Toronto, ON — During the past two months, a church in Port Alberni, BC, was totally gutted by fire, another on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula burnt to the ground, and a fire at a church in Stoney Creek, Ontario, was contained before it spread to the sanctuary. In each instance, an electrical fire was deemed the likely cause. Colin Robertson, VP Risk Control at Ecclesiastical Insurance, points out that electrical issues are among the leading causes of fires in North America and that older churches — whether they were built with wood frames or as masonry buildings with wood-joisted roofs — are particularly vulnerable. “Faulty wiring, overloaded electrical circuits, and improperly grounded equipment are among the hazards that pose significant threats,” he says. “Unless they are updated and regularly maintained, electrical installations in older churches can’t handle today’s increased demands”.
In many congregations with aging facilities, the electrical systems are simply overburdened and unsafe. That’s why Robertson urges faith organizations to engage the services of licensed electrical contractors. “A professional inspection of incoming service, breaker panels and fuse boards, and wiring and grounding”, he emphasizes, “is a critical first step to identifying the risks and avoiding potential disasters. In addition to inspections, professional electricians should undertake electrical updates and repairs”. Ecclesiastical also advises faith customers to create a checklist and conduct regularly scheduled inspections, looking at such areas as :
- The number of appliances — computers, battery chargers, coffee machines, and electric heaters — plugged into outlets. Too many will overload the circuits and cause the installation to overheat.
- Older wiring that may be damaged due to insulation breakdown, mechanical damage, and rodents exposing live wires through extensive chewing. Any combustible material in the vicinity should be removed immediately and the damaged wiring replaced.
- Overuse and misuse of temporary wiring or extension cords. For example, extension cords should not pass through walking areas, nor should carpets or furniture rest on them.
- Outlets and switches that may be cracked or broken. If they are hot to the touch, it may indicate a problem.
In Canada, electrical safety falls under provincial / territorial jurisdiction with regulatory activity based upon nationally accepted standards.
About Ecclesiastical Insurance
Working with brokers across Canada, Ecclesiastical Insurance provides customized insurance solutions to faith communities, educational institutions, retirement facilities, unique and heritage properties, cultural institutions, registered charities and nonprofit organizations, as well as select commercial enterprises. Owned by a charitable trust, Ecclesiastical is committed to protecting those who enrich the lives of others.