Heating Oil Security Guide

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Heating oil theft is a commonly discussed issue; an issue that's threat and associated costs should not be underestimated. Unfortunately, the chacteristics of someone who relies on heating oil is exactly what makes them susceptible to theft. Oil fired heating is an alternative to gas central heating for people that live off the national grid. The fact that generally it is only people in remote, rural areas that use heating oil makes them targets as there are less people around to catch a thief in the act. 

                             

As the price of fuel continues to climb for business and residents alike, you may find that your heating oil tank could become a potential target for fuel theft. The following advice can be viewed as a checklist or guide to ensure that you are performing all the reasonable checks to ensure that your oil tank isn’t a ‘soft target’ in the eyes of a fuel thief. We’ve broken our advice down into three main sections, they are: the location of your oil tank, the level of protection you use on your tank, and lastly, the amount of attention you give your oil tank.

1) Consider the location of your oil tank

Moving your oil tank is a luxury that few can afford to do. Many believe than the ideal location for your oil tank should be within sight of your home, yet out of site from passers-by and not easily visible from the road. Some tank manufacturers offer slim-line style tanks designed for slotting between buildings, which perfect for disgusing a tank's whereabouts.This has its obvious merits, but there are some who believe that by placing your oil tank in full view of the public, thieves are less likely to target it for fear of being caught in the act. We believe it largely depends upon your location and the likelihood that someone in your community will spot a potential thief in the act.

On the whole, we believe that most fuel tank owners  would ideally like a clear and unobstructed view of your tank from their home, but this isn’t always possible or practical. If your tank is visible from the road, you should consider some form of defensive planting or you could place gravel around the tank. The noise generated by walking on gravel can discourage many would-be thieves from approaching your tank. 

If you’re undecided on whether to implement defensive planting, you should consider that by planting thorny or prickly plants around your tank you are creating a deterrent to a fuel thief. Would-be criminals will have to reconsider their target if they have to force themselves through a rugged hedge to get to the tank, as the smallest trace of evidence could be used to identity and convict an offender. However, it is also vital that those who have authorised access to the tank, whether that be yourself or your fuel delivery driver, can easily get to it. Therefore such planting needs to be around your property boundaries rather than around the tank itself.

If you have the available funds, you could consider storing your tank in a secure structure, where it can be locked and alarmed. If in the future you are considering installing a surround for your oil tank, or even placing it within an inner compound, please consider that a delivery driver will still need easy access to fill your tank. You will also need to refer to OFTEC regulations to ensure that the structure you implement complies with the relevant standards.

2) Do you have suitable security equipment?

One of the most cost effective solutions to deter fuel theft is ensuring that your oil tank is using appropriate safety equipment. You should ensure that your have lockable caps and fittings which are protected against ‘cropping’, make sure these are fitted tothe tank’s fill points and inspection chambers to prevent easy access to the fuel. However, make sure that when you are expecting a fuel delivery, a spare key is left in a safe and secure place for the delivery driver.

You can also consider installing an electronic oil monitor. Some oil monitors have the ability to set off an audible alarm if the oil level in tank were to suddenly drop below the expected level, or if the system detects excessive vibration or movement of the tank that may be caused by drilling or spiking. Oil monitors like these can be fitted to most tanks.

Many oil tank owners use clever and cost-effective deterrents such as security lighting to deter thieves from making an attempt on their tank. PIR Sensors and other types of security lights can quickly make a thief change their mind about targeting your tank, as many wouldn’t want to conduct their crimes in a well-lit area.

If your oil tank isn’t in the line of sight from your property, you may wish to consider installing CCTV; this could be of particular interest to homeowners with large grounds where it’s impossible to keep an eye on everything at once. In fact, sometimes even the sight of camera can be enough of a deterrent to some criminals.

At the very least, you should ensure that your property is closed and securely locked at all times, and that gates, fences, and any other sections of your perimeter is in good repair. You should also ensure that you are checking the level of your oil on a regular basis; this will give you a good idea of how much fuel you’re regularly using, and allow you to identify when the level suddenly drops due to a theft.

3) Raising awareness

By promoting awareness amongst your local community you may be able to not only prevent criminals from targeting your tank, but also from targeting anyone else in your community.

Many rural communities have established Neighbourhood Watch schemes specifically to target particular nuisances or crimes. By joining a community scheme you will not only benefit from the extra vigilance offered by your neighbours, but you will also forge stronger ties with the greater community. Some communities establish Oil Buying Clubs to bulk buy fuel and save money on costly delivery services, this can be beneficial to small communities as it was also limit the disturbance caused by delivery lorries. Fellow members would be ideal partners for a Neighbourhood Watch programme.

We recommend joining a local awareness scheme such as your local Neighbourhood Watch, this can be particularly important around delivery dates as thieves have been known to track delivery vehicles to identify homes with fuel tanks. A strong a visible presence could be a deterrent to some thieves. You should try to make a note of the registration numbers of suspicious vehicles, especially tankers or large vehicles close to your property, as this could be helpful information should you or your neighbours fall victim to oil theft.

It’s important that you regularly check the fuel level of your tank so that you can easily spot if there is a sudden or suspicious drop. The majority of oil tank owners will only check their tanks every few weeks (if that!), and therefore would not be able to easily identify how much oil their tank contained, and whether this is a normal level for your recent usage.

Extra Precautions Residents and Businesses Can Take

a) Check to see if your oil is covered by your household insurance. If you aren’t sure, check this immediately. If your oil isn’t covered, call your insurance provider and see if you can make a quick amendment to your policy. This will ensure that you won’t have to dig into your pockets if you become a victim of fuel theft.

b) Keep your property tidy, especially in the area around your tank. In some areas the Police are recommending both residents and businesses to not leave scrap metal in view. Scrap metal can easily capture the attention of opportunistic criminals, and they may target your oil tank if they believe the area to be unkempt and not under surveillance.

c) A heating oil engineer will not call round unexpected - do not let anyone in to view or work on the tank without identification and unless they are expected. 
 

                             

 

Infographic sources:
1. http://www.neighbourhoodalert.co.uk/da/57048/Police_advice_regarding_heating_oil_thefts.html  ; 2. http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-2030811/Soaring-cost-heating-oil-fuelling-rural-crime-epidemic.html   3. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/household-bills/10421740/Domestic-heating-oil-price-rise-hits-1.5m-households.html  ; 4. http://www.nfumutual.co.uk/farming/initiatives/rural-crime/   5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-16908835