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It is sometimes necessary for production facilities or industrial plants to be fully or partially shut down, remain mostly unoccupied for a period of time, or operate with reduced staff. The following precautions should be taken to ensure the proper level of protection in these idle or partially idle facilities is being maintained.

Maintain all fire protection systems in service and good conditions. All fire protections systems must remain in service even when the plant is shut-down. There should be no planned impairment of fire protection during idle plant periods.

Maintain a core staff on site that could respond to an emergency. Even with automatic protection in service, manual response is needed to control and extinguish a fire. The core staff should include members from the various departments. Arrange and test communication equipment available to team members on and off-site as dictated by the situation. Ensure that the team has written plans to deal with any possible natural hazard.

Maintain adequate management control programs including weekly fire equipment inspections and loss prevention tours. Fire protection equipment must be properly tested, inspected and maintained even when the plant is shut-down. This includes testing of the fire pumps and sprinkler systems. These tests should be performed by an in-house pre-trained core team. Prepare to have minimal reliance on external fire contractors.

Take proper security measures (watchman, etc.) to prevent unauthorized access and vandalism. When the plant is not operating it may become the target of intruders.

Safe shut-down production equipment such as ovens, furnaces, etc. Follow the proper procedures to execute the safe and proper shut-down of all equipment and machinery. Take special precautions for fired equipment and machinery and equipment using flammable and combustible liquids.

Eliminate all controllable sources of ignition such as hot work, smoking etc. When the plant is only occupied by a core staff, all activities that create potential ignition sources should not be permitted.

Maintain building heat at a safe level to prevent damage to sprinkler piping and process piping. In the cold winter season it is important to maintain minimum temperatures in the buildings to prevent freeze-up of water piping. Freeze ups of piping could result in pipe breaks and could cause major water damage since the plant is only occupied by a core staff and a leak would not be discovered right away.

Ensure that utilities such as electricity, natural gas, and water remain in service. Continuous supply of utilities is important to supply key equipment such as heating, lighting, etc.

Discuss the situation with the fire department and develop response plans taking into account the minimum level of employees available on site. With only a core staff on site, the fire department needs to consider these circumstances in their pre-emergency and response plans.

Monitor external risk such as flood and extreme weather. It is important to monitor the external situation and notify additional staff to prepare for a major incident such as a storm or flood event.

Interact with neighbors or adjacent property owners to keep them informed. Keep your neighbors informed of the situation in your plant and also communicate with them to keep yourself up to date with their situation.

Ensure the intranet is completely isolated from the public network or the firewall is impenetrable. There should be no cyber risk during the idle period. Ensure that the UPS is functional.

Develop plans and procedures for a safe start-up of the plant once the situation is back to normal. Follow the proper procedures for the safe start-up of machinery and equipment. Don’t take short-cuts to speed up the start-up process.



  • About The Author
  • Head of Property Risk Engineering, AXA XL
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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.