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Sprinklers are at the top of the list of precautions risk managers can take to keep arsonists from succeeding.

Sprinkler control valves should be kept locked in the open position, said Jeff Mattern, chief engineer at Factory Mutual's Middle Atlantic Operations in Bala Cynwyd, Pa. That way, arsonists can't turn off what is a "key to thwarting them," he added.

"Control access to all non-public areas of the plant," he advised. If someone is not authorized to be in an area, "supervisors should raise the question, 'Why are you here?' "

Mr. Mattern said risk managers can put up other roadblocks to arsonists by:

* Screening potential employees to reveal personalities that show a propensity for starting fires.

* Controlling storage of trash and other combustibles. Any storage that could burn should be kept at least 50 feet from the building, Mr. Mattern suggested.

* Making sure there is adequate outside lighting that gives arsonists nowhere to hide.

* Working with local fire authorities to determine ways to prevent deliberate fires and how to respond to fires that do occur.