Hosing down fire risk

OVERFLOWING bins and rubbish piled up against the side of a building aren’t just unsightly, they could make a building a prime target for arson.

Arson is a serious risk for property owners, although there are a number of ways in which owners can minimise the risk.

Arson costs business and property owners millions of dollars every year and, despite the best efforts of the police, only 38 per cent of these crimes are ever solved in Australia.

This is one of the reasons the Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia (FESA) is calling on building owners to take practical steps to avoid arson attacks.

In WA there are two broad categories of arson – structural or property fires, which usually occur in urban areas, and wildfires, which are deliberately set fires in areas of bushland.

FESA fire investigation officer Phill Cribb said protecting a building from arson involved measures beyond the normal fire safety requirements.

“Taking steps to reduce the incidence of arson attacks is up to building and business owners,” he said. “In a lot of cases a business can recover from a robbery faster than a fire.

“This is really about trying to make people aware that they can take steps to avoid arson attacks.”

One of the biggest issues is the storage of rubbish.

Overflowing bins or rubbish stacked up against the side of a building provides an ideal opportunity for a potential arsonist.

“When we go and have a look at businesses some don’t even have secure fencing or security lighting, and some have huge dumpsters or wheelie bins up against the side of the building,” Mr Cribb said.

“We are trying to get people out of these habits and into the habit of locking up premises.

“We want people to think of arson as a preventable problem.”

FESA is working in partnership with the CCI to get the message about arson out to business and property owners in Perth.

If people have concerns, a representative from FESA can go out to the property and assess the risk.

The motivation for arson attacks is often difficult to combat.

Revenge, crime concealment, fraud and pyromania are not issues the police and FESA can easily address.

However, taking steps to ensure a building isn’t an easy target is a simple way for building owners to reduce their risk profile.

Particularly in the winter months, vacant buildings provide shelter for the homeless. Fires lit for warmth may get out of control, causing significant damage.

It’s not a big problem in Perth but, again, properly securing a building, particularly vacant property, can diminish the risk of this sort of fire damage.

“There was a building that was burnt down a few years ago that was set alight by squatters,” Property Council communications and policy officer Geoff Cooper said.

“Building managers are aware and it is a concern. It’s not a huge problem but it is an issue.”

For many building managers arson needs to be addressed as part of the over all security of the building.

“Security is very important and it’s not just security of the building. Individual tenants need to be wary,” Property Council CEO Joe Lenzo said.

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