Arson and vandal prevention tips for summer months

During the summer months, vandalism, property damage and arson at schools, ESDs and community colleges tends to increase. Anticipate this reality and plan ahead to prevent or lessen damages.

Planning steps

  • Get others involved in surveillance - Rather than relying on camera footage to help identify a culprit after an incident, ask the community members who feel they have an invested interest in your school to mobilize throughout the summer. Civic groups, volunteer fire districts, and youth leadership groups are excellent volunteer surveillance patrols throughout your minimal staffing seasons. Ask these groups to volunteer to drive around the school and report any suspicious activity when they can.
  • Send a flyer or card home with students to parents before school ends. List police, fire and district personnel phone numbers so community members can first contact the police and then contact district staff.
  • Contact your local fire and police departments:
    • Request that they create sign-up sheets for officer drive-by times.
    • Request that officers patrol district property on foot before, during and at the end of their shifts.
    • Ensure that police and fire officials know the usual status of lights, gates, locks, etc.
  • Risk isolation - High risk targets include portable toilets, lumber piles, garbage/recycling dumpsters and playground equipment. By keeping these and any other objects that easily combust away from your buildings, you will be removing sources that burn long and hot enough to start an otherwise non-combustible material on fire.
  • Lighting - Two strong theories exist regarding property lighting: all or nothing. Some districts prefer to keep their properties very well lit so that unwelcome behavior can be seen at night. Other districts opt to have a black-out policy so that in addition to conserving energy, any unwelcome visitors and activities are noted by movement or presence of lights. Either provides viable options for deterring culprits from loitering on your properties.
  • Keep-up-to date on arson-prevention:
    • PACE provides a free arson-prevention kit and DVD. Call 800-285-5461.
    • Youth Fire Prevention Intervention, in the Office of the State Fire Marshal, offers free publications to help prevent arson. 

Monitoring steps

  • Make sure the staff checks vacant buildings every day or every couple of days.
  • Keep security systems on in vacant buildings.
  • Illuminate building exteriors and entrances.
  • Trim or remove shrubbery and signs that obstruct views of facilities.
  • Keep school grounds clear of combustible materials such as landscape trimmings, newspapers, left-over paint, old rags and other trash.
  • Restrict access to roofs and upper floors.
  • Secure storage and infrequently visited areas.


  • All school fires must be reported to authorities and investigated.  (ORS 476.210 & .030, OAR 837-040-0010, OFC 401.3)
  • Report suspicious activity to proper authorities.
  • Contact PACE or your agent if there is damage. The sooner PACE is aware of the situation the sooner we can have the appropriate repairs completed so the next school year can start on time and on a happy note.

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