Spate of Church fires raises concerns

A series of suspicious fires involving Churches in Victoria over the last month is a timely reminder of the need to ensure properties are safe and secure.

Church properties, just like any property, are vulnerable to malicious damage such as arson and vandalism.

The effects of arson can be devastating. A property fire can cause serious physical injuries, emotional distress, damage to valued property and the loss of assets or sensitive information. Fires can also have a serious impact on business processes, prevent the delivery of important services and lead to significant financial losses.

"Church organisations need to be vigilant and implement measures to protect their people and properties," says CCI Risk Consultant, Laura Hammett. "Working out exactly how and when a property may be vulnerable is the best place to start. We suggest conducting a risk assessment."

A risk assessment should include a review of all security and fire prevention measures to make sure they are adequate and operating correctly. Ensure smoke detectors, alarm systems and security cameras are all in working order, there's sufficient external lighting and fire extinguishers are correctly maintained.

"Property maintenance may seem an unlikely priority in this instance, but conducting regular inspections and taking care of repairs and maintenance promptly can make a difference," Laura adds.

"For example, keep the area around your buildings clear of combustible materials such as timber, rubbish and paper to remove a potential ignition source," she says. "And store wheelie bins and ladders securely away to prevent them from being used to gain access to your property."

Church organisations should also consider:

  • Working with neighbours to ensure any suspicious behaviour in the area is reported to police and conducting regular security patrols.
  • Clearing overgrown vegetation around buildings or perimeter fences which may provide a screen or cover for intruders.
  • Reviewing how and when the public access their property. Churches need to be accessible but this can make them vulnerable to intruders.

Practical help

CCI has a number of useful publications on this and many other topics available on this site or by calling risksupport on 1300 660 827.

They include:

Protecting Property Fact Sheet

Protecting Property Checklist

Managing Risk in Catholic Organisations – Conducting a Risk Assessment, Developing a Risk Treatment Plan

Business Continuity Management Fact Sheet

Like to know more?

To speak to one of our Risk Consultants call the risksupport helpdesk on 1300 660 827.


Posted: 29 April 2015

Topic: Property Protection

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