August 5, 2021

Securing void properties and spaces

Guy Other, CEO at Orbis Protect, a leading player in the property security and lone worker markets, discusses how to keep void properties secure.

Construction in the UK contributes billions every year to the UK economy. In 2017 total construction orders worth £163bn were generated and the sector employs 2.4m* people. This is an industry where high value machinery and materials are on‐site and insurance policies worth millions are taken out to protect against theft, breakages and vandalism. Security is rightly a priority for the success of a project in terms of the safety of construction spaces and protecting the value of empty properties.

We see this with many organisations across the UK we work with, by securing their assets we help clients learn more about the apparent risks posed at Construction, whilst giving them essential tools to minimise risk.

Ensuring safety

Active property and site management is vital and helps when working with insurance companies to protect your assets and be complaint. Larger sites can be kept secure with physical guarding or stand‐alone systems developed by accredited companies. Technology‐led solutions are by far the most cost effective and comprehensive way to safeguard a site/property, compared to the costs and limits of manned guarding.

Intruders will be deterred from trespassing with the installation of specialist CCTV towers. For example, physically imposing structures such as our Ultra CCTV Tower, a temporary CCTV solution or the Ultra Hybrid CCTV Tower, will make criminals think twice about trespassing. Coupled with this, cameras such as the Ultra Lite, a fixed deployment CCTV solution, will follow an intruder on‐site at night or during the day time. This provides a site manager and construction firm the confidence that their assets are protected and plays a significant role in reducing costs, such as vandalism, on vacant sites.

I’d advise working with an accredited security provider, look out for memberships with the British Security industry Association (BSIA), Achilles UVDB, a utility industry pre‐qualification system and CHAS, one of the founders of third‐party accreditation. Although all sites are different, there are some core things to bear in mind that will apply to all projects and that clients should consider from a security point of view.

Tips to protect your void property or site:

  • Update your insurer with any changes to the status of a site, a development, or a property, even if this is only partially vacant
  • Check the details of your insurance policy carefully and note any amendments to the cover
  • Assess the risks to your property/site and act on these to protect your investment
  • Arrange regular inspections so any changes to the property/site condition can be noted promptly
  • Let your commercial and residential neighbours know the site/property is void and ask them to be vigilant
  • Turn off all water, electricity, gas and waste services
  • Make sure the windows and letterboxes are secured on any properties
  • Use blinds and/or security screens to stop thieves looking inside
  • Regularly inspect the property as a matter of due diligence
  • Maintain the appearance of the property/site and keep gardens and grounds clear of waste, graffiti and building rubble
  • Add in security monitoring equipment such as alarms and CCTV towers on larger sites
  • Set up and maintain fencing and light timers to stop criminals entering the site/property
  • Install warning signage across a site

On‐site safety at Redcar

We partnered with South Tees Site Company on a security project at the former Teesside steelworks site throughout 2016. Based at the Redcar blast furnace we were employed to guard the 10‐kilometre site after it had been closed in October 2015, following a sale by SSI, a Thai steel firm.

The client had become concerned about on‐site safety following a series of break‐ins and wanted a cost‐effective solution, in comparison to the expense of man guarding.

The project centred around the roll‐out of a comprehensive on‐site alarm system throughout the entire non‐operational areas of the site. This acted to prevent theft and as an early warning health and safety alert system to stop unauthorised access to dangerous areas of the site.

By February 2017 we had installed 61 videofied alarm systems, which controlled over 500 camera devices, keeping the site safe, secure and health and safety compliant. This was a significantly more cost‐effective alternative to man guarding onsite and proved to be more effective and reliable than the security measures it replaced.

The nature and size of the site incurred some real challenges. For example, some buildings were over one kilometre long, making it necessary to secure 40‐metre‐high gantries in specific areas.

We worked with South Tees Site Company to protect the site and stop intruders successfully and within a year there had been no new reported incidents or intruders. The mixture of CCTV towers, alarm systems and impactful signage worked to warn off trespassers.

* Construction industry: statistics and policy ‐ Chris Rhodes. Briefing paper, 27 December 2018, House of Commons Library