Vacant + Building = Potential for Trouble
This equation has even more significance today than ever before due to poor economic times. Governmental budgets are tight and under close scrutiny. Allocating money for building maintenance, upkeep and renovation is tough. If a building becomes uninhabitable, occupants are moved out and the building sits empty until it can be renovated or sold. Buildings on the market stay there and are not moving so quickly.
Vacant buildings present unique challenges because they lack the day-to-day activity that naturally mitigates common hazards. They can also become a liability hazard as they constitute an attractive nuisance; they can become a magnet for teenagers looking for a place to hang out and it is not unusual to find squatters looking to get out of cold weather. However, there are proactive steps that should be taken when a building becomes unoccupied or vacant to protect the premises, the building and your agency.
Call Risk Management Division
Because property insurance is affected by a building’s unoccupancy or vacancy, we need to know when it occurs. We can then inform your agency of the coverage limitations and of loss control measures that should be implemented immediately.
Inspect the facility weekly at irregular times; a human presence is a crime deterrent.
Notify local authorities, including police and fire departments, that a building is vacant. Provide emergency contact numbers to them.
Secure all entrances to prevent unauthorized entry. Don’t overlook skylights. Consider covering windows with plywood. 43% of vacant building fires are intentionally set!
Maintain exterior lighting when possible.
Trim and maintain vegetation to prevent overgrowth that provides hiding places, indicates lack of attention, or constitutes a fire hazard.
Consider exterior fencing or a security system.
Remove all excess materials and combustibles from around the building, maintaining at least a 25’ fire barrier.
Remove any containers that might be attractive for trash or illegal hazardous waste dumping.
Promptly repair any significant hazards when found. Clean up graffiti quickly.
Remove dead trees or overhanging tree limbs from the property.
Monitor ice and snow load carefully on roofs. Check for ice dams that can cause water damage.
Decide if heat will be maintained in the building. If yes, attempt to maintain the buildings’ temperature to at least 40 degrees F to prevent freezing of pipes. Before the winter months, have the heating system inspected. Maintain an adequate heating fuel supply at all times.
Shut off water in any areas of the building where it is not needed and drain those water pipes.
Properly shut down any non-building related equipment or systems and disconnect gas and electrical services except for alarm and heating purposes.
Monitor, monitor, monitor. Out of sight should not be out of mind!