Annually, 1,300 church fires are reported, totaling more than $38 million in property loss. Nearly 30% of church fires are the result of mechanical failures, or electrical issues. This is most likely attributed to the fact that many churches tend to be older structures. Of reported church fires 65% had no smoke detection systems, and 96% had no fire sprinkler protection. However, the leading cause of church fires is arson.
To prevent church arson, having a plan is essential. You can work with your local law enforcement, and fire prevention authorities to create a fire prevention/life safety plan for you church facility. The first step in creating a plan is to assess your areas of vulnerability. The most critical areas for church arson vulnerability are:
- Churches located in isolated or rural areas.
- Churches left unattended for extended periods of time.
- Churches with unsecured doors and/or uncovered windows leave weak points for foreced entry by intruders.
- The absence of an adequate fire/burglar alarm system provides a determined criminal with additional time for criminal activity.
- Heavy shrubs and outside vegetation, and/or the absence of sufficient perimeter lighting, provides security for criminals, not victims.
- Install perimeter floodlights outside the building.
- Install an adequate fire and burglar alarm system.
- Install fire sprinkler systems, and ensure there operability.
- Solid wood or sheet metal faced doors provide more security than a hollow core wooden door.
- Remove heavy vegetation and shrubs.
- Participate in a formal Neighborhood Watch program.
- Establish relationships with neighboring businesses. Ask them to watch your church during daily activities.
- Educate personnel on how to properly deal with threats. Have a written plan available.
- Document any strange or threatening activity or phone calls.
- Avoid opening or disturbing suspicious packages or letters. Contact your local law enforcement if these are received.
- Have a member(s) of the congregation check on the church daily. Evaluate the need for security personnel, especially on nights and weekends.
- Obtain a detailed description of any suspicious persons or vehicles noticed in or around your church facility.
- Duplicate all documents, digital files, and records that are stored at the church.
- Complete and maintain a comprehensive inventory or all furniture and equipment. Record serial numbers, and the property value. Frequently evaluate insurance coverage.
- Remove all potential fire hazards from the church grounds (trash, lawn clippings, debris). Properly store all combustible materials in a secured area/building.
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