16 - Arson

Arson is deliberate destruction of property by fire. It is the single main cause of insured loss due to fire in most industrial countries throughout the world. Worldwide cost varies between 15% and 50% of all insured fire losses, depending on the country. For some higher risk occupancies such as schools and unoccupied buildings the cost is as high as 70%.

What do we look for?


  • Locations where people congregate (e.g. schools, public transport, sporting facilities), high crime areas, and areas with a history of arson
  • Sites that provide easy concealment for malicious activities
  • Trade or occupation with an increased risk of arson
  • Poor management/employee relations (strikes, political situation, etc).


  • Unauthorized access to site and buildings controlled by features including fences, lighting, electronic surveillance, security staff, building integrity, door locks, window bars, and door access using swipe cards or biometrics
  • Management of combustible materials outdoors including yard storage, trash containers, and debris to reduce fuel available to set Arson fires
  • Management of employees, contractors, and visitors authorized to be on site and in buildings through supervision and access control to appropriate work areas
  • Management of security and fire protection system to maintain systems, mitigate tampering, and detect tampering.

Risk improvement ideas

  • Provide a perimeter security fencing for the property.  The fence should be at least 2.4 m (8 ft) tall and include anti-climb protection or design.
  • Secure building access points with measures including door and window locks, window shutters or bars, and anti-arson letter boxes (where used).
  • Provide an intruder alarm system using detection features such as door contacts, glass break sensors, motion detectors, and infrared beams.  Monitor intruder alarm system signals at a constantly attended location.
  • Provide closed-circuit television surveillance system covering outside property and building perimeters.  Monitor the system at a constantly attended location, and record images for later review. 
  • Provide access controls within building to limit employees and visitors to authorized areas.  Access controls may include badges for employees and visitors, visitor escorts, and door controls (such as key locks, key pads, and card swipes).
  • Control combustible yard storage through measures such as:
    • Eliminating combustible yard storage where possible
    • Placing combustible yard storage in metal shipping containers or other secured enclosures
    • Maintaining waste containers 10 m (30 ft) from buildings and important structures and 2 m (6 ft) from perimeter fencing
    • Establish designated external storage areas for combustibles with good clearance from buildings. At least 15 m (50 ft) is recommended for most yard storage and at least 30 m (100 ft) for very high hazard yard storage.
  • Provide exterior lighting along the entire perimeter of the building.

Risk topics

  • Train employees to be aware of common arson hazards and to respond appropriately. Zurich's Virtual Fire Safety Manager (VFSM) provides suitable online training. Visit the VFSM feature tour and demo at www.vfsm.com

Arson prevention

Type: pdf (177Kb)