With few exceptions across the nation, idle facilities are becoming more prevalent. Much of the vacancy can be attributed to a decreased product and service demand resulting in consolidation and downsizing during the current economic slowdown. Vacant buildings present a unique set of challenges, primarily because they are easier targets for arson, theft, and vandalism and maintenance issues tend to lapse as these properties are "out of sight, out of mind". The fact is, vacant/idle facilities require as much, if not more attention than active facilities
While the following is not an inclusive list, below is a few guidelines to consider to aid in protecting your vacant or idle facility:
- Keep Local Fire Dept Informed - Notify the local fire department in advance that the facility is idle. The fire department should be informed of hazards that have not been removed. Be sure that the fire department has someone to contact in the event of an emergency.
- Maintain Fire Protection Systems- Fire protection includes all activities that are intended to control a fire's ability to grow and spread. Continue to visually inspect sprinkler control values (confirm they are locked in the open position), pressure gauges, and fire extinguishers. Likewise, continue to test/service automatic sprinkler systems, fire alarms, fire pumps (if applicable), and fire extinguishers.
Areas in a facility where there is a water-based fire protection system and in which temperatures may fall below 40F, should be provided with heat to prevent freezing and pipe rupture. Broken windows, ill-fitting doors, and other items that allow heat loss should be repaired.
- Limit/Remove Unnecessary Fuel Sources- Reduction of fuel sources begins with good housekeeping, which includes removing combustible waste. Flammable/combustible liquids and idle wood pallets should also be removed from the building. Closing doors to prevent fire spread from one fuel group or area to another is also a best practice.
Electrical equipment, except those vital to loss control (i.e., security lighting, alarms, heating equipment, electrically driven fire pump, etc.) should be turned off. HVAC equipment should be regularly serviced to help prevent overheating of motors, which could result in fires.
- Maintain/Improve Security Measures - Historically, intentional set fires have accounted for more than 50% of idle properties. The best defense against arson is adequate security measures, including cameras, exterior lighting, locking of all entries in the facility, and fencing. Physically visiting the idle facility is not always feasible, but is a best practice as these brief viewings may result in the identification of a property loss hazard that can be corrected in the first stage(s) and prevent greater property loss if left unchecked.