08 Feb Church Fire Prevention
Church fire prevention should be a year-round effort and there are specific things that you should do at least once every year, without fail. To make your Church fire prevention program the most effective, it needs to be an ongoing effort. For instance, make a quick tour of your buildings interior and exterior. Your facility can decrease the chances that an arsonist will strike by scheduling time this month to go through each item on this list.
Why Churches and Religious Organizations Are Vulnerable to Arson
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, resulting in more than $1 billion in property loss each year. In one recent year, the USFA reported that approximately 30,500 intentional structural fires occurred. Specifically for churches, fires account for significant losses. An average of 1,300 church fires are reported each year, causing $38 million in property loss. Arson comprises 25 percent of church fires.
- Buildings are often unoccupied.
- Activity schedules are predictable.
- Security systems are often lacking.
- Arsonists, vandals and other criminals may target churches because of their beliefs.
Reducing the Risk of Arson
To help reduce the risk of arson, consider the following precautionary measures:
Properly store a ladder outside the building using a good quality lock and chain that is securely attached to the buildings concrete foundation.
Don’t have a dumpster that is overflowing and too close to the building. If vandals were to intentionally set fire to the dumpster, there is a high likelihood that it would spread to the building.
- Illuminate exterior buildings, doors and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
- Consider the installation of motion-activated lighting near doors and windows.
- Keep doors and windows locked when the building is unoccupied.
- Trim shrubs and tree limbs around windows and doors to eliminate potential hiding places for arsonists and criminals.
- Ladders should not be stored outside the building at the end of the day. Instead, secure ladders and tools in a locked shed/outbuilding or inside the building.
- Keep track of and limit the disbursement of building keys. Consider installation of a keyless electronic entry system.
- Make sure that exterior doors are of solid core (not hollow) construction and are outfitted with quality deadbolt locks and, if hinged on the outside, tamper-proof hinges.
- Use wire-mesh glass in windows for additional protection from break-ins.
- Keep the property free from boxes, leaves, trash, wood and other potentially combustible debris.
- Consider installing video security cameras at entrances and other key areas.
- Park church vehicles in different locations on the property throughout the week to vary routine.
- Trash containers should be kept as far away as possible from the building.
- Consider using timers for lights and/or radios during evening hours.
- Make sure that flammable liquids are stored in a U.L. listed fire cabinet away from any heat sources, such as heating equipment.
- If possible, install a central station monitored security and fire detection system. Also consider a fire sprinkler suppression system.
- Make sure that smoke and heat detectors are operational and that fire extinguishers are in place and have been regularly serviced.
- Restrict access to areas containing valuable or combustible materials by locking interior doors.
Arson Prevention Checklist
- Ask neighbors to alert police if they see anything suspicious on church property.
- Develop positive relationships with local law enforcement and invite them to patrol the property during the overnight hours.
- Establish a “Church Watch” program in which members volunteer to drive through the property at various times throughout the week.
Checklists can be an effective tool to help prevent a fire in your church. The following checklists will help you determine how well your facility is safeguarded to discourage unauthorized entry and encourage early fire detection.
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