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August 2010: PROTECTING IDLE PROPERTIES - Part 2

Vacant facilities need loss prevention consideration just as much as full-functioning ones, and in many cases perhaps more so. Empty facilities pose exposures due to theft, arson and vandalism, and hazards such as freezing pipes or fire.

There are many reasons for empty, idle facilities, such as a total shutdown of the company, renovations or labor problems.

Even though the human casualty aspect is practically non-existent for vacant facilities (except for fire fighters in case of fire), other hazards do exist. Fire, storm, flood and damage from freeze-ups all pose serious risks. Because of the vacancy itself, damages might not be discovered until well after the fact. Arson is a particularly dangerous peril to unoccupied buildings because an out-of-control building fire can damage surrounding properties that might not be vacant.

What can be done to alleviate potential damage to idle facilities?

Arson and Vandalism - make sure all security systems are working as if the facility were in full operation. Deterrents such as fencing, good locks on doors, stairways and windows (that can be opened), and a well illuminated exterior all need to be completed. Locks on street-level and basement entrances and windows are particularly important. A person or team responsible for regularly checking all aspects of security should be in place.

Consider installing an alarm system, if the building doesn't already have one. A private security firm might also be a good idea until the facility is back in operation. This should minimize the potential for vagrants, criminals or disgruntled employees to cause harm to the property.

Motion-detecting exterior lighting will assist in alerting neighbors and police to intruders on the premises. Remove items that could hinder or block anyone from noticing such intrusion.

Fire - remove all waste and combustible objects both inside and outside the building. Such material will serve as swift fuel in case of a fire. Arsonists and vandals will look for and use combustible debris in their criminal mischief. Keep all fire pump and other connections completely free of vegetation and debris.

Sprinkler systems must be maintained despite the vacancy. This means conducting all weekly, monthly and annual inspections and testing. Also continue to notify Risk Logic if/when the sprinklers are out of service, in compliance with our Impairment System.

Ensure that the local fire department and police are aware that the facility is empty and for how long it is expected to be so. These local authorities need to know whom to contact in case of an emergency. They should also have a way to enter the building if necessary, therefore providing them with keys and/or lock combinations will help.

If there is construction or other building maintenance being performed on site that uses open flame or could cause sparks while the premises are idle, continue to use the Risk Logic Hot Work Permit System.

Freezing - boilers and sprinkler piping should be operated frequently to ensure that they do not freeze up during the vacancy.

If you deem your facility as vacant and act accordingly, you will quite likely fall victim to pitfalls that could cause any of the above hazards to become a reality. Treating an idle facility as if it is in full operation will go a long way to lessen disaster.

Risk Logic can determine your risks and provide site-specific loss prevention steps that you can take to mitigate a loss at your idle facility.