Covid-19: site closure and its risks

Contrary to what intuition tells us, loss statistics show that closed and unoccupied buildings are particularly vulnerable to fire risk. While these are mainly of criminal origin, the figures also show other causes of fire, such as failures of electrical installations.
Beyond the fire risk, theft of equipment and installations, vandalism and third party occupation are common in such situations.
Water damage in unoccupied buildings is also a significant risk due to less careful maintenance and monitoring than during normal operation.

What precautionary measures should be taken to limit the risks?

The few simple recommendations presented below are intended to help you take useful precautionary measures in the event of a site closure.

Actions to be taken to close the site

  • Cut off all energy supply that is not absolutely essential.The gas supply must be cut off, the water networks drained, and the electricity cut off. Excluding, of course, all installations necessary for process safety, alarms and protective equipment (sprinkler system for example).
  • In all areas where pipes contain water, maintain a minimum temperature of 5°C.
  • Secure all utilities that will not be kept in service.
  • Close and lock all possible accesses to buildings using the means usually used for regular site closures (locks, padlocked bars, etc.) without omitting access points to floors and roofs.
  • Close and lock the access doors to all service rooms. If there is any doubt about the mechanical strength of the locking equipment, temporary locking devices can be put in place: welded, bolted elements, etc.
  • Check that fences are complete and in a good state of repair, carry out consolidation operations where necessary, including using temporary elements.
  • Lock all gates.
  • Pay particular attention to sensitive products, secure the storage areas for these products according to the exposures.

Further reduce fire risks

  • Minimize the presence of fire loads and hazardous materials in the interior of the premises :
    • Eliminate waste materials
    • Limit as far as possible the volumes of liquids that can burn in buildings, store liquids that cannot be evacuated in non-combustible spill containment areas and/or in equipment specifically designed for this purpose.
    • Drain and purge all distribution pipes of dangerous products that will no longer be used: fuel, flammable gases, oxidants, etc.
  • Move outdoor storage of combustible materials (and all materials likely to facilitate access to the premises) at least 10 m away from any building.
  • As far as possible, keep all the site's fire barriers closed : doors, shutters, valves, etc.
  • Prohibit all work of any kind whatsoever inside the premises, in particular all hot work.

Maintain the operation of the monitoring and fire protection installations

  • All fire-fighting equipment must remain operational: mobile extinguishers, armed fire hose reels, dry and wet columns, fire hydrants, water supplies.
  • Make sure that the entire automatic fire detection system is in perfect working order and remedy any faults before closing the site.
  • Ensure that any sprinkler protection installation is fully operational and that it is capable of functioning for the planned duration. Correct any faults as soon as possible before closing the site.
  • If compatible with legal requirements, safety conditions for the intervening parties and work organization, provide for at least a monthly check of the sprinkler protection installation (functional test of the water sources, check of the control stations and alarm reports).

Further reducing the risk of theft and malicious acts

  • Park forklift and handling equipment in areas with locked access, keep keys in a separate and secure location.
  • Ensure that all site keys are kept in a secure location and that access to them is fully controlled.
  • Maintain a reasonable level of external site lighting.

Maintain the operation of the automatic intrusion monitoring installations

  • Make sure that the entire automatic intrusion detection system and the video surveillance system are in perfect working order. Remedy any deficiencies before closing the site, and ensure that all equipment is in good working order.

Alarm reporting

  • Ensure that all alarm reporting devices are operational and in working order: fire alarms, technical alarms, intrusion alarms.
  • If possible, carry out regular tests to ensure that the alarm reporting systems are working properly.
  • Formalize and remind the organizations and/or persons designated to manage alarms of the instructions to be followed.

Monitoring rounds

  • Preferably provide for a permanent human presence and surveillance on the site (this may be necessary depending on the location and attractiveness of the premises).
  • If this is not possible, provide for regular rounds of the site, carried out at random times and recorded to ensure that any anomalies that may be observed are removed.
  • It is important to check as frequently as possible (at least daily) the various entry points to the site for signs of break-in.

Human precautions

  • For health and safety reasons, no person should be allowed to enter buildings alone without at least an effective communication system.
  • A simple and reliable procedure must be established to manage the entrances and exits of the site.
  • Notify the local police and external emergency services of the closure of the site.