Protect Your House of Worship from Arsonbeing there // on Friday May 12, 2017
It’s National Arson Awareness Week, and this year’s theme is arson prevention at houses of worship. Arson at houses of worship is more common than you might think:
- There’s been an average of 103 arson fires per year at houses of worship between 2000 and 2015 (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ U.S. Bomb Data Center’s Bomb Arson Tracking System)
- 51 percent of the reported incidents at U.S. houses of worship between 1996 and 2015 were determined to be caused by arson (Pew Research Center)
- The 1,600 fires at religious properties (arson and non-arson) between 2007 and 2011 amounted to $105 million in direct property damage (National Fire Protection Association)
Houses of worship are at risk for arson for several reasons, including: buildings are often unoccupied, activity schedules are often predictable and security systems are often lacking. An organization’s beliefs may also make it a target for arsonists.
By taking proactive precautionary measures inside and out, you can help arson-proof your house of worship. Here are some ways you can do that:
Outside Your Facility
- Keep doors and windows locked when the building is unoccupied.
- Keep the property free from trash, leaves, wood and other potentially combustible debris.
- Illuminate exterior buildings, doors and parking lots from sunset to sunrise.
- Install motion-activated lighting near the doors and windows.
- Trim shrubs and trees around windows and doors to eliminate potential hiding places for arsonists.
- Use wire-mesh glass in windows to help protect the building from break-ins.
- Store ladders and tools in a secure area, not outside the building.
- Install video security cameras at entrances and other key areas.
- Keep tabs on and limit the number of building keys that are distributed to others. Better yet, consider installation of a keyless electronic entry system.
Inside Your Facility
- Use timers on interior entry lights overnight.
- Store flammable liquids in a locked closet or cabinet away from any heat sources, such as heating or air conditioning equipment.
- Install a fire detection system and/or automatic sprinkler system. Have both monitored by a central station.
- Maintain inspection programs to ensure smoke and heat detectors are operational and fire extinguishers are in place and regularly serviced.
- Restrict access to areas containing valuable or combustible materials by locking interior doors.
In Your Community
- Ask neighbors to alert police if anything suspicious is seen on your property.
- Develop positive relationships with local law enforcement and invite them to patrol the property during the overnight hours.
- Establish a watch program in which members volunteer to drive through the property at various times throughout the week. Go here for information on starting a watch program.