With Christmas fast approaching, vacant property expert Orbis warns property owners and tenants to carefully secure and protect their properties over the festive season. Buildings that shut down and are empty over the holidays are particularly vulnerable to being targeted by thieves and other intruders such as squatters.
Even commercial properties with professional facilities management teams are at risk. Regular security officers might be on holiday, over the extended break, meaning that buildings are protected by temporary cover or no cover at all in some cases. Many of the regular staff responsible for locking up and checking windows are shut will also be on holiday.
Other vulnerable empty buildings include schools and homes. According to research from Santander, around one in six UK households will be vacant for more than 24 hours from the end of December through to the beginning of January. Around four million Brits go abroad at Christmas and New Year, which is good news for burglars. Direct Line states that 16 per cent of people are burgled while they are on holiday, with burglaries from residential properties peaking in the November to January holiday period.
Orbis is offering some top tips to ensure that everyone knows exactly who is coming down the chimney, or entering their property, during the Christmas holidays, and to protect against fire, leaks and wasted energy use.
For occupied buildings:
Make sure that any staff who will be in the building know what they are required to do while their facilities colleagues are away. Brief them verbally and leave them good handover notes. Also communicate any unofficial tasks, such as locking up, checking windows are shut, turning the air conditioning off or making sure computers are switched off. Brief temporary security staff thoroughly about all aspects of the building’s protection, its inhabitants, the nature of the business and any past, present or future threats.
For empty buildings:
Assess any risks
Assess the risk of how intruders could access the property and take steps to secure it. Consider disconnecting services to the property to prevent potential sources of damage such as water damage or fire risk and check protective installations such as fire detection and alarm systems.
Secure your building
Make sure that any window locks are in use, doors are shut and locked and alarms are set (but don’t forget to give the combination or key to anyone who is looking after the property). Extra security patrols may be enough to put off would-be intruders. If necessary demountable steel screens can be installed to prevent intruders.
Keeping up appearances
Maintain the property so that it looks occupied. Consider hiring a contractor to clear the post while the property is empty; use an electronic timer to turn lights on and off at random times; deploy temporary alarms with visual verifications and 24/7 monitoring so that incidences can be dealt with quickly; and keep the area around the property tidy and maintained.
Tell your insurance firm so that you are covered in the event of a problem. Regular inspections with a full audit trail are often necessary to remain compliant with insurance requirements and health and safety regulations. You may also need or choose to inform your landlord, local authority and neighbours.
For homeowners, consider asking a trusted neighbour or nearby relative to visit your property every few days to check on it, clear post from the doorway and even turn the lights on and off.