Why church safety matters?

In Why Church Buildings Matter, Tim Cool writes:

The condition of your facility will speak volumes to guests.  It will communicate what the church values, which may be an indicator of how a guest may be treated as well.  As a guest to dozens of church facilities a year, the condition of the space and campus are first clue indicators to me as to what is important to that congregation or the leadership.  While it may not always be indicative of the desired culture, vision, and mission of the church, it is an indicator that will influence my overall impression.

Does your facility value a culture of protection, safety, and stewardship?  Are your fire protection systems properly installed and maintained? Are emergency plans in place? Can guest rest assured that your worship facility is truly a place of sanctuary?

Fire Safe Worship Space

Is it important for churches to consider fire protection, life safety, and security?  With the recent rise in church shooting incidents, church arson occurrences, structural failures, and other house of worship related incidents, many congregations are starting to debate the merits of physical protection for their facility.  

The members of a church and community have the expectation that the church building, worship facility, will truly be a place of sanctuary.  Being a place of safety and refuge requires three principles: - shepherding, standing, stewardship.

Shepherding. Shepherding is spoken of all throughout scripture.  The Lord is our Shepherd, pastors act as a shepherd, congregations are referred to as a flock.  With the title of ‘shepherd’ comes a certain set of responsibilities.  These responsibilities include:

  • Eliminating fear in dark and anxious times.
  • Guarding and watching over the flock.
  • Keeping the flock safe.
  • Restoring, reviving, and refreshing the flock.

In an environment that neglects safety and security features, it is not possible for the shepherd to fulfill his duties.  

Standing.  Many places of worship serve as a beacon of hope and light within their community  It only takes one fire incident, loss of life occurrence, or structural failure for this light to diminish. If the incident results in the destruction of the facility, physically this beacon is snuffed out. If these incidents are a result of negligence or carelessness, hopes are dashed, trust is lost, and the church’s impact in the community will suffer.

Stewardship. The church facility and ministry has been built on the faithful and generous giving of the congregation members.  It is the church’s responsibility to properly care for, steward, what has been received.  Proportionately, the amount of funds that go to support the facility and personnel, should be invested in the care and maintenance of the same.

The guidance provided in this short document provides a good starting point for the effective stewarding of resources, shepherding of the flock, and maintaining right standing within your community.

Building the Church

from Visioneering Studios
Worship facilities can be much more to a community than just a building.  A church, or house of worship, can be a vital part of the culture in which it is placed. If you are a church leader, architect, consultant, or a municipal AHJ there is a deeper level of planning and thought that should go into your new worship facility.

Design Intervention, by Mel McGowan, and Why Church Buildings Matter, by Tim Cool, are two excellent resources that outline the importance of these structures, and how they should fit into the community.  When these authors refer to a church building and the importance of these structures they are not referring to big box buildings, or steepled structures that create a real estate "black hole" in the community.  These "black hole" structures are those church buildings that sit empty for most of the time (except for a few hours on Saturdays or Sundays), and are not contributing anything to the community (tax base, services, or otherwise).

Both of these books, compare the church building to the Biblical equivalent of the town well.  The well was the central meeting place for the towns people. The well was a vital part of the culture. Life, and interactions, happened everyday at the well.  Church buildings should be designed in this way.  Church buildings should be structures that people are drawn to, they should be facilities that are open to the public all week, and from these, services should be provided, and community needs met.  The church building should be a vital part of the community in which it is placed.

With these design goals and objectives in mind, the church becomes a 24/7 operation, rather than a 1/1 institution.  These ideas will paint a different fire protection and life safety picture than what is typically thought of when reviewing requirements for a "house of worship".

With this in mind we have created a new ebook resource, Fire Safe Worship Space.  This booklet is written for church leaders and worship facility managers.  The book covers such topics as:
  • why fire protection and life safety matters
  • maintaining safe worship environments
  • considerations for church-based schools
  • things to consider when reviewing building plans

Beginners Guide to Fire Alarm Systems

Many facilities are equipped with a fire alarm system. Few people in these facilities actually know how the fire alarm functions, what its signals mean, or how to care for these systems.  This brief post will serve as introduction to the components, signal types, maintenance, and applicable codes for fire alarm systems.

System Components

Fire Alarm Control Panel (FACP) - ‘brain’ of the alarm system; the panel controls all alarm functions, and sends and receives all signals

Initiating devices - these devices activate the fire alarm system and send signals to the fire alarm panel.  These devices include:
  • Heat/Smoke/Fire detectors
  • Pull stations
  • water flow devices

Notification appliances - these devices alert occupants to the presence of a fire. These devices include:
  • Strobes
  • Horn/strobes
  • Speakers

System Signals

Trouble - local signal that indicates a problem with the integrity of the system. This can indicate a wiring problem, communication error, or faulty device. A fire alarm technician must be called to investigate and correct this problem.

Supervisory - indicates the change of a device from its normal status.  A valve that is normally required to be in the open position is monitored; if this valve is closed a ‘supervisory’ signal will be sent to the panel.  This should be investigated by facility staff/personnel.

Alarm - indicates that a fire has been detected. Alarm system will be fully activated, horns, strobes, and speakers will sound. This is an emergency situation. Fire department should be contacted to respond.

System ITM

These systems are required to be fully tested at least annually. This test must be conducted by trained, qualified, and certified personnel.

Daily, monthly, semi-annual, and annual inspection, testing, and maintenance requirements are outlined in NFPA 72:14.3.

System Codes and Standards

NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code - covers all installation, testing, and maintenance requirements for fire alarm systems.

Specifying Hangar Doors

Schweiss Doors,

"When the doors need to open, it helps to have the right doors in place." 

When specifying a hangar door there will be a multitude of items to consider.  Our article, "Open Sesame", published in the October 2015 edition of Airport Businessprovides a guide to making good hangar door decisions.  The article includes:

  • An overview and description of the most common types of hangar doors.
  • Installation and maintenance costs associated with each type of door.
  • Fire code requirements for each classification of hangar and door type.