Two months after a serial arsonist apparently struck in downtown Bend, heavily damaging a church and second building -- a case that remains unsolved -- police and fire officials marked "Arson Awareness Week" Tuesday with tips to safeguard homes and businesses from being victimized.
Here's their news release:
Safeguard Your Home or Business from Arson
Arson robs communities of its valuable assets — lives and property.
Arson can devastate a community emotionally and financially, resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue and a decrease in property values.
Owners and employees need to be on alert. But why is it difficult to deter these crimes?
Quite simply, most vandalism, including graffiti and arson attacks, occur at night and on weekends, when businesses are vacant.
The Bend Police and Fire Departments can help communities thwart the occurrence of arson and reduce its devastating effect by making businesses and residents aware of these measures to safeguard their homes.
Illuminate Exterior and Entrances
Your business should be well lit at night. Lights and cameras that cover your property will discourage arsonists and other criminals. Motion-activated lighting, which is inexpensive, should be placed near the entrances. Interior lights on timers can give the illusion a business or residence is occupied.
Trim or Remove Shrubbery That Obstructs the View of the Building from the
Maintain and remove overgrown shrubs and signs that could hide an intruder. During the growing season, bushes and trees may need to be trimmed frequently. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves. Move trash dumpsters and bins at least 10 feet away from buildings and roof overhangs.
Keep Doors and Windows Locked
All external doors should be locked. A simple, locked door could be the deterrent that saves a building from arson. The hardware used to lock windows can sometimes be easily forced open with a credit card or other tool. The best type of window hardware has spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame. Also, be sure to lock and secure all vehicles.
Oftentimes, arson is a crime of opportunity. Remove trash and debris from the front and back of your business. Don't leave out combustible material like wood crates and pallets, partial cans of paints, rags, cleaning supplies and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire for an arsonist. Arsonists will use the trash and debris as kindling. Ideally, your trash should be stored in a locked container.
Install Burglar and Fire Alarm Systems
Your business should also be burglar-proof to prevent an arsonist from entering to set a fire. Alarm devices can be inexpensively wired to transmit an alarm to the police or fire department. Check the cost of contracting with a security firm for response to alarms.
Equip Homes with Smoke Alarms and a Fire Sprinkler System
The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.
Practice Makes Perfect
You should have a fire safety plan for your home and business, and you should hold drills at least twice a year. Contact the Bend Fire and Police Department and they can assist you with your plan, evacuation procedures and the use of fire extinguishers at no cost. They can also help you train your employees on arson prevention and fire safety.
The number of fires occurring in vacant structures has increased in recent months. Secure and monitor unoccupied and abandoned buildings and establish frequent and regular fire prevention patrols.
Establish a Community Arson Watch Program
Lastly, be observant and report any and all suspicious activity to the police. Establish a Community Arson Watch program and publicize your community’s efforts.
Arsonists seldom strike when you are ready for them.
Remember: It is very difficult to catch an arsonist. Cooperation between citizens and government agencies is a key weapon against arson. Report any information you have that would help in the investigation of arson suspected fires.