Arson advice for places of worship

Arson poses a major security challenge for faith communities. Fires are often started by arsonists, or by thieves concealing their crime, and sadly, places of worship are often viewed as a soft target.

How to reduce the risk of arson attacks at your premises

As a custodian of the facility, we know your aim is to protect and preserve the place of worship, not just today, but for future generations. Here are some tips to help you do this:

Report suspicious activity and make your facility look busy

  • Report suspicious activity to the police immediately
  • Encourage visitors and neighbours to visit the grounds as part of their daily routine, and report any suspicious activity
  • Use the building as much as possible for worship and community activities.

Carry out regular external inspections of your buildings and grounds

  • A damaged building is at risk of further attacks, including arson. Make regular checks to the building and report damage to the police and your insurers as quickly as possible
  • Work with your local police department and keep in contact with other nearby places of worship to report damage and share advice.

Repair damage to the building immediately

Minor damage is often followed by more serious incidents, including arson

  • Ensure any damage is repaired quickly
  • Remove graffiti as quickly as possible.

Practice good housekeeping

Fires can be started using everyday waste, so make sure it is collected regularly and try to store garbage cans at least 10 metres from buildings. Consider using lockable garbage cans, or creating a secure waste storage compound.

  • Lock sheds and outbuildings — these often contain equipment that could assist an arsonist, such as gasoline for grounds maintenance equipment
  • Remove items that can be used to start fires from inside the place of worship, for example, portable heaters, gas lighters and matches
  • Keep internal doors shut when the building is not in use to prevent fires from spreading.

Use candles safely in your place of worship

Position candle stands away from ornaments, linens, draperies, carpets, books, flammable decorations, and other combustible materials.

  • Extinguish all candles when you lock the building at night
  • For more guidance you can visit our webpage on Candle Safety

Check your fire extinguishers

  • Check you have enough fire extinguishers, also check they are water (hydro-spray) or carbon dioxide types, not dry powder type extinguishers
  • Place the extinguishers appropriately, for example near exit doors and make sure they are serviced on an annual basis
  • Train people to safely use extinguishers

Be prepared for fire

  • Consider ways in which deliberate fires could be started and how you can prevent or reduce the risk.
  • Keep a photographic record of your facility’s key features, for example, stained glass windows, and store the record off-site. This will help if these items need to be restored or replaced following loss or damage.
  • Keep your fire safety plan up to date. Identify what steps need to be taken in the event of a serious incident. For example, who needs to be contacted? If there is the opportunity, which items need to be moved for safety?
  • Larger places of worship should consider developing a business continuity plan.

Make sure everyone understands their role and responsibilities

In the event of a fire at your place of worship, having a protocol to follow can help you to react quickly and reduce damage. You can download our arson checklist as a guide to reviewing procedures and responsibilities at your facility.


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