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Hardening the Target

excerpted for interFIRE VR by Debra Hemmerling from "Management for Arson Prevention and Control" (US Fire Administration, National Fire Academy).


Proactive steps against potential arson targets:

  • Identify potential arson targets
  • Communicate to owner that authorities are concerned and explain why.
  • Conduct frequent fire code inspections.
  • Increase police presence.
  • Secure the vacant buildings to prohibit access.

Step 1 - Disconnect all utilities at the street.

      • LNG should be turned off at the street cock.
      • LPG tanks should be disconnected and removed from the premises.
      • Electrical service should be disconnected at the pole and /or the utility company should remove and cap all meters.
      • Water service should be shut off at the meter, and the system drained at its lowest point. Faucets should be left open.
      • If feasible, remove and discard light combustibles from the interior.

Step 2 - Clear the lot around the building.

      • All materials or vegetation capable of being ignited should be removed from the area.

Step 3 - Secure the building to prevent entry.

      • Be certain to search the entire interior of the structure to insure that no person is present.
      • Any door, window, or other potential opening accessible from the ground level, or from a porch, fire escape or other potential spot accessible by climbing shall be secured by plywood.
      • Openings that are not accessible from a porch, fire escape, roof or any openings within 10 vertical feet of the ground may also be boarded up with plywood.
      • Patrol the arson targets periodically to check the security.
  • Visit with firefighters to pre-plan for possible fires.
  • Jurisdiction maps should be mounted on a bulletin board and color-coded pins should be used to identify your possible targets and your recent targets.

Once an incident pin board is complete, the zone where most of the recent arson fires occur will usually be obvious. Consider taking the following actions as part of your Arson Prevention and Control Plan.

  • Focus Unit operations and resources on the area containing the highest concentration of recent incidents.
    • Arrest anyone caught violating laws that permit probable cause arrest (i.e., trespassing in a vacant building).
    • Focus undercover night patrols in that tract (patrol times to depend upon times of most recent incidents).
    • Consider a clandestine surveillance post at a key intersection.
    • Make extensive use of "Field Interrogation Forms." These forms are used to develop potential informants and suspects and identify people in these areas.
    • Ask for positive identification - take Polaroid photographs of people without proper identification.
    • Run "suspicious" people for wants/warrants.
    • Coordinate a high intensity motor vehicle enforcement team (zero tolerance).
    • Set up a shift prepared to immediately respond to the scene of any new fires in the area. They should focus on people around the fire scene. Field interrogation forms must be completed to develop potential contacts and suspects.
    • Ensure that all new fires receive "full court press" investigations using all Unit resources such as AK-9 searches, full origin and cause examinations, etc.
  • Educate community leaders and public safety managers.

 
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