A watchful eye: how wireless technology is protecting void properties from fire

While fire safety may seem obvious for occupied properties, there is often more risk of a blaze starting in an empty building despite the common assumption that damage may be minimal. Thankfully, there is remote monitoring technology out there to help safeguard these sites, and as more spaces lie empty in the wake of the pandemic, adopting these systems should be considered. Adam Kovics, export sales manager – Europe, at wireless solutions firm, Ramtech, discusses.

Across Europe there are hundreds of thousands of buildings lying dormant, which is likely to have risen with the impact of the pandemic. While European statistics aren’t readily available, as a reference, in England, there were 665,600 vacant dwellings in October 2020, which had increased by 2.7 per cent (17,500) on the previous year.

Fire safety is often associated with the risk to those inhabiting or working within buildings. But in the UK, the Home Office recorded 14,308 primary fires* as well as 1,730 fires within derelict buildings between 2019-2020, so the figure is likely to rise above this when taking an entire continent into account.

The risk and responsibility

Void or empty properties of concern typically include old factories, warehouses, office buildings, rail depots, shipyards, historic buildings, old housing and more. Often while there may not be occupants, there are remnants of the past such as wiring, old furniture, and other waste products that could become highly flammable material.

The lack of activity and safety checks inside these types of buildings means they have different fire risks. Arson, criminal damage, illegal occupation and theft are much more common in empty buildings as opposed to those that are occupied.

Pre-existing materials or excess materials brought in by individuals potentially taking shelter could escalate a fire should one break out. Pests are also more likely to roam unnoticed, chewing through wires that may spark an electrical fire. The onus is on the building proprietor to ensure there are fire safety measures in place even those that have been deserted. The same legal obligations apply for an empty building as if it was in full use.

While it may seem difficult to lose out on rent and still have the responsibility of the safety of the site, ensuring there are measures in place is bound to make your property more attractive for a future tenant or purchaser.


Vacant dwellings


Primary Fires


Derelict building fires

Connectivity for the future

Fortunately, right now, our world is more connected than ever before. The internet has become such a vital component of the world’s infrastructure that it is unlikely many of us get through our day without linking up to the web at one point or another.

This has created its own ecosystem called the Internet of Things (IoT), which spans nearly 100 billion physical objects and enables them to communicate with each other. As the IoT continues to expand, the world is only going to become more entwined.

As technology that is faster and able to store more data emerges, it becomes intuitively efficient and practical for the end user – having a real impact on outcomes and preventing disasters.

Peace of mind security

Automatic detection is very important at the type of building sites previously mentioned, and smart equipment integrated with an IoT software platform creates a safer community where we can all be more connected. This innovation has given property owners, project supervisors and safety personnel the ability to receive alerts for a variety of events in real-time – helping to prevent accidents, unauthorised access, vandalism and disasters.

The pandemic has really led to the wider adoption of technology, due to the implementation of measures such as social distancing, which meant only a limited number of personnel could be on site at one time. Technology has been able to fill some of the gaps in terms of monitoring safety systems and generating data remotely.

Until the world finds its feet again, many buildings could remain empty and vulnerable. The emerging technology and the requirement from the industry is a lot less to do with detecting and responding to fires – it is more about monitoring sites, identifying risks and preventing emergencies in the first place. The entire sector is looking to technology to provide pre-emptive, proactive management of risks; responding to them once they have occurred is already too late.

Wireless fire alarm systems have advanced greatly over the past few decades and contribute to solving these problems. Our WES3 fire alarm system features automatic heat and dust resistant smoke detectors, giving an early warning to a potential fire. When paired with our REACT platform, off site notifications can be received by managers, who can then decide what to action. The WES units can be deployed in almost any style or size of building and have a three-year battery lifecycle to keep maintenance to a minimum for the duration of most projects.

Once ordered, these systems can be delivered the very next day and easily self-installed or professionally fitted by Ramtech.

Investing in protection

Vacant, derelict or void buildings are dangerous places to work, with the threat of fires being ever-present. Ensuring adequate fire measures have been adopted to keep the public and property safe should the worse happen is crucial.

Having a robust system to watch over an empty building may cost a little more upfront, but the potential savings involved should a fire breakout will more than offset such bills.

For more information on Ramtech’s solutions for void/vacant properties, please feel free to get in touch either by phone on +44 (0)115 957 8282, by email to solutions@ramtechglobal.com or via the online enquiry form situated on our contact page.