Fire-Prevention Series Part One: Annual Fire Safety Checkup
While fire prevention should be a year-round effort, there are specific things that you should do at least once every year, without fail. Take steps to protect your ministry, the families you serve, and your property by scheduling time this month to go through each item on this list.
Review and Update
- Update your emergency contact list and give a copy to ministry staff members and your local fire department.
- Send updated copies of your church floor plans to your local fire department.
- Update your evacuation plans and review with your staff and volunteers.
- Update maps and evacuation routes and post visibly in every part of the building. Each location should have at least two possible emergency exit routes.
- Update your property inventory list with any new items or equipment that you’ve added over the last year. If you’ve never taken an inventory, create one this month.
Things You Can Check Yourself
- Check all of your emergency lights both inside and outside. Replace burned out bulbs and batteries.
- Check all entrances/exits to be sure they aren’t blocked by storage items, furniture or landscaping, etc.
- Be sure exterior trash containers are kept away from the building to prevent a trash fire from spreading and so they are not easy targets for arson.
- Ensure that any space heaters are used appropriately, and are at least three feet away from flammable items.
- Check your storage areas. Be sure to use pallets or shelving units rather than having boxes rest directly on the floor. Items should be at least 18 inches below sprinklers or 24 inches below ceiling height. (Be sure to check with your local fire department as regulations vary.) Be sure to store flammable liquids appropriately. Find suitable storage for cleaning supplies, away from a flame source. Do not store items such as gas and paint thinner in your building. Use a locked, separate garage or shed instead.
- Check your mechanical and furnace rooms. If there is anything stored in those rooms, remove it immediately. Pilot lights and heat sources mixed with storage items are a recipe for disaster. Do not store anything in your mechanical and furnace rooms.
- Walk through your building and inspect all cords; discard any that are loose, dried out, or frayed. Identify where you are using extension cords and outlet splitters. These should only be used on a temporary basis. If they are being used for more than a few days at a time, they may malfunction, overheat, or overload your electrical system. If you are using extension cords and splitters regularly, you should contact an electrician to address increasing your electrical needs.
- Walk through your building and make a list of all the smoke detectors and fire extinguishers and their locations so you will not forget to service any, especially in remote areas of your building.
- Change the batteries in each smoke detector. They should be changed at least once a year, and if you do it in October while you perform your other yearly fire prevention efforts, it will be easier to remember.
- If you have a dryer on premises, use this time of year to clean underneath and behind the dryer where dust and lint collect. Be sure to have a sign posted so users know to clean out the lint trap before each use.
- Hold a fire drill so your congregation and your staff will know what to do in the event of an actual fire.
Call in a Professional
- Have each of your fire extinguishers serviced by a professional. Depending on the type of extinguisher, this may need to be done yearly.
- Have a licensed, bonded, qualified contractor inspect and clean your boiler, furnace, heater, ventilating, and cooling system.
- If you have never had an electrician inspect your wiring, do so this month, especially if you have added sound equipment and other electronic devices. Have an electrician inspect your wiring and circuit breaker panel (or fuse panel if you have an older system) and determine if your system is adequate.
- If you have a fire alarm system, have a professional inspect the system.
- If you have a sprinkler system, have a professional inspect the system.
- If you have lightning and surge protection, ensure that a professional inspects those.
- Invite your local fire inspector to walk through your building with you. Be prepared to correct any issues that the fire inspector finds.
Regardless of whether your ministry is a church, school, or camp, these items are things that you should check and correct at least annually, in addition to your regular fire prevention efforts. Divide the list up between staff members and assign due dates this month. Overall, it doesn’t take a lot of time to protect your ministry from fire, but the benefits are beyond measure.