Preventing heating oil theft
Sometimes, living in a rural location can be a double-edged sword for those relying on heating oil for their central heating and hot water. They are a target for thieves who steal their fuel. Indeed, in 2018, there were more than 120,000 oil thefts in the UK, costing around £9 million.
If you need help in preventing heating oil theft you may find some of the following hints helpful.
How do criminals steal your heating oil?
Most thefts occur in winter when oil tanks are at their fullest, but it can happen at any time of the year. Often, it can be difficult to work out how much oil has been stolen if you haven’t been monitoring the level of oil in your tank carefully. Generally, criminals use a tube to syphon off the oil into containers that are portable but more recently, they have started pumping oil into much larger tanks mounted on vehicles.
At the same time, they cut supply pipes and smash oil level gauges which can lead to more oil leaking out of the tank. Not only will cleaning up be expensive, unless you can prove your oil was stolen and the damage was done by thieves, your insurance company is unlikely to pay out.
Oil tank locationBecause oil tanks are large it can be difficult to hide them, but there are steps you can take. Try to locate your oil tank in a position where it is not visible from the road, but visible from the house. Avoid putting it anywhere near access points, such as gates, or near adjacent footpaths. Keep access gates locked; keep walls and fencing in good repair. Adding a cover over the tank makes it invisible on satellite images used by Google Maps, or store your tank in a large, spacious building, such as a barn. Be careful planting trees and vegetation around the tank especially with plants which are thorny or prickly, such as holly or hawthorn. However, you must comply with OFTEC’s fire safety regulations and make sure your oil tank is easily accessible for your supplier to deliver heating oil and fill your tank.
Lock it up!
Get closed shackle padlocks which are difficult to cut with bolt croppers and lock up your tank, as well as any nearby access gates. Invest in a locking fuel cap and anti-syphoning device to deter the casual criminal. Make sure the locks are of good quality, such as locks that have a CEN or BSEN, 12320 Grade 6 classification, which are maximum security.
Consider putting a security gate or secure fencing around your oil tank to make it difficult for thieves to access your oil tank.
Get security lightingMany thieves strike at night so invest in security lighting that is triggered by motion and automatically lights up your oil tank. Another option is low energy dusk-‘til-dawn lights which are more cost-effective. If the lights are bright enough, you are likely to see them from your house and will be able to report a theft in progress to the police.
Install CCTVCCTV is a great preventative measure as it is visible and likely to deter thieves, but if a criminal is determined, CCTV will help you catch them in the act. However, make sure you use signage that advises you are using CCTV cameras for any evidence to be admissible.
Install alarmsA heating oil tank alarm can be fitted to your tank and will notify you if anything happens. A Watchman Sonic Alarm is a cost-effective option and will send you an alert via your mobile device should the inspection cap be lifted, or the oil level drops suddenly. When combined with an oil tank monitor, you are also able to monitor the level of oil in your tank on a regular basis. However, an alarm is not going to prevent your oil from being stolen unless you put up a sign that your oil tank is alarmed. You can also install alarms on your house and on any access gates, as well as an outbuilding if that is where your oil tank is located.
Add a layer of gravelGravel is noisy when walked upon and is enough to deter thieves. Adding a layer of gravel around your tank is a quick, easy and cost-effective deterrent. Anyone walking on the gravel will draw attention to themselves and protect you from oil theft.
Opt for a steel tankWhile green plastic tanks are more favourable and often cheaper, they are more prone to damage and can be accessed more quickly by thieves. A steel tank is not only sturdier, they are far harder to damage without making a lot of noise, making the theft of fuel much more difficult.
Add protection around hosesMake it harder for criminals to damage the hoses and pipes leading in and out of your heating oil tank by wrapping them in hard covers. The harder they are to cut, the less likely your oil will be stolen.
Join local neighbourhood watch schemesJoin local neighbourhood watch schemes. If you live in an area that has a neighbourhood watch scheme, join up and get involved to prevent oil thefts in the area.
It is costly if your heating oil is stolen. Therefore, make sure your heating oil is covered under your household insurance and should the unthinkable happen, you will be able to make a claim to replace not just the lost oil, but also cover the cost of any repairs to the damage thieves may have done.
However, most insurance companies will expect you to install some preventative measures, such as tank alarms, security lighting and other deterrents to try to stop your heating oil from being stolen.
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