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Fire Damage in Churches
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Church fires are all too common in the news, and when they occur, the results are usually serious. It is easy enough to understand, because many churches sit unoccupied for long periods of time, and any fire that starts may grow to significant size before being discovered. At that point, the damage is done. Arson is the leading cause of church fires in the US.
As with most cases of fire, church blazes are largely preventable if certain protocols are followed and safety procedures established and followed through. It is always better to prevent a problem as opposed to having to clean one up. Let's examine some of the causes of church fires and the steps necessary to prevent them.
Preventing arson should be a priority for any church. By making sure the church building is properly illuminated, the chance for unwelcome visitors in the dead of night is cut down dramatically. Trees and shrubs near the church should be kept well trimmed and all doors and windows should remain securely locked when the building is not in use. If keys are lost or stolen, have the locks replaced. Itís cheaper than replacing a burned out building.
Preventing Fires from Other Sources
To prevent fire from occurring due to mechanical failure, have the furnace and HVAC systems inspected annually, turn off electrical systems when the building is not in use, refrain from storing combustible materials in the same area as the boiler (this has been a factor in more than one church fire), and make sure the church's electrical system is adequate for the required power needs.
Smoke alarms should be installed on every floor and fire extinguishers placed in easily accessible locations throughout every level of the church. Church staff and volunteer workers should be aware of these units and trained on how to operate them. Sprinkler systems should also be installed, as they are the single best way of dousing any fire that may occur while the building is empty.
Have an escape plan. Take the time to familiarize people who are regularly in the building with a proper plan in case of fire, including all nearby exits, location of fire extinguishing equipment, as well as procedures designed to take care of the children and the elderly in your congregation.
You may want to enlist the aid of local fire fighting personnel to tour your facility and offer tips and suggestions on formulating an effective firefighting plan.