It’s important for any building, especially one that people are coming in and out of often, to take preventative measures with a fire risk assessment. When putting together a fire risk assessment, a ‘one size fits all’ approach won’t do. Churches tend to be much older than general buildings with unique architecture, which could affect fire safety and bring about fire hazards that are church-specific. It’s not just the buildings themselves that are at risk, sometimes it’s not always possible to be around when people enter the church. Ensuring that hazards are kept at bay with a solid fire risk assessment is essential for keeping the general public and the church safe.
In 2006, The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 came into effect. Prior to this, there had been over 70 pieces of legislation concerning fire safety, but none distinctly applied to churches. They all combined to create The Fire Safety Order and for the first time, this fire safety legislation specifically concerned churches. The Order places a requirement on a named ‘Responsible Person’ to carry out a fire risk assessment. They’re responsible for identifying any possible risks, to reduce or remove those risks, and to ensure that people on the premises can evacuate safely.
When carrying out a fire risk assessment, you should follow these five steps:
Find out what you should include in your fire risk assessment in more detail.
Portable LPG heaters, hot air blowers or patio heaters shouldn’t be used, as they can easily topple over and cause harm to children running around or people unsteady on their feet. It’s sometimes difficult to monitor any flammables closeby that could rapidly ignite the flames within the heaters and burn people who get too close. They’re also very quick to heat up, which could damage the church’s architecture. Pew heaters are a safer bet, they just need to be checked regularly to ensure they’re not overheating the adjacent wood. Electric heaters, particularly in rural churches, are also commonly used. They’re generally safe, but it should be made certain that the heater and cable are in good condition, the heater isn’t at risk of being covered, and it’s correctly fused.
Matches and candles are often found in churches. Ideally, battery operated candles would be the most fire safe choice. However, if that isn’t an option, a candle lighting service should be closely monitored. Ensure that there is enough space between the candles and anything flammable, such as items of clothing, as well as making sure that every candle has been extinguished at the end of the service.
Unfortunately, arson is a concern when it comes to church fire risks. It’s not common, but it can happen. It’s important to keep typical targets for arsonists, such as plastic bins, away from windows, doors, or eaves to prevent any fire spreading to the church. If possible, bins should be chained in position to prevent them from being moved and locked shut.
Obstructions are objects that block fire exits and fire doors, making it difficult or impossible for people to evacuate in the event of a fire. While obstructions might not cause the fire, they pose a huge risk to the welfare of those at the church if there was to be one. It’s important to regularly check these fire escape routes. For example, while chairs aren’t a fire hazard themselves, when stacked incorrectly and in the wrong place, they become an obstruction. Ensure that all chairs are stacked correctly and stored away.
It’s incredibly important that your BAFE approved fire risk assessment is carried out correctly. We can take care of this for you, giving you the peace of mind that it has been done right. With so many people coming in and out of churches, along many churches’ deep rooted history, ensuring that your church is as protected as it can be is crucial.
Fire risk assessments are just the beginning of the fire risk management cycle. We can also offer an ongoing, fire consultancy service which includes the initial fire risk assessment(s), as well as more in depth support. At Total Fire Group, we have conducted fire risk assessments for several types of organisations across the UK, from schools through to retail stores in shopping centres. This means we really do understand the specific challenges each type of organisation faces and how fire safety needs change. Contact us to find out how we can help with your church’s fire safety.
We offer our clients a complete fire safety management service, our key services include:
Delivering a comprehensive and detailed report on your property.
We can provide a partnership which offers auditing and consultancy services.
Manage multiple risk assessment actions with our Aurora software.
Our fire safety training courses cover every level of fire safety, from basic through to advanced.