Don't Let Fuel Thieves Win: Protect Your Oil Tank with Our Winter Security Checklist
Fri, Sep 20, 2019
The cold mornings we’ve woken up to this week are a clear indication that our great British summer is over and autumn is fast approaching.
With that in mind, the time has also arrived for heating oil users’ to start thinking about getting their fuel tanks filled, ready for the colder temperatures and harsher weather conditions to come.
But as nice as sticking the heating on and cosying up in front of the TV sounds, we are writing this blog to remind heating oil users to remain extra vigilant over the coming autumn and winter months, as sadly, this is prime time for fuel thieves to strike!
Over the years we have seen the amount of rural crime increase, with fuel theft among the top crimes reported in remote communities. This however comes as no surprise, with the average cost of filling a 2000 litre heating oil tank being £1500 – a lot of money lost and a hefty cost to replace if stolen.
To decrease your chances of becoming a victim to fuel theft, we have put together the following advice which can be used as a checklist or guide for keeping your fuel tank secure and protected…
The location of your tank is an important factor to consider when thinking about fuel theft, however there’s no right or wrong answer, it’s rather down to personal preference. Just make sure that your fuel tank is accessible to you and your fuel delivery driver when required!
Some would say that the best location for your tank is to keep it out of sight from the footpath and road – this way nobody can see that you have a fuel tank and therefore have no reason to target you. A thief would have to chance it and go snooping around your premises to find your fuel tank, meaning a higher chance of making a disturbance and being caught.
Others would say that it’s best to keep your fuel tank in plain sight of the footpath and road – by having it on show, a thief would be less likely to target your fuel tank because they are more likely to be seen by passers-by and get caught in the act.
One general consensus though is to have your tank clearly visible from your home, via a room you use regularly such as the living room or your bedroom. This way you can subconsciously keep an eye on your tank and should notice if somebody is lurking in the shadows.
Another idea which has come about in more recent years is a slim-line style tank – designed to fit in between buildings, making it much harder for a thief to access. Understandably though, not everybody is in a position to shed out on a new fuel tank, but it’s something to keep in mind if ever you are looking into buying a new one.
A good way to discourage would-be thieves is to create a bit of an unexpected obstacle course for them on-route to and around your tank. These small but useful deterrents can be just enough to make somebody decide against targeting your fuel tank:
- Defensive planting of thorny and prickly plants and/or bushes – painful to get past and push through, and also increases the chances of evidence being left behind which can be used to identify and convict an offender.
- Strategically placed ceramic plant pots – the sort which could easily get knocked over and brake, creating lots of noise which will alert you to somebody near your tank.
- Gravelled areas – noisy to walk on (no matter how hard you try to be quiet), alerting you to somebody being on your property.
- Secure structure – if the funds are available, placing your tank in a secure structure which can be locked and alarmed will boost the security of your tank, discouraging thieves. Just ensure you refer to OFTEC regulations to make sure you comply with the relevant standards.
3. Security equipment
To give yourself the best chance of avoiding fuel theft, there are some tank security products and other security equipment you can consider purchasing.
Lockable caps and fittings connected to the fill points and inspection chambers on your tank will prevent easy access to your fuel. We’d recommend getting the ones which are protected against bolt cutters/croppers!
Consider installing an electronic oil meter with audible alarm on your tank, to keep track of your usage and be aware of any unexpected activity. Some oil meters also have the ability to alert the owner to a sudden drop in level, and excessive movement or vibration – so you’ll know if somebody is tampering with your tank!
A simple and cost effective deterrent for thieves is security lighting. PIR Sensors and other lighting can quickly change the mind of a thief if seen beforehand. However, if the lights aren’t spotted, the shock and fear of being in a well-lit area will have them running away!
If you don’t mind spending a little bit more on securing your fuel tank then CCTV is a great way to put thieves off. This is especially useful if your tank isn’t visible from your home or have quite a bit of land. The mere sight of a camera or sign saying ‘CCTV in operation’ will usually see them off!
4. Keep it simple
Despite all the above, there are still some simple things to remember when talking about fuel theft and how you can discourage thieves:
- Keep your property closed and securely locked at all times
- Ensure gates, fences and perimeters are in good repair
- Maintain and tidy your property
- Avoid leaving scrap metal around as this can draw the attention of opportunistic criminals
- Check your oil level regularly
Promoting awareness is another easy way to not only protect yourself, but others in your community too! Neighbourhood Watch schemes will mean more eyes on the lookout for criminal activity, and oil buying clubs will limit deliveries and disturbances, as well as save you money!
One more important thing to remember is that engineers will not call round unexpectedly! Don’t allow anyone to view or work on your tank unless you’re expecting them and without showing you reputable ID.
5. To recap
Don’t have the mentality that it happens to others but won’t happen to you. The reality of it is that thieves can target anyone, anywhere they can, and it won’t always be opportunistic. Some brazen thieves will plan their intrusions over a period of time and may not be as easily put off by security equipment or tactics – so ensuring you are covered by insurance is ESSENTIAL! Check with your insurance provider that your policy covers fuel theft and if it doesn’t we’d recommend to amend your policy as soon as possible – just to be on the safe side!
- Think about the best location for your tank
- Consider defensive planting and strategically placed obstacles
- If money permits, implement a secure structure
- Lock access points and inspection chambers
- Use an alarm to alert you to any sudden or unusual activity
- Install CCTV and/or security lights to frighten off thieves
- Keep in touch with neighbours and where possible, join a community watch scheme