless CCTV Surveillance for Empty Buildings

CCTV is one of the best ways to protect any property, with clear signage to warn potential intruders that their movements are being recorded and alarm activations or audio warnings that activate as soon as any motion or an approaching vehicle enters the area of coverage.

Wireless vacant property CCTV cameras work similarly to vacant property alarms but begin recording when suspicious activity is detected. These cameras can act as individual CCTV devices installed inside the property or comprise mast-mounted CCTV towers, covering broader areas of land and suited to any environment.

CCTV towers

Advanced Fire Safety Measures for High-Risk Empty Buildings

Some properties, such as vacant commercial properties with high-value fixtures or materials, are at an elevated risk. They may also be at greater risk of a fire due to the materials used in the construction of the building or because of the presence of any flammable materials such as timber.

In these situations, you can consider further safeguards such as automatic fire suppressants or sprinklers, which activate when sensors and detectors identify the presence of heat, smoke or ash particles linked with a fire.

Putting the fire out at the point of ignition or suppressing the fire to stop it from spreading gives the emergency services sufficient time to respond, get the fire under control, and avoid preventable damage to the remainder of the property.

For more information about protecting a vacant building from fire or any of the services or security measures discussed here, please get in touch with the Clearway team at any time.

Gavin Upton

Gavin Upton

Sales Director - Clearway: Fire & Security

Solution focused consultative approach aligned to clients strategic and operational road map.

Gavin has had notable successes in delivering solutions for a broad range of large complex clients from both NFE and NFN pipelines.
Extensive knowledge of all three sectors and multiple verticals including Financial Services, Retail, FMCG, Utilities, Healthcare, Automotive and Leisure/Hospitality. His focus is on delivering innovation, growth and retention through providing outsource solutions that deliver cross business benefits whilst utilising technology whether in-situ or new initiatives.

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