Arson-Proof Your Church

Simple security measures can protect churches from vandalism, arson

Vandalism might not seem cause for major concern, but it can lead to bigger problems, including arson. Take precautions to escape property damage and loss by denying criminals the chance to damage your property.

Secure Flammables

  • Store flammable liquids away from church property. If you have no other alternative, lock flammables in a secure area.
  • Keep trash containers away from buildings. A trash fire could spread.

Limit Access to Keys

  • Keep a record of everyone holding a key in your organization.
  • Place an identifying serial number on keys to track which person has which key.
  • When people leave your organization, make sure they return the correct key.
  • Don't label keys or use keychains bearing the church's name.
  • Never hide a key outside your building.
  • Change locks periodically and issue new keys.

Know Who’s Inside

  • Keep a schedule of all activities held on church property.
  • Have outside organizations sign a building use agreement, certifying that they will assume responsibility for any property damage or bodily injury resulting from their use of your facilities.
  • Note the contact person's name, address, and phone number, and require that someone will make sure all the doors and windows are locked when the group leaves.
  • Inspect the property as soon as possible after the activity.

Install Alarms

Statistics show that security alarm systems substantially reduce the likelihood of being burglarized. Investigate your options fully, however, weighing costs, complexity and features.

A good security system offers three lines of defense:

  • Decals and window stickers warn would-be criminals that the building is protected, making them less likely to risk a break-in.
  • In the event a break-in does occur, the system's audible alarm alerts neighbors and usually scares off the criminal.
  • If the system is monitored, appropriate authorities will be dispatched, and designated contact people will be notified automatically within moments of an alarm.

Once an alarm system is installed:

  • Ask the company to take you through a system test.
  • Train your ministry staff in system operation.
  • Conduct regular tests to ensure correct functioning.
  • Note which people know the security code.
  • Change the code occasionally.

Turn on the Spotlight

Arsonists avoid lighted areas. Use this to your advantage:

  • Install adequate lighting near doors, in parking lots, and behind buildings.
  • Keep lights on at night. Use a timer or light-sensitive switch to activate them.
  • Install motion-sensitive lighting to startle a burglar and alert neighbors that someone is present.
  • Position exterior lighting out of reach. Lights should be high enough to prevent criminals from disabling them.
  • Create the illusion that the building is occupied by running interior lights on a timer.

Get the Community Involved

With the whole neighborhood keeping an eye on your property, crime is less likely.

  • Start a Neighborhood Watch program. Contact your local law enforcement agency for more information.
  • Organize neighborhood clean-ups. Cleaner areas are less likely to attract crime.
  • Ask local police to add your church to their patrols, especially at night.
  • Ask church members to watch for suspicious activity. Remind members not to confront a possible intruder, but to make detailed observations and report to the police.
  • Enlist church neighbors. Provide them with emergency contact numbers.