Before businesses or commercial property owners decide to vacate a building, a comprehensive risk assessment should be conducted and a plan put in place for long-term protection of the property. Building owners should consider how long the property will be vacant, if they plan to occupy the building again or sell it. A plan to vacate a building should include at the very least, notification to local law enforcement and fire protection agencies and how to secure the perimeter.
Vacant Building Fire Statistics
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association, NFPA, Fires in Vacant Buildings, fire departments in the United States responded to an estimated 30,200 fires on vacant properties, every year from 2011 to 2015. These fires resulted in an estimated $710 million of property damage, 160 civilian injuries and 60 civilian deaths per year. An estimated 50% of all vacant building fires are started intentionally, compared to 10% of occupied structure fires.
Worth noting is the disproportionate ratio of firefighter injuries that occur from vacant property fires. It is estimated that 3,310 firefighters each year were injured when responding to vacant building fires during the same time from 2011 o 2015. During the 10-year period from 2007 to 2016, 20 firefighters lost their lives fighting fires in buildings that were vacant, under renovation or demolition.
Fire Safety Tips for Vacant Commercial Building
Some commercial buildings are only vacant temporarily, during a change in ownership a sale or a move. Some tips for creating a safe plan to vacate a commercial building include the following:
Notify Local Authorities
Property owners should notify local authorities when vacating a building and make sure they are aware of any issues regarding accessing the property, any security measures and keyholders to contact in case of an emergency. Local authorities should know if sprinklers have been disconnected and be informed about any fire water supplies.
Secure the Perimeter
Building owners vacating property should take steps to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access, although it is critical that firefighters and law enforcement have access without impairment. Preventive measures may include:
- Ensuring that all doors, windows and openings are locked
- Limiting access points to the facility
- Install security fencing or barriers
- Block parking lot entrances
- Install video cameras
- Maintain an intrusion and fire alarm system that includes motion detection
Maintain Utilities if Possible
Maintaining the electricity in a vacant building is important to provide continual protection with lighting and fire alarm systems in place. A well-lit building will deter crime, automatic exterior lighting can help to save money on electricity and provide reliable lighting when needed. Maintaining electricity for an alarm system will help to ensure that authorities are notified quickly and help minimize damages.
It is important to remove flammable and hazardous material from vacant property. This includes chemicals, pollutants or combustible material that could leak, cause contamination or an explosion.
By following these tips, property owners can reduce the risk of damage to their vacant buildings and injuries to civilians and firefighters. Consult with an experienced fire and life safety system provider for more tips on protecting vacant buildings. High-Rise Security Systems offers commercial fire alarm systems to businesses in and around the Chicago, Illinois area and assistance to building owners wishing to vacate property. We help building owners across a broad range of industries to protect what matters most, with saving lives our number one concern.
HRSS is recognized as a leading authority on fire alarm systems and commercial building fire alarm regulations. We custom design the perfect fire alarm system for your property and your business whether a high occupancy high-rise building, college campuses or a vacant warehouse. Contact us to learn more about protecting your property during transition and fire safety tips for unoccupied commercial buildings.