Secure your fertiliser

Updated 17 September 2020

This guidance was withdrawn on

Secure Your Fertiliser advice is now on the ProtectUK Website.

1. Introduction

Since the 1970s nitrogenous fertilisers have been misused in home made explosives. The UK is the heaviest user of ammonium and ammonium nitrate-based fertilisers in the world. The blending, storage, transport and use of fertilisers is commonplace; this creates opportunities for terrorists to acquire such material.

If you store or handle fertiliser, you must secure it to prevent it from being stolen. This covers a range of people from importers and manufacturers to hauliers and agricultural contractors.

Regardless of the amount, it is your responsibility to take appropriate security measures and be vigilant.

You should think about:

  • restricting access to the fertiliser or the building where it is stored
  • ensuring a trespasser would be visible if they carried out a crime
  • making the site as resistant as possible to criminal activity

These can be achieved by simple low-cost measures, such as storing your fertiliser in an enclosed secure barn or, if it is in an open-sided barn, covering it with a tarpaulin. You should also remove or trim hedges or bushes around the barn and keep gates locked.

Your local counter terrorism security adviser CTSA or Crime Prevention Officer CPO can inspect your property and advise on the best combination of physical security (for example, fencing) and appropriate procedures (for example, checking key lists).

2. 5-point plan

Follow this 5-point plan:

  1. Wherever possible use a Fertiliser Industry Assurance Scheme (FIAS) approved supplier.
  2. Wherever possible keep in a secure area such as a building or sheeted away from public view.
  3. Carry out regular stock checks and report any loss to the police immediately (call 101).
  4. Avoid leaving fertiliser in a field overnight – never leave fertiliser in field for a long period of time.
  5. Remember it is illegal to sell ammonium nitrate without the correct documentation

The NaCTSO Fertiliser Security Five Point Plan has been endorsed by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC – FIAS), NFU and NFU Scotland, Assured Food Standards (Red Tractor), DEFRA and the HSE.

2.1 Physical security

Well-maintained properties are less interesting to criminals. If a property is kept in good repair, with farmyard rubbish and debris cleared away, you are better able to identify anything out of place.

It is wise to keep a list of useful phone numbers (such as the local police and neighbouring farmers), so that you can quickly contact them if the need arises.

3. Alarms and CCTV

3.1 Detection systems

You can install detection system that uses:

  • sensors fitted to doors, windows or gates
  • passive or active infrared to protect internal spaces and dual sensors incorporating PIR and microwave)
  • vibration and audio detectors

More sophisticated systems might use detection systems in the ground or on perimeter fencing and may combine CCTV with video motion-detection software.

If your detection system should be reliable, fit for purpose and linked to an alarm system that will alert the site operator or the police (though an approved alarm-receiving centre).

If you need to install a CCTV system, you should read the advice in the ‘Protecting your assets’ guidance.

3.2 Alarm systems

These systems fall into 2 types:

  • monitored alarm
  • audible-only

A monitored alarm will, in addition to sounding an audible alarm (if required), send a signal to an alarm-receiving company who will, in turn, notify the police or key-holders.

Systems should conform to:

  • BS EN 50131;2006+1:2009 (refers to standard of system)
  • BS 8243:2010 (standard of installation)
  • BS EN 50518 (standards for the alarm-receiving centre)

If a police response is required, the alarm should also comply with the NPCC policy on security systems.

An audible-only alarm will sound upon activation, serving to deter an intruder and attract attention.

Systems should conform to:

  • BS 4737-3.0:1998 or
  • BS EN 50131-1:1997 (which relates to wireless alarm systems)

The police will not attend an activation of an audible-only alarm, unless there are other factors that support it as a genuine alarm (such as the sound of breaking glass is reported).

Any alarm system should have at least 2 key-holders. They must be:

  • familiar with the alarm controls
  • able to grant access to the protected area
  • contactable by phone
  • available to attend within 20 minutes.

Your local crime prevention officer can offer more advice about installing an alarm. Find out more about security alarms and security publications.

4. Fences and gates

If fertiliser must be stored outside, then it should be kept out of sight of away from public access. Stacks of fertiliser should be covered with heavy-duty waterproof plastic or canvas. However, it might be more effective to build a compound from security fencing, with locking gates.

Recommended types of anti-intruder fences are:

  • palisade
  • expanded metal
  • welded mesh

Fences should conform to British Standard BS 1722-18:2011, which part depends upon the style of fencing required.

Palisade fencing is formed from vertical ‘pales’, often with pointed or splayed tops. It is popular because it is difficult to peer through and any damage can easily be repaired, with extension pales being simply added. However, palisade fencing offers no greater physical security than either weld mesh or expanded metal fences of the same height.

Expanded metal fences are very rigid and are difficult to cut through, with damage easily spotted. Repairs are likely to require whole panel replacement.

Welded mesh fencing offers good visibility, is difficult to cut and may be suitable for the use with a fence alarm system.

A hostile topping, such as barbed tape or razor wire, serves as an added deterrent to a climbing attack. You’ll need to consider the Occupier’s Liability Act 1984 in relation to the height of the fence and the requirement for signage.

Higher fences offer greater protection against climbing intruders, but any fence above 2 metres (including any hostile topping) will need planning permission.

Fences can be made more secure by extending the fence below ground level and encasing the fence in a concrete sill.

Read more on security fencing.

Gates are often the weak link in an otherwise secure area. Gates should be of the same security standard as the fence, and be fitted with anti-lift hinges. Think about the minimising gaps between posts and, in particular, the clearance beneath the bottom edge of the gate.

Gates should be secured with a close-shackle padlock or a standard padlock fitted with a shroud to prevent leverage.

5. Locks

Mortice or sash-type locks (those embedded within a door) offer more security than rim-type locks (those attached to the surface of the door).

5-lever locks are recommended; they have over 1,000 key options, making it unlikely that a duplicate key can be used.

Fitted locks used to secure doors, gates and shutters should conform to BS 3621: 2007+A2: 2011

Padlocks can be open or closed shackle. ‘Open’ refers to the substantial gap between the centre of the shackle and the body of the padlock. It is possible to attack the shackle with a crowbar or pair of bolt croppers. On a closed shackle the space between the shackle and padlock body is much smaller, making it difficult to attack.

When securing doors or pairs of doors (double leaf), a padlock may be used in conjunction with a locking bar or pad bar. These can be horizontal or vertical and should be securely bolted to wooden doors or alternatively welded to metal doors.

Padlocks used to secure such fittings should conform to BS EN 12320:2012 or equivalent.

Padlocks with concealed shackles or raised ‘shoulders’ are recommended since they offer greater resistance to attack. For added security, padlocks can be shrouded to prevent attack using leverage or cutting tools.

Always ensure keys are accounted for and that they are stored securely when not in use.

Do not leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place. It is better to leave a spare set of keys with a neighbour; you could offer to do the same for them.

6. Security lighting

Well thought-out lighting discourages intruders and gives the impression that good security is practised.

Basic lights can be purchased and fitted at little cost, but consider:

  • cost effectiveness – different lights have varying set-up and running costs (some lights are more suitable for constant illumination, while others are better for combining with passive infrared detectors)
  • reliability and maintenance requirements
  • statutory requirements regarding light nuisance
  • CCTV systems (where fitted) will need sufficient light to be effective 24 hours a day

Lights can be activated by motion sensors or left switched on through the night, although studies have shown that a lower level of continual light is more effective as a deterrent than sudden, bright lights.

A good compromise is to use high-efficiency, low-energy lighting controlled by a photo-electric cell (dusk to dawn switch). This type of light, sited out of reach (perhaps 10 foot above ground level), provides ample illumination, with few shadows and costs only a few pounds a year to run – despite it being left on throughout the night.

You can find out more in the document ‘Lighting against crime’.

7. Vehicles, plant and machinery

You must secure any tools, plant or vehicles that could be used to gain access to your fertiliser store or to remove fertiliser without authority.

You should keep hand tools and power tools locked away when not in use.

Mobile plant and vehicles should be secured and immobilised. This includes lifting machinery, such as forklifts, ‘tele-handlers’ or vehicles fitted with hydraulic loading cranes.

Commercially available vehicle immobilisers (electronic or physical) are very effective and will delay anyone trying to make use of them to force entry into a secure store.

Vehicle keys should be kept safe when not in use. If you have many keys in use, you should maintain a key list and routinely check that they can be accounted for.

Consider using heavy agricultural machinery (such as buckets, power harrows or other large machines) to restrict direct vehicular access to stacks of sheeted fertiliser, particularly if the fertiliser cannot be stored in a secure building or compound.

8. Further information

Security of fertiliser storage on farms

Securing hazardous materials documents

You should also read the booklets on the Notification and Marking Of Sites (NAMOS) and how to safely store and handle ammonium nitrate, produced by the Health and Safety Executive.