enVision 9.1 - Preventing Copper Theft

Copper prices have been rising and with it the frequency of thefts that is costing our clients time and money. Learn how to fight back.

Copper prices have been steadily rising over the past decade, which has led to more theft losses—many of which your clients must pay for under their property deductible. Just as clients invest in fire loss prevention strategies, so too can they fight back against copper theft.

Here are a few simple, cost-effective measures you can help your clients execute to protect their property from copper theft:

  • Protect HVAC equipment with steel enclosure units.
  • Encase wiring from the fuse box to the HVAC units with steel tubing, making it more difficult for thieves to unscrew or rip off the connections.
  • Engrave the property address onto various places on HVAC units and copper tubing. This makes selling copper more difficult for the thieves.
  • Lock the fuse box covers so power cannot be disconnected easily. Replace plastic fuse boxes with steel boxes.
  • Conceal the presence of copper by simply shrouding the equipment, therefore hiding it from casual observation.
  • Paint copper tubing with a florescent orange or green paint—many scrap yards will not accept painted copper.
  • Maximize the effectiveness of surveillance by removing landscaping or fencing that might block cameras or passersby. Ensure adequate lighting is provided around the property.
  • Ensure there is no easy access to the roof (e.g., ladders, trash dumpsters).
  • Install barbed wire around the perimeter of the roof.
  • Ensure that any theft is reported to the local police department as soon as it's noticed.

Many of these strategies can be implemented for less than the deductible your clients retain. The key to loss prevention tactics to deter theft of your client's copper is a combination of the following:

  1. Make it time-consuming for the thief
  2. Conceal the copper, when possible
  3. Make it difficult to sell.

Vacant buildings are often a target of copper theft. In addition to the out-of-pocket costs to your client to cover their deductible, there are also coverage implications for vacant buildings that could have a significant impact on the amount recoverable from the insurance company.

Coverage Considerations
How does your client’s policy define a “vacant” building? Certain policies say if any portion of the building is vacant, the entire building can be considered vacant. Some use a certain percentage of the building to determine vacancy, while others only consider a building to be vacant if the entire property is vacant. Understanding what qualifies the building as vacant is the first important step in determining how coverage may be affected.

Once a building is determined to be vacant as defined by your client’s policy, the terms of the contract are often automatically modified. This can include:

  • Limiting coverage.
  • Changing the valuation from Repair or Replacement cost to Actual Cash Value.
  • Excluding certain types of loss, such as theft.

These coverage modifications can often be reversed if the client demonstrates a commitment to protecting their vacant building. It's always recommended that you work with your underwriter when a client is vacating a property.

Helping your client take proactive steps to protect their facility from copper theft is a great way to protect their assets and ultimately lower their long-term cost of risk—this becomes especially important for buildings that are vacant.

To learn more about protecting your clients’ locations from copper theft, please contact your Affiliated FM account team.