OFTEC warns homeowners to be vigilant against oil theft

OFTEC, which represents the domestic oil heating and cooking industry in Northern Ireland, has issued advice to homeowners in Ballymoney and Moyle to help prevent oil theft.

OFTEC’s advice follows a warning from the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) highlighting the problem after a series of incidents in recent weeks in the local area.

The leading trade organisation is urging householders to be vigilant following the latest incidents. Homes in Ballycastle, Ballymoney and Cushendall were targeted in recent weeks with thieves siphoning fuel from oil storage tanks.

The incidents have not been limited to residential oil tanks as schools, businesses, play groups and churches are also being targeting.

Both OFTEC and the PSNI are urging householders to be aware and take precautions to protect their fuel as heating oil is increasingly becoming an attractive target for thieves with the recent increase in fuel prices.

David Blevings, OFTEC Ireland Manager said: “During the winter, fuel tanks can be seen as easy targets for thieves as many people are keeping their tanks stocked up. Houses, farms, business premises, transport depots and holiday homes can all be affected – especially within rural areas or on quiet residential streets. Usually it’s only when people run out of oil and their heating stops working that theft becomes apparent. However, by taking a few simple precautions such as making a regular note of your oil levels will help to ensure that you are not the victim of oil theft.”

OFTEC also recommends the following to help protect your fuel supply:

· Check the fuel levels regularly to make sure that none has gone missing.

· Lock the tank. Most tanks can be locked at the inspection cover or a lockable filler cap can be retro fitted to existing oil tanks.

· Install automatic movement sensor security lighting around the tank.

· Consider having an alarm system fitted to the tank which will warn if oil levels drop suddenly. This could also be useful if an oil leak occurs.

· Be vigilant following a delivery – some fuel distributors have reported that their delivery vehicles have been followed in the past. Thieves may also return to steal replacement oil following an initial theft.

· Plant shrubs or use fence panels to hide the tank, but make sure any screening should be a minimum distance away from the tank so it doesn’t cause a fire hazard.

· Report any suspicious activity to the police.

· Keep the details of a plumbing and heating technician close to hand – a theft can be stressful enough without the hassle or lottery of finding a trusted tradesman in the directory. For oil users, choosing a highly skilled OFTEC registered technician is strongly advised and can be found on www.oftec.org.

· Ensure your oil tank is regularly serviced along with your other home heating appliances by an experienced and OFTEC registered technician.