Hale Fire Protection District

Protecting Houses of Worship Against Arson

Houses of worship have traditionally been regarded as hallowed grounds that provide solace, refuge, and a sense of belonging to the individuals who frequent them.

Houses of worship have traditionally been regarded as hallowed grounds that provide solace, refuge, and a sense of belonging to the individuals who frequent them. Remarkably, this solemn atmosphere is often disrupted by mindless arson attacks. The destructive nature of arson poses an enormous threat to the lives of congregants, and it can also obliterate years of treasured memories, cultural artifacts, and historical edifices. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), approximately 780 deliberate fires were recorded in funeral and religious residential properties annually, resulting in an average of 10 civilian injuries and direct property damages of about $73 million from 2013-2017. To protect houses of worship against arson, religious organizations and the communities they serve must prioritize implementing preventive measures, such as improved security systems and staff training programs. By doing so, they can effectively reduce the risks of arson attacks and preserve the sanctity of these pivotal spaces.

Protecting Houses of Worship Against Arson

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Help congregations plan a safety day

Work with local houses of worship to plan a Fire Safety Day. Here are some ideas for activities to include:

Fire safety visit

Teach the congregation about:

  • Fire extinguisher use.
  • Candle use in services and candle alternatives, such as flameless candles.
  • The importance of an automatic fire sprinkler system.

Inspect for:

  • 2 ways out of every room, e.g., devotion area, study room, kitchen, library, etc.
  • A posted and visible fire escape plan.
  • Placement of smoke alarms, including alert devices for people who are hard of hearing.
  • Cracked or damaged electrical cords and overloaded extension cords or wall outlets.
  • Child locks on cabinets used to store dangerous items, such as poisons, cleaners, matches and lighters.
  • Deadbolt locks that can be easily unlocked by all members of the congregation, especially children and people with disabilities, from the inside without a key.

Security check

Encourage the congregation to work with their local police department to identify security weaknesses.

Clean-up day

Many of the risks, hazards and safety concerns identified during fire safety and security activities can be fixed during a clean-up day at a house of worship. Specific tasks include trimming trees and shrubbery, cleaning windows, and removing all possible items that can start a fire, like flammable liquids, things that can burn and trash.

Things to Remember

    • Illuminate building exterior and entrances. Place motion-activated lighting near entrances. Install lights to cover all sides of the building. Put interior lights on timers.
    • Clear obstructions and excess vegetation. Trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of the building from the street. Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves from around the outside of the building.
    • Install smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.
    • Keep doors locked. Equip external doors with code-compliant hardware and secure them when the facility isn’t occupied. Limit and track which members of the congregation have keys and alarm codes.
    • Keep windows locked. Use window hardware with spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame.
    • Clean inside to remove unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, paint cans, and other materials that could fuel a fire for an arsonist.
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For printable handouts to share with family and friends, 
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