There are many functional aspects to the upkeep, maintenance, and protection of a church building but in this article we’re going to focus on fire prevention and protection for church facilities.
Having proper fire protection in place is critical to the safety of your church and its members. Use this guide to learn the essential steps you should take to protect your congregation. Our goal is to provide practical information to help you pass inspection with your local fire marshal, meet city requirements, streamline your emergency plans and policy, and make sure that your facility is protected to prevent, and in the worst case respond to, a fire.
Fire is the most common hazard to churches. One of the primary reasons for this is inadequate fire suppression systems, often due to outdated systems and unintentional violations of current codes. Additionally, churches are often unoccupied for days at a time during the week, making them doubly vulnerable to a fire that is out of control before it can be caught. Protecting your church from catastrophic losses not only requires working with experienced professionals who know how to protect your facility, but also an awareness of the dangers and how to prevent them.
A common cause of church fires is electrical hazards or electrical system failure. To protect your church and community:
- Make sure the boiler, HVAC and electrical systems are operating efficiently and safely
- Perform annual maintenance to prevent solve minor issues before they become major problems. If you suspect there is a problem, hire a professional to inspect and make repairs before it’s too late.
- Keep an eye out for electrical hazards and be aware of things such as damaged insulation, overloaded circuits and inadequate wiring, especially if your facility is a little older.
- Make sure that trash is disposed of on a regular basis and that all materials are properly stored, especially chemicals such as cleaning supplies.
If you are in the process of a renovation or a new ground up construction, this is a perfect time to take extra precautionary measures and incorporate them into your plans for your facility. Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, and an adequate sprinkler system should all be in place before you ever have a church service in the building. You should also make sure that your building is clearly marked and any building numbers are visible from the street. In case of a fire, a few seconds can make a difference when emergency personnel are trying to find your location.
The newest generation of fire alarms is that of voice evacuation systems, which is not only becoming increasingly popular but increasingly required by state and municipal fire codes. A traditional commercial fire alarm system can detect smoke, heat and flame throughout your facility and initiating an evacuation of employees by way of flashing strobes, loud horns, and will help direct emergency responders to you. Many systems are automated to instantly notify emergency personnel and can also be set to notify church staff members via electronic notification or text.
Voice evacuation systems function similarly to a fire alarm system, with a few notable exceptions. Fire alarm systems use horns and strobes to alert occupants in the event of a fire, while voice evacuation systems utilize speakers to announce notifications. Both systems use similar field equipment—smoke and heat detectors, hand pulls and more—but voice evacuation systems use voice evacuation technology to alert building occupants through speakers. Once emergency personnel arrive on the scene, they can also use the voice evacuation system in real-time to communicate necessary information.
Moving forward, whichever company installed your fire suppression system and your fire alarm system will be able to recommend how often it needs to be serviced and tested. If they are unavailable, you can reach out to your local fire department. Make sure you save all service records as part of your overall facility maintenance records.
Whether you are building, renovating, or just looking for some ideas for your existing facility, there are many things you can do to be proactive. Every building on your church property should have clearly marked fire exits and an emergency evaluation plan. Train your church staff to know these plans and the location of every fire extinguisher in the building as well as a point of contact, such a facility manager or an associate pastor, should an emergency arise. At minimum, you should meet with your staff on an annual basis to go over evacuation plans, extinguisher locations, and your emergency policies and procedures.
In today’s world, fire protection is a must. Safety specialists and the authorities have done extensive testing and research to ensure that all buildings are equipped with adequate fire safety measures to ensure that when disaster does strike there is a minimal impact. By reading up on your local fire safety laws and regulations, creating and reviewing your church’s emergency response plan, and implementing it in your day-to-day operations, you will be able to help keep yourself, and your church, protected from the worst-case scenario.
At Churches by Daniels, our goal is to be available to pastors and churches to answer questions, provide free education and resources, and share with you the most current information we have so that your church facility can be designed, built, and continue to operate in a safe environment. Whether you have a question about fire protection in your current facility, or are looking to renovate, expand, or build a new facility, we hope that you’ll choose Churches by Daniels.