Editors Note: A guest contribution from Dakota Murphey to The Prepper Journal. While the subject is security for empty buildings it applies to any remote structure, especially a hunting or fishing cabin, a SHTF family compound, and even to remote gardens with structures owned by “city-folks” preppers! And, as always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award as well as be entered into the Prepper Writing Contest with a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.
Does a disused building really need security? After all, it’s empty – what could possibly go wrong?
The answer is yes! It’s a common misconception that vacant premises don’t need maintenance or security. In many cases, an empty building is more susceptible to damage, criminal activity and hefty insurance claims than an occupied building filled with expensive equipment.
Whether you are the business owner or landlord for a residential block, or a commercial or industrial unit, if it’s vacant – or about to become vacant – for any length of time, you need to make sure it’s secure, ASAP.
The 4 Main Risks to an Empty Building:
- Weather – It doesn’t take much time for the elements to take a toll on a building that isn’t being maintained. Inclement weather can damage its exterior, and if a storm or gale damages the roof or windows, you may find that bad weather causes problems inside, too. Besides, no evidence of activity raises curiosities.
- Thieves – Any equipment left in an unsecured building is at risk of theft, but even if you’ve emptied everything out, thieves may still break in to steal valuable construction materials, like copper pipes or wires.
- Vandals – Not everybody will want to steal things; some people just like being destructive. A vacant property is an easy target for vandals to leave waste, break things and cover the walls in graffiti.
- Trespassing -Trespassing covers a number of threats, from so-called “urban explorers”, breaking in out of curiosity, to those with more sinister intentions. Vacant buildings can be tempting for homeless people looking for shelter, and your building may end up being used as a squat or for illicit activities.
Steps for Keeping a Vacant Property Secure:
- Secure entrances
When you leave your building, double check that all windows and doors are properly closed and locked. Inspect each frame for gaps or damage, which will make it vulnerable to wind and rain getting in, as well as opportunists looking for the easiest way to get inside.
If you don’t expect to be using your building again for some time, consider using a more robust method of securing the windows and doors. Traditional wooden boarding may be cost-effective, but instances have occurred where these have contributed to the blaze of an arson attack, so consider a metal alternative. You can also install steel security doors which make it impossible to access your building without special equipment.
- Maintain the Exteriors
Bins, palettes and spare construction materials will quickly turn into projectiles in the hands of a vandal, or when picked up by high winds in a storm. Loose items can also be stolen, used to climb over fences and as fuel for an arson attack. Be vigilant, and make sure large objects are secured or stored out of sight.
Landscaping may be the last thing on your mind when it comes to maintaining a vacant property, but a little bit of effort is required to keep your premises safe. Keeping pathways clear of debris (and snow and ice in winter) is the responsibility of the building owner, while trimming grass and hedges limits the available habitat for vermin. It also shows recent human activity which tends to make people less prone to mischief.
- Check the alarms
It’s vital that any business is fitted with a security alarm. A visible alarm system will go a long way to deter trespassers, and by linking it to the local police you can have an immediate response to an incident. Regularly check that it is working properly, and if the system is managed by a third party, be sure to inform them if you will not be using the building for a period of time.
The same goes for your fire alarm and sprinkler system. An empty building will still need protection in the event of a fire, so make sure that your pipes and sensors are maintained and functional.
- Increase passive security
Routine use might mean that there is someone in your building so often that other forms of security fall by the wayside. While dummy cameras are a reasonable deterrent for opportunists, the longer you intend to leave a property vacant, the more you should consider installing operational cameras to record trespassers or criminal activity in your absence.
Making your site physically harder to access is another important precaution, particularly if you have open spaces that may appeal to fly-tippers or travellers. Fencing, secure gates and concrete barriers are all ways to stop an unauthorised person or vehicle from entering your property.
- Hire active security
If you have valuable equipment or materials stored on your premises, it might be more prudent to hire a professional guard patrol (guard dogs and handlers are also a good option) to ensure trespassers stay away. You can arrange for a guard to check on your building at random times of day (or night), and report back if any unusual activity is detected.
In some cases – particularly where the building is scheduled for future renovation or demolition – registering your building for a guardianship scheme may be a more cost-effective solution. You won’t be able to freely access your building while the guards are present, but having a live-in security option is the most effective against trespassers and squatters taking up residence in the building.
Don’t risk your vacant building becoming a liability – take the right steps now and you’ll thank yourself later.