We’re living in a modern age where no-one can afford to be passive about prevention. Hoping that all will be well is not enough and whilst parents have a parental responsibility for their children’s well-being and behaviour, property owners also have a social responsibility to keep their communities safe – which includes ensuring that vacant properties do not pose a hazard to the passing public in general and inquisitive children in particular across several problem areas:
Problem: Not a Playground
Derelict properties and commercial sites can unfortunately be enticing to children looking for a new place to play or to teenagers looking for a place to “hang out” away from parental supervision. Any property which is empty but not being maintained can pose a risk to anyone entering the building as materials become worn and rot away, are stolen by thieves (copper piping for example). Even if the property was once secured, if vandals cause damage and gain access, children could easily be the next individuals to enter the site, putting themselves in immediate risk of danger.
o Secure all access points with industry standard shutters or hoardings.
o Make regular checks on the property and make repairs as needed.
o Remove all items or features which may seem “inviting” to daredevil youngsters, such as ladders.
Problem: Would You Behave Like That at Home?
Unfortunately, part of the attraction of an empty property is that it offers youngsters (and particularly teenagers) an unsupervised space to “hang out” and do as they wish to express themselves. This is one of the reasons why vandalism and graffiti are prevalent in empty properties as here youngsters have the opportunity to explore their freedom with tagging (graffiti), jumping around fixtures and features of the building (free running), throwing debris and being reckless. Such behaviour not only puts the youngsters at risk but may also pose a threat to the general public by rendering the property unsafe to the community at large.
o Remove any loose (or even vaguely loose) items or fixtures so that these cannot be used as projectiles. This is just as important outside the property too, as these could be moved and thrown not only by individuals but also possibly by high winds.
o Secure all access points.
o Have all utilities disconnected – removing some of those home comforts automatically makes the property less welcoming to trespassers.
o Employ local security staff as a way of deterring would-be trespassers and vandals – nothing is more off-putting to teenagers seeking an unsupervised spot for mayhem than to discover that supervision (and prevention) is very much in place … with the additional concern for them that someone local might recognise them too!
Problem: Fire Risk
Whilst many memoirs of respectable adults romanticize the idea of hiding away in derelict buildings for a puff on that first cigarette as some kind of rite of passage, the bald fact is that youngsters accessing an empty property for smoking of tobacco (or other substances) makes your property not only vulnerable to damage from trespass and vandalism, but also from fire.
o Remove all combustible materials from the site.
o Install monitoring and alarm systems, including smoke alarms as required.
o Ensure that all access points are secured: securing only some not only leads to problems of children being able to enter the property, but may mean that they are unable to quickly exit in the event of a fire – better to ensure they cannot enter in the first place.
o Enlist the support of residents or owners of neighbouring properties so that you are quickly alerted in the event of problems.
Problem: Hidden Stranger Danger
Another problem posed to children by an empty property is that criminals or those behaving in an anti-social way may trespass and add an extra layer of risk to youngsters through stranger danger. Indirect risk such as from used needles (if the property has been used for drug dealing or use), to direct risk such as being a hiding place for criminals and anti-social individuals who may scare, be a poor influence or inflict actual harm on children.
o Secure all access points with tamper-proof shuttering.
o Use remote, full surveillance CCTV monitoring if your property (or children of the neighbourhood) may be particularly vulnerable. This not only acts as a deterrent for crime, it can also provide crucial evidence if issues should arise.
Finally, another way to ensure that your social responsibility is being met is by considering the community as a whole. Aim to build community links with local schools and council to enrich the neighbourhood monitoring and ensure that at least one other professional body – such as utility provider, local fire or community police (in addition to your security company if you have one) knows that your premises is empty, so that you can be immediately informed of any unexpected activity: working together is one of the most effective methods for preventing problems, so this as well as securing the property are the minimum you should be aiming for to protect your property, and children, from each other.
Content provided by: Safe Site Facilities