Reducing the risk of wilful fire raising - part two

Reducing the risk of wilful fire raising - part two

Fire Safety Measures

On Monday, Gary Wood, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager seconded to SBRC, looked at how ensuring security measures for your premises can limit opportunities for intruders to enter your building or surrounding area and carry out wilful-fire raising activities. Today, he discusses how fire safety measures can be implemented to further reduce that risk of wilful fire-raising. 

A Fire Safety Risk Assessment should be conducted for the premises. This should be regularly reviewed and will underpin all fire safety and fire risk mitigation measures on the premises. 

Fire Protection should be in place and these measures are generally split into two distinct types. 

  • Passive fire protection which is the division of the premises into fire resisting compartments and the construction using suitable fire resisting materials. 
  • Active fire protection involves equipment which detects and fights/extinguishes or contains fires. 

Many instances of wilful fire raising occur where combustible materials are readily available in the vicinity including refuse and packaging or waste stored inappropriately.  

  • Combustible materials such as the above should be stored in a closed metal container 
  • This container should be located away from the building in such a position that it will not contribute to fire spread to adjacent buildings or outbuildings – at least 8m away is a good rule of thumb.  
  • Chaining multiple bins together also limits the potential for intruders to move them closer to buildings. 
  • Larger combustibles such as wooden pallets should be stored in a secure area away from the building but not so close to the perimeter fence that an intruder could set fire to them through the fence itself. 
  • Consideration should be given to arranging for the appropriate uplift of this material on a regular basis to ensure it does not build up over time and increase in quantity. 

Other considerations 

Mobile offices are particularly vulnerable to wilful fire-raising in part due to their combustible nature but also due to their construction. Many mobile offices and Portakabins have a slated skirting underneath which allows combustibles to be pushed through gaps. This can be addressed by fixing solid sheet skirting to these structures which also prevents the area underneath being used as storage space.

Letter boxes are a commonly used access point for wilful fire raising. Consider arranging with the Post Office to only have mail delivered during normal working hours which is delivered directly to reception areas. If this is not possible then consider fitting an external letterbox or a fire proof letterbox/bag to prevent any lit combustibles being pushed through to the interior of the building. 

External vented doors such as boiler rooms should have a fine wire mesh fitted to any vents to limit the possibility of lit combustibles being pushed through. 

Solvents, paints, fuel and other flammable materials should be held in a secure storage area when not in use and not left unattended in external areas. 

Staff training & Business Continuity Considerations 

Your staff should receive training in basic fire safety, so they are aware of the action to take in the event of a fire. This training should be refreshed regularly and may include practical use of fire extinguishers training. It is prudent for staff to have a proactive attitude and understanding of the dangers of fire and unattended combustibles so that if they do notice something ‘not as it should be’ or combustibles accumulating that they identify this, taking the appropriate action or at the very least bring it to the attention of their managers. 

Staff should also be aware of ‘close down procedures’ at the end of each working day to ensure premises are left secure, no unauthorised persons remain in the building and that any processes within are discontinued.  

Staff should also be made aware of the threat of wilful fire raising including the hazards and consequences. An occurrence of wilful fire raising in your premises could affect life, staff jobs and business continuity. Ensure you have a business continuity plan in place. Many businesses without a business continuity plan will fail within the first 3 years of operation. 

  • Ensure there is a clearly defined procedure for who is charge in the event of a crisis and that staff are aware of this. 
  • Ensure staff are aware of shut off points for services such as gas and electricity. 
  • Have a list of emergency key contacts including maintenance, services and comms issues. 
  • Backup critical data regularly and if possible, store copies off site or within the Cloud.  

Raising awareness and understanding of the threat of wilful fire raising with your staff is a key element to mitigating any risk of this type to your business.  

Finally, consider fitting an AFSS - automatic fire suppression system (sprinklers) to your premises. Many commercial premises can benefit from fitting sprinklers. They can provide additional time for staff, customers or guests to escape if a fire occurs. AFSS also protect the building itself from further fire damage limiting the immediate impact of fire thus increasing your business resilience and ability to recover from a serious fire incident. Numerous studies show that a significant reduction in business interruption is present within a building fitted with AFSS. Read my previous article on the benefits of AFSS here.

Your local SFRS Fire Safety Enforcement Officer can afford further guidance and advice on prevention of wilful fire raising. You can also get in touch with SBRC seconded police and fire officers for advice on [email protected]  


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