The country is facing into another 100 days of strict social-distancing regulations under the Government’s roadmap for exiting the lockdown following the arrival of COVID-19 pandemic to our shores. Therefore, it is important that any of the security checks outlined in this article are carried out in compliance with the various phases and timelines outlined in the Government roadmap, which is contingent on whether COVID-19 remains under control at each juncture.
Each year, we receive an increasing number of property damage notifications following the re-opening of schools after holiday periods. With the closure of schools since 13th March and with little activity taking place at schools until September, school buildings and grounds will in most cases, be vacant over a long period of time. We have already seen a number of malicious damage claims, leaking water pipes, glass breakage and anti-social behaviour on some school grounds over the last number of weeks.
We therefore recommend (subject to compliance with the Government social-distancing regulations prevailing at the time) that you carry out a security check of school building and grounds. The following areas should receive particular attention:
- All exit doors, windows and skylights should be securely locked. Limit the number of key holders to senior personnel only and ensure that all keys are removed from the premises when they are unoccupied.
- All valuable equipment such as laptops, tablets and such like should be out of sight and if possible stored in strong rooms, particularly during holiday periods.
- All fire doors should be closed and all other standard internal doors should be left unlocked as intruders will cause greater damage to locked doors.
- Keep grounds free from material that could be used by vandals. Loose materials such as blocks or poles can be used to access or damage the buildings, while waste from bins can be set a light
- Coat scalable walls and drain pipes with anti-climb paint.
- Ensure that external lighting is in working order. External lighting illuminates pathways and car parking areas to enable authorised individuals see and move safely around the school grounds after dark. Furthermore, it denies intruders the cover of darkness and makes them more visible to passers-by and neighbours.
- Water supply should be turned off at the mains. All water taps should be checked to ensure they are fully closed. This is particularly important during holiday or lockdown periods.
- Moveable basketball rings, goal posts and playground equipment likely to attract children should be removed where practical.
- Regular patrols of the school buildings and grounds during holiday periods are recommended, as is the removal of any mail from public view.
- It is a fact that schools, which look neglected, are more prone to vandalism, theft and arson. Management that embraces the need and way in which activities of good maintenance and housekeeping are carried out are inevitably protecting their school also. A good working relationship within the school and local community, and well understood procedures are highly effective in reducing losses at little or no cost.
- Ensure that any burglar alarms, and CCTV cameras have been activated. The best and most comprehensive burglar alarm and CCTV system is only effective if it is switched on and maintained.
- Ensure that the fire detection and protection alarm systems are maintained, tested and records kept.
Fire and Arson Prevention
Many fires start accidentally because of a momentary act of carelessness or failure to take account of obvious hazards. However, an increasing number are started deliberately. Some schools and areas are more prone to arson attacks than others. Below are five tips, with some mentioned above already, that are specifically targeted to help reduce Arson:
- Deter and prevent unauthorised entry onto the school premises. This can be done by use of signs, defining and securing the boundary of the premises by use of robust security fencing, good security lighting, CCTV surveillance and/or a monitored intruder alarm detection system. Schools experiencing trespass issues should also liaise with the local Garda station to patrol the area.
- Eliminate features such as deep recesses and alcoves around the exterior of the school building.
- The weakest point of entry into a building is via the windows and doors. Clearly, means of escape must never be compromised but inspections should be carried out to ensure that windows and doors are adequately secured after school hours and external doors fitted with approved locks. The local Crime Prevention Officer can provide further advice on this subject.
- Refuse and recycling containers including wheelie bins should ideally be kept in a secure compound or alternatively secured by a padlock and chain to a post sited no less than eight metres from the building to prevent them being moved against the building and set a light.
- Obsolete and combustible materials such as old tables/chairs should be stored in a secure compound or disposed of on the same day if no longer required.
At all times, the health and safety of school staff is of primary importance and as outlined above, any checks or work carried out on school property and grounds must be subject to compliance with the Government guideline prevailing at the time. Please also refer to our COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions which will be regularly updated. In addition, do contact your local Allianz Representative or your Insurance Intermediary if you require any further assistance or guidance in relation to the content of this article.
This guidance is for general information purposes only.