04 Jan Fire Prevention Measures for your Church
The new year brings our focus to goals and resolutions. January presents a great time for church leadership to review and assess the safety of their facilities. In this blog we will share an annual inspection checklist, arson prevention measures and electrical hazards to avoid. Fires, of all types, pose a real threat to your church.
We’d like to share the following fire prevention measures for your church.
Only 31% of fires occur between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. but account for 65% of property damage.
ANNUAL INSPECTION CHECKLIST
These safety checklists are part of an annual inspection of church property. The items listed are not meant to imply that other concerns could not be present. The items listed are those that cause the most damage and result in the more frequent and severe claims. Annual Inspection Checklist
- Newer model small space heaters have current safety features. Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.
- Choose a thermostatically controlled heater because they avoid the energy waste of overheating a room.
- Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
- Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic.
- Be especially careful to keep children away from the heater.
- Never leave a space heater unattended.
Churches are vulnerable due to:
- Buildings frequently unoccupied.
- Predictable activity schedules.
- Lacking security systems.
- Arsonists, vandals, and other criminals may target churches because of their beliefs.
- Illuminate exterior buildings, doors, and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
- Install 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.
- Do not leave ladders outside. Secure ladders and tools in a locked shed/outbuilding or inside the building OR secure ladders outside with a high-quality chain and lock.
- Keep track of and limit the disbursement of building keys.
- Consider installation of a keyless electronic entry system
- Use timers for lights and/or radios during evening hours.
- Secure all 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/fire detection system.
- Also consider a fire sprinkler suppression system.
- Be certain 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.
Many of the most common electrical hazards are easy and affordable to identify, control and correct. However, they can lead to a major fire if left unchecked. The following are the most common electrical hazards and how to control them.
- Missing covers on junction boxes, switches and outlets expose energized circuits, creating arc flash, shock, and electrocution hazards.
- Provide a path of entry into the interior of the enclosure, allowing dust, dirt, and debris to accumulate.
- Allow metallic objects to fall into the circuits that could arc or lodge in a way that presents a hazard when the enclosure is opened.
Broken/Unsupported Light Fixtures
- Light fixtures should be permanently mounted to the base and show no signs of damage.
- Light fixtures that are hanging unsupported by wiring put undue stress on the electrical connections.
- These two conditions present the potential for an electrical short, which can produce sparks that can ignite combustibles.
- A circuit breaker is designed to protect the circuit and equipment when they become overloaded because of too many appliances or equipment.
- Circuit breakers also provide protection when a short develops in a wire.
- Take the following safety precautions to prevent an electrical fire or damage associated with circuit breakers:
- Equip all electrical breaker panels with an appropriate cover and keep closed.
- Install spare clips in any openings in the breaker panel.
- There should not be any missing breakers or other openings between breakers. Openings allow for the potential for electrocution, physical damage, and dust and dirt to accumulate in the circuits.
- Never tape breakers or physically secure in the “ON” position.
- If the breaker is not allowed to trip, the wiring could overheat, increasing the chances of a fire.
- Index the electrical panel, identifying each individual circuit breaker.
- The directory must identify the various receptacles, general area or equipment serviced by each circuit breaker.
- Indexing enables quick de-energizing of a circuit under emergency situations.
When used properly, a portable fire extinguisher can save lives and property by putting out a small fire or controlling it until the fire department arrives. Portable extinguishers are intended to be used for those fires in the incipient stage when the fire has just started and is easily extinguishable but are not designed to fight large or spreading fires.
This fact sheet covers how fire extinguishers are an excellent first line of defense in preventing fires, but are only useful under certain conditions, including the following:
- Appropriate type and size of fire extinguisher is available;
- Operator understands how to use the extinguisher
- Extinguisher is properly located within the building
- Extinguisher is in good condition and fully charged.