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    • Protect the environment. Think before you print.

Management practices: Locations unoccupied temporarily

April 13, 2020

Ensure the safety and security of your facility when no one’s there


There are many reasons for a facility to be unoccupied on a temporary basis.  Regardless of why, consider the measures offered in this document to monitor the facility during the shutdown and manage the restoration once normal operations resume.


Whether a location is a retail store or manufacturing plant, there may be times when the location will be closed and unoccupied on a temporary basis.  For the purposes of this document, temporary may range from a long holiday weekend up to one month.

During a temporary shutdown, implement the measures offered in this document to maintain care, custody, and control of the unoccupied location.  

Resuming normal operations may involve turning on utilities and restarting processes.  When restarting each system, consider the precautions offered in this document – precautions to consider before, during, and after restart.

The measures offered in this document are for property protection purposes. Measures beyond property protection are outside the scope of this document.


When a location is closed and unoccupied on a temporary basis, the lack of normal human presence may delay the discovery of developing adverse conditions such as electrical faults or the loss of building heat during cold weather.  Early discovery may allow intervention before serious property damage can occur. 

Utilities and process use energy to perform work.  Whether it is electricity used to produce light or hydraulic fluids under pressure used to operate machines, these are active systems subject to possible deterioration while idle. To reduce the likelihood of breakdown or fire during restart, consider the guidance offered in this document.


Before the shutdown
Where a location is still operating but expects to be shutdown, consider the following measures as the facility is shutdown.

  • Arrange for unnecessary utilities and equipment to be turned off by a competent person following normal shutdown procedures
  • Arrange for utilities and equipment needed to protect the building and contents to remain in service such as outside lighting, building heat (during cold weather), and refrigeration (for perishable goods)
  • Arrange for combustible yard storage to be removed, waste containers to be emptied, and any gates closed and locked
  • Verify alarms are in service and the building can be secured (exterior doors and windows can be closed and locked)
  • Verify all fire protection systems are in service

During the temporary idle period
Maintain continuous monitoring of the idle location using either monitored alarm systems (fire alarms and intrusion alarms) or a guard service (guards present at all times). 

For locations monitored by alarms, assign a person to visit the location to conduct at least a daily tour.

For all locations, with guard service, consider more frequent tours.

The purpose of the daily tour is to have a person visit all building areas to detect abnormal conditions, promptly notify management, and trigger timely corrective action.

Arrange tours to verify:

  • Unnecessary utilities and equipment have been turned off (have a competent person perform any shutdown actions)
  • Necessary utilities and equipment are in service to protect the building and contents such as outside lighting, building heat (during cold weather), and refrigeration (for perishable goods)
  • Combustible yard storage has been removed, waste containers emptied, and any gates closed and locked
  • Alarms are in service and the building is secure (exterior doors and windows are closed and locked)
  • All fire protection systems remain in service

Restarting utilities and processes
Allow only qualified persons to turn on utilities or restart processes. Qualified persons may include electricians, plumbers (for fuels), or process equipment operators.

Follow a deliberate start-up process that allows time to detect abnormal conditions that could lead to equipment breakdown.  Keep in mind, equipment breakdown could be accompanied by an ensuing fire.


When a location is unoccupied temporarily, take steps to deliberately provide human presence daily.  And, when restarting a facility that has been temporarily idle, consider the measures offered in this document.  Detecting abnormal conditions early during the idle period or during start-up may help avoid unexpected property damage.