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Protecting empty schools and buildings

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a significant impact on education across the world.

The Australian Government and our health authorities expect the situation will continue to restrict how we manage our daily activities for some time during 2020. All sectors of society have been disrupted including the ability to have social gatherings. Schools and their students and staff, are adapting to a new way of accessing education through a planned online curriculum.

Educators have embraced digital learning applications and moved across to remote learning via the Internet. The benefits are valuable, but this also means that buildings are now unoccupied or used only by skeleton staff. Unoccupied buildings may present an increased security risk, as schools are more likely to be exposed to burglary, vandalism, arson attacks and even maintenance issues from weather events.

Know the risks

  • Physical security risks include unauthorised access, theft, vandalism, arson attacks, litter dumping, window breakage

  • Weather damage due to climatic conditions such as bushfire, storms, cyclones, flooding or wind

  • Property damage due to lack of maintenance now presents a higher risk because the facilities are not in use and people are not alerting building managers to maintenance issues

Managing risks by following simple steps

1. Utilities

Consider the temporary closure of water, gas and electricity supplies by turning them off at the mains, with the exception of utilities need for security, fire and/or other risk protection systems or devices.

2. Review security systems

Assess existing measures in place and upgrade or enhance them if needed. Important security measures include: external lighting fixtures, CCTV/surveillance cameras, intruder and fire alarms, locking systems, external grills, and sensor lighting. Speak to school property neighbours and ask them to report any suspicious activity. Review personnel who have access to the premises, along with access points where unauthorised people may enter and try to limit them as much as possible. 

3. Securely store valuable items

Electronic items and sports equipment need to be put away in a school safe or placed somewhere away from sight.

4. Implement an inspection routine

Respect government restrictions on movement during COVID-19 lockdowns, and when suitable have an unoccupied school property checked on a weekly basis for security and maintenance issues.

5. Adjust your maintenance practices

During the COVID-19 pandemic ensure that your maintenance program includes checking that outside areas of the building are free from fire hazards, machinery/ladders, and other equipment. These should be securely stored away. Conduct more frequent inspections of fire, security and other risk protection systems or devices.

Please ensure whilst implementing these measures you consider the ongoing updated government directives around COVID-19.

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