Fire protection – empty buildings arson prevention

Derelict, unused buildings and buildings under construction/renovation are often subject to arson, criminal damage and theft.

Such buildings are seen as an easy target by offenders if insecure and unoccupied. Steps to prevent arson:

Perimeter security

The first line of defence for a site that has one or more derelict or unused or buildings under construction is the perimeter fencing and gates. Ideally the site will be fully enclosed by robust perimeter fencing of at least 2m in height that will be difficult for intruders to breach or climb over.

Pedestrian and vehicle access

If you need to have regular access to the building the number of entrances to the site should be reduced to the minimum practicable.

External lighting and CCTV

External lighting helps protect the vulnerable parts of the building and in particular access points.

CCTV can provide an effective deterrent effect as well as assisting in the identification of offenders and providing evidence to help secure a prosecution. If CCTV is installed there should be appropriate signage on display to ensure that person on the site know that they may be subject to CCTV surveillance.

Securing the building

In order to prevent intruders gaining access to the buildings all doors, windows and other potential access points should be locked or otherwise adequately secured.


It is often the case that intruders will climb onto low flat roofs in order to seek a way into buildings. Consideration should be given to removing the climbing aids wherever possible. If this is not possible then consideration should be given to putting something on top of the climbing aid or along the edge of the low flat roof that would deter intruders.

Intruder detection

If the buildings are of value consideration should be given to installing comprehensive mains powered intruder detectors.

Combustible waste management

Effective management of the combustible waste on site can reduce the opportunity for an intruder to utilise combustible waste in an arson attack. Combustible waste bins are a ready source of combustible material. If these are not kept secure out of hours the combustible waste can be removed and used as fuel for a fire.

Combustible external fixtures and fittings

Poorly maintained combustible external fixtures and fittings can provide intruders with access to combustible materials. Examples include broken fence panels, disused wooden sheds and outbuildings, insecure wooden trellises etc.

Letter box

If the building has a conventional letter box but is not in use the conventional letter box should be sealed to eliminate the opportunity for an arsonist to introduce lighted combustible materials into the building by that route.

Flammable materials

All flammable materials on site such as solvent based paint, petrol, flammable chemicals etc. should be locked away in a secure store out of hours to prevent intruders using them as fuel for a fire.

Fire detection/suppression

Ideally the buildings will have comprehensive mains powered automatic fire/smoke detector cover that will be linked to an alert system in the form of a monitoring service as this will ensure that the key holders and/or Fire Service get prompt notification of a fire in the buildings out of hours.

Closing doors to prevent the spread of fire

One of the most effective measures to prevent fire from spreading through a building and to reduce smoke damage is to ensure that all internal doors are kept shut, particularly out of hours. A routine should be established to ensure that this is done whenever the building is left unattended.

If you live in Warwickshire, you can contact the Fire and Rescue Service Arson Reduction Manager on 02476 483205, or by email at to discuss your concerns and don’t forget local intelligence helps too – local businesses/people sharing information and experience of crime prevention can benefit everyone.

Fire protection – empty buildings arson prevention was last updated on September 17, 2018.