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Arson – a huge risk that is hotting up

Arson is an increasingly significant factor in fire losses, with industrial and commercial buildings proving major targets for arsonists, as the riots of 2011 bear testament.

Small businesses are particularly vulnerable as they do not have 24/7 security personnel. Every year there are a staggering 3,000 arson attacks on shops, cafes and other small businesses. According to UK fire statistics, arson actually accounts for over 40% of fires in business premises and over 20% in residential.

It is estimated that between 40% and 80% of all businesses which suffer a serious fire fail to recover and close down. This has a huge impact on the economy, as well as on people's lives.

Whilst all premises are potential targets for arson, some are particularly vulnerable such as schools, empty buildings, places of worship, newspaper premises, farms, abattoirs and animal research establishments. An arson risk assessment is imperative and should be carried out by a competent person as required under fire safety legislation. The assessment needs to be documented and reviewed regularly.

There have been stories in the news recently where waste materials have been stored in the open and so added to the combustion of buildings – for example, the fire caused at a recycling factory by a Chinese lantern, and another at a recycling centre in Sittingbourne, Kent – both premises had substances which ignite and burn fast. Whilst this is not arson, it pays to make sure all potentially flammable items are stored safely and away from prying eyes, just in case – as well as made as fireproof as possible.

Good security is a key deterrent to arsonists, so make sure perimeters are secured, alarms and CCTV fitted (with remote monitoring if possible), manned guarding and access control employed as appropriate. Make sure employees understand the dangers that strangers on premises can cause, encourage staff to challenge any strangers on the property and report suspicious behaviour. Care should also be taken when recruiting your staff, make sure references are taken and verified – arsonists come in all shapes and sizes and could be there because they have an addiction to fire, or perhaps hold a grudge against the company or owner, for example.

According to a recent report, arson is now one of the most commonly claimed for eventualities on a business insurance policy. The report also states that around half of all criminal related pay-outs on business insurance policies are as a result of arson, which shows the full importance of including risks such as arson in any business insurance policy taken out. Whilst arson itself accounts only for a minimal amount of all business insurance claims in general, it does rank highly on the list of crime related business insurance pay outs: this is why it is vital to have professional insurance advice.

Business insurance policies not only cover damage to the business premises themselves, but they also cover companies in the event that employees or customers are injured on the premises. Business insurance is a complex matter and if you have any queries at all, contact our friendly and professional team at Westhill Insurance Services. We have a long established record of helping businesses find the right insurance at the right price, so keep the heat off your business by making just one call to the hottest team in town – Westhill Insurance Services.

Contact Westhill Insurance Services, today.

Posted on 23rd August, 2013