Sarah Cox: How should charities manage unoccupied premises during the pandemic?

There is a reason why every official channel is using the word ‘unprecedented’ to describe the current global situation. We truly are living in a time where we are all experiencing a global pandemic for the first time, and with that comes a lot of uncertainty.

As an insurer, Ansvar wants to make sure that we keep up to date with the latest government guidelines and share our knowledge on how to minimise the risk to your premises during this difficult time.

With the advice from the authorities being to stay at home, and wherever possible to work from home, you may find that your insured buildings are unoccupied for a prolonged period of time. You may have a disused premises in order to support the united cause to save lives and support the NHS, which is a noble cause; but it’s important to consider your personal circumstances and protect your buildings to safeguard yourself, your team, and your livelihood for the long run.

Today, we would like to share with you our top recommendations for steps you can take during this time to minimise any damage during the time of unoccupancy, so that you can get back up and running without delay once the restrictions on our day to day lives have been lifted.

Inspect your premises regularly

We recommend that you allocate an authorised person to check on your building both internally and externally once a week to check on the security and general condition of the premises. This will mean that you are able to nip any risks in the bud before they develop into a costly and time consuming situation.

Clear all waste

Keep on top of your waste, refuse, and combustible materials by making sure that they are cleared from the buildings and any adjacent grounds. Stagnant waste can cause all manner of problems, including pests, blocked emergency exits, and risk of your premises being targeted by arsonists.

Secure your building

Ensure that all external doors are securely locked and all opening windows closed and locked (where fitted with locking devices.) By locking all external doors and windows you will protect yourselves from trespassers and minimise yourselves from being targeted by burglars and other criminals.

Keep all existing physical devices for securing, or preventing access to the buildings in full and effective operation at all times and have all keys removed from the locks and kept in a secure place away from the premises.

Drain down your plumbing

Take the time to ensure that all tanks and pipes are drained down where and when you are able to do this, and all taps, stopcocks and mains supply valves turned off. If this is not possible, because you need to maintain a central heating system, a minimum temperature of 7°C should be maintained. By doing this, you will help mitigate the risk of flood damage should a leak develop whilst the building is not in use.

Switch off your gas and electricity supply

Gas supplies should be switched off unless to maintain a central heating system, minimising the risk of a gas leak which could lead to an explosion and significant damage to your premises.

Electricity supplies should be switched off unless to maintain a central heating system or existing intruder alarm systems, fire protection systems, CCTV, security lighting or sprinkler systems. Faults from electrical systems make up a large proportion of fire claims and switching systems off when not in use helps to reduce your risk here.

Be as proactive as you can whilst keeping yourself and other people safe

We do realise that it may not be possible to action all of the points in this blog post, but we encourage you to take a proactive and considerate approach to anything you can do to help reduce the risk of damage or loss during this difficult time, especially through water from heating systems, and general security of the premises. Your cooperation during this difficult time is very much appreciated and we hope that this provides the reassurance you need.

If this is not enough to meet the current crisis, or if you are unsure in any way, and you are insured with Ansvar, then speak to your Business Development Manager or one of our underwriters to discuss further. Alternatively we recommend you contact your own insurer for their specific advice.

There are also a number of helpful resources that we recommend:

• Arson Prevention Forum - www.stoparsonuk.org
• The selection and use of electronic security systems in empty buildings - www.riscauthority.co.uk
• Risk Control. Arson Prevention. The Protection of Premises from Deliberate Fire Raising - www.riscauthority.co.uk
• HM Government COVID-19 Advice - www.gov.uk/coronavirus

Sarah Cox is the managing director of charity and faith insurance specialist, Ansvar, the sponsors of this piece.

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