Please Note: This Article is 9 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Last year there were:

  • 60 fires a day
  • 1,000 metal thefts a week
  • Over £1 billion of damage to properties from burst pipes and leaks

A white paper on how best to protect vacant properties, “Guards vs Technology” is published today by VPS.

It assesses the options for securing vacant properties, together with a unique collation of data on their vulnerability. VPS, the vacant property specialist, draws on its experience and expertise, providing case study material comprising a variety of commercial buildings.

Like any site, a vacant property requires protection from weather damage, utilities failures, vandalism and squatters. However, it is particularly vulnerable because, unlike occupied sites, they are not only easier targets, but also the effects any damage is more likely go undetected for longer periods. The impact can therefore be greater and more costly to rectify.

Wet, wet, wet

Whilst 2013 may have been very different, last year was the second wettest on record, with heavy rainfall, floods and ‘supercell’ storms occurring in seven months of the year.

Set Fire to the Rain

Sixty fires a day occur in or beside vacant or derelict buildings, but the main cause of accidental fires in buildings other than homes was faulty appliances and leads. This represented 24% of all such fires.

Man-made havoc

Crime, break-ins, graffiti and fly-tipping also increase the risks to vacant properties. There were 209,000 recorded acts of vandalism against UK business premises in 2012, and over 1,000 metal thefts occurred each week. The other major ‘assault’ on vacant premises, since squatting in residential buildings became illegal in 2012, has been a doubling of commercial property squats.

Tackling the issue: Guards versus Technological solutions

Manned guards are a visible, on-site deterrent to vandals or thieves, a constant check for any weather or utility problems, and can respond quickly to events. However, 24/7 guarding is expensive, a guard can only keep an eye on one area at a time – and they are human, and so prone to activities humans do, such as sleep.

Technological alternatives, such as alarms, CCTV camera systems and water flow sensors like the VPS Veriflow, provide 24/7 monitoring cost-effectively and without human error. State of the art CCTV and video captures transmitted to remote monitoring centres reduce false alarms, but response times may take longer than an on-site guard, and a camera is less of a deterrent than a human face.

The answer to the question ‘which is best – guards or technology?’ will differ from site to site. Some will favour a manned presence; others can be appropriately protected by technology, and some sites from a blend of both. “Guards vs Technology” White Paper outlines the basic options open to estates managers responsible for vacant properties in their asset register. Seeking a professional risk assessment is the core of getting the end solution right.

“Guards versus Technology – which is best?” is available as a pdf on the VPS website

Please Note: This Article is 9 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.


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