Chris Peters, chief design manager, highlights Arson Awareness Week.
Arson Awareness Week takes place this year between 18th and 24th March.
The campaign aims to highlight the fact that almost half (47%) of all fires attended to by the fire services are started deliberately.
Sometimes this involves the loss of life, and insurance claims of £1.2 billion
Last year over 70,000 fires were as a result of arson – that’s over 200 a day across the UK – and vacant properties in particular are often targets.
Nearly half of those fires are attended by the Fire Service, and the total cost of fire insurance claims stands at over £1b per year.
Arsonists tend to be young men – although they can be from any social background or age group, or either sex. The peak age for offending is between 14- and 16-years-old.
The reasons arsonists give for their behaviour is also diverse. Some fires are set as an insurance fraud. Other fires are started simply for the thrill, or for revenge.
Some arsonists have mental health issues. Most deliberate fires are started at night, although not always – particularly in commercial or industrial premises. In the latter, areas such as storerooms or warehouses provide both cover for the arsonist and, importantly, stored materials to fuel the blaze.
There are ten recommendations for preventing arson or its consequences.
It starts with a sensible fire risk assessment, looking at every aspect of the business, not least how materials are stored to what fire precautions are in place.
The fact is that many companies targeted by arson attack go out of business – so having a plan of action should be front of mind for every business owner.
But if a fire breaks out, it doesn’t immediately matter if it was started deliberately or not. The important thing is to get everybody in that building to safety. The fire risk assessment should, of course, have addressed each issue in the evacuation process.
For example, occupants in a building should generally be able to escape away from the fire. That means having escape routes protected by fire-resistant materials or self-closing fire doors.
It also means recognising that fire travels upwards, so that stairways must also be protected. It also means having exit doors that open outwards to make escape easier.
That’s particularly important if there are large numbers of people, minimising the crush risk. Exterior fire doors should also be checked to ensure that obstructions, such as bulk deliveries, aren’t cluttering them up.
Where possible, it means making escape routes as short as possible, with clear signage.
There should also be regular rehearsals, particularly for evacuating the elderly or infirm.
It also means planning for electricity failure and how to evacuate people in darkness.
At Wrightstyle, our business is about managing fire risk. Our systems stop fire, smoke and toxic gases from spreading for up to 120 minutes – minimising fire damage and allowing occupants to escape.
Our compatible systems, with the glass and steel framing systems tested together, are accredited to current standards and our advice is to always check that fully certificated systems are being used.
In a real fire, the glass will only be as protective as its frame, and vice versa. Specify each component separately, and you run the risk of one failing – and therefore the whole fire protective barrier failing.
It’s not a subject that we like to think about, but it’s a surprisingly common crime that can, and does, devastate lives and livelihoods. Arson Awareness Week is maybe something we should all think about, at all times of the year.