Originally published in Interiors & Sources

01/25/2013

Preparing for Arson

Don’t let malicious fire threaten your building

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Don’t get burned by arson – over 8,000 buildings are lost each year from intentional fires. Protect your property with preventive measures such as risk assessments, balanced fire protection strategies, and detection systems.

What fire protection and monitoring systems can support arson detection?
Arends: Rely on the concept of balanced fire protection. In addition to active systems such as fire sprinklers and fire alarms, this approach includes passive measures such as fire-rated corridors, enclosed exit stairwells, emergency exits, and other items in the building code to protect occupants.

Major: Arson usually occurs in areas where the perpetrator is not seen. Ensure access and egress points are well-illuminated and aren’t hidden from view by walls, hedges, or other barriers. Post security staff in high-risk areas or use surveillance systems to monitor vulnerabilities. Confirm that exit points open freely in the direction of exit travel and can be locked from the outside.

If arson is suspected, what steps should building management take?
Major: Always report a fire to your local fire department. Authorities will most likely conduct an investigation if arson is suspected. The building or section involved will remain in the custody of the investigating agency until all evidence is collected and a complete forensic evaluation is made. Private insurance agencies may also want to conduct their own investigation after local authorities have finished.

Arends: When the local police and fire respond, ask if they have a fire investigation team. If not, your insurance company will have a certified cause and origin fire investigator available. These professionals have experience with collecting and preserving evidence.

They will have photos taken of every part of the building, whether it was involved in the fire or not, to look for valuable information. You can also have photos of your facility ready in advance to help investigators reconstruct the scene after a fire.

 

Jennie Morton jennie.morton@buildings.com is associate editor of BUILDINGS.

 


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