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Arson and Fire Prevention

According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, resulting in more than $1 billion in property loss each year. In one recent year, the USFA reported that approximately 30,500 intentional structural fires occurred.

At GuideOne Insurance, arson is one of the leading causes of fires along with open flames, electrical and lightning. When a school is damaged by arson, the effects are wider reaching than the damage to the building. Arson results in distress to students and staff along with disrupted and lost class educational time affecting learning, exams, and educational advancement. Instructors also lose valuable teaching tools and resources.

Your school can decrease the chances that an arsonist will strike by undertaking an arson and crime prevention program. This fact sheet provides information on why schools are vulnerable to arson and what they can do to protect themselves from this crime.

Why Schools Are Vulnerable

  • Buildings are often unoccupied.
  • Activity schedules are predictable.
  • Arsonists, vandals and other criminals may target schools because of what they represent.

Reducing the Risk of Arson

To help reduce the risk of arson, consider the following precautionary measures:

Building Exterior

Arson Prevention
The photo above shows a dumpster that is overflowing and too close to the building. If vandals were to intentionally set fire to the dumpster, there is a high likelihood that it would spread to the building.
Arson Prevention
The photo above demonstrates how to properly store a ladder outside the building using a good quality lock and chain that is securely attached to the buildings concrete foundation.
  • Illuminate exterior buildings, doors and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
  • Consider the installation of motion-activated lighting near doors and windows.
  • Keep doors and windows locked when the building is unoccupied.
  • Trim shrubs and tree limbs around windows and doors to eliminate potential hiding places for arsonists and criminals.
  • Ladders should not be stored outside the building at the end of the day. Instead, secure ladders and tools in a locked shed/outbuilding or inside the building. If this is not possible, secure ladders outside with a high quality chain and lock.
  • Keep track of and limit the disbursement of building keys. Consider installation of a keyless electronic entry system.
  • Make sure that exterior doors are of solid core (not hollow) construction and are outfitted with quality deadbolt locks and, if hinged on the outside, tamperproof hinges.
  • Use wire-mesh glass in windows for additional protection from break-ins.
  • Keep the property free from boxes, leaves, trash, wood and other potentially combustible debris.
  • Consider installing video security cameras at entrances and other key areas.
  • Park vehicles in differing locations on the property throughout the week to vary routine.
  • Trash containers should be kept as far away as possible from the building.

Building Interior

  • Consider using timers for lights and/or radios during evening hours. Timed use of interior entry lights overnight should be considered.
  • Make sure that flammable liquids are stored in a U.L. listed fire cabinet away from any heat sources, such as heating equipment.
  • If possible, install a central station monitored security/fire detection system. Also consider a fire sprinkler suppression system.
  • Make sure that smoke and heat detectors are operational and that fire extinguishers are in place and have been regularly serviced.
  • Restrict access to areas containing valuable or combustible materials by locking interior doors.

General Precautions

  • Ask neighbors to alert police if anything suspicious is seen on school property.
  • Develop positive relationships with local law enforcement and invite them to patrol the property during the overnight hours.
  • Become involved in a “Neighborhood Watch” program.

Arson Prevention Checklist

Checklists can be an effective tool to provide a safer environment. The following checklists will help you determine how well your facility is safeguarded to discourage unauthorized entry and encourage early fire detection.


© 2024 GuideOne Insurance. GuideOne® is the registered trademark of the GuideOne Insurance Company. All rights reserved. This material is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to give specific legal or risk management advice, nor are any suggested checklists or action plans intended to include or address all possible risk management exposures or solutions. You are encouraged to retain your own expert consultants and legal advisors in order to develop a risk management plan specific to your own activities.