Fire Safety and Prevention

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that deaths from fires and burns are the fifth most common cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. To prevent loss of life and property, it is important to be aware of fire safety procedures and ensure that prevention efforts are in place.

Fire Alarms & Smoke Detectors

Every parish, school and institution should have working fire alarms and smoke detectors. Smoke detectors should be tested once a month to ensure proper operation. Batteries should be changed every year and detectors older than 10 years should be replaced. Fire alarm systems need to be inspected twice a year by a qualified company or technician to ensure proper operation. To ensure proper placement of fire alarms and detectors, please contact your local fire station or Office of Risk Management for further assistance.

Fire Sprinkler Systems

According to the website, the combination of smoke detectors and fire sprinklers lowers the risk of death during a fire by more than 80 percent. A sprinkler system is a valuable fire prevention tool, but like alarms and smoke detectors, sprinkler systems must be professionally maintained and inspected regularly. Maintenance checkups will ensure that the sprinkler system pressure gauges are steady, the water valves are open, and there is no debris blocking the pump connections. To avoid malfunctioning, do not paint or hang anything from any part of the sprinkler system. For more information on sprinkler system maintenance, please contact your local fire station.

Fire Extinguishers

Proper placement of fire extinguishers throughout the facility is a critical element in any fire prevention plan. There should be no more than 75 feet of travel distance between one fire extinguisher and another. Extinguishers should be a minimum of 5 pounds and ABC-rated. Fire extinguishers can be heavy, so it is a good idea to practice picking up and holding one to get an idea of the weight and feel.

As with any mechanical device, fire extinguishers must be maintained on a regular basis to ensure proper operation. It would be helpful to identify a qualified professional service technician in your area. A qualified service technician should be able to survey your facilities and recommend the proper fire extinguisher placements. In addition, the technician can usually arrange fire extinguisher training sessions for your staff. 

Electrical Fires

According to a report by the U.S. Fire Administration, electrical fires account for 30% of church fires. Common causes of these fires include misuse and failed maintenance of appliances, faulty wiring, and overloaded circuits and extension cords. Many electrical fires can be prevented by regular electrical maintenance and inspections. If your building is over 20 years old, it is recommended that a qualified electrician conduct a thorough electrical inspection. 

To help prevent electrical fires, please consider the following:

  • Do not run electrical cords under rugs or trap power cords against walls where heat can build up.
  • Make sure to use only heavy-duty extension cords for high-wattage appliances, such as freezers and heaters.
  • Check appliances and wiring often and replace worn, old or damaged appliance cords immediately. Appliances that spark, smoke or overheat must be replaced and properly discarded.
  • Have an electrician check light switches that are hot, broken outlets, and lights that flicker.
  • If using a space heater, make sure to keep the heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as paper, clothing or furniture. Only use a heater that automatically shuts off if it tips over. Do not leave portable heating devices unattended.


Arson is one of the leading causes of fires in churches. To prevent arson, it is important to maintain secure premises. Make sure all buildings and grounds have proper lighting and that doors and windows are locked at night. Ask neighbors to report any suspicious activity to the local police department.

Escape Plans

Every second counts in a fire. In addition to fire alarms, institutions should establish escape plans to help occupants leave the building in a timely manner. An escape plan should include at least two ways out of each room in the building. Managers should stress that occupants must leave the building immediately once a fire occurs and not re-enter for any reason. The plan should also include a designated meeting place. This allows emergency responders to ensure no one is left in the building. Once established, escape plans should be practiced every month so that every staff member is familiar with the most efficient means of egress.

Please download a document to help you develop a Basic Escape Plan, as well as a document on how to Clear Your Escape Routes.

Please take the above precautions and educate others regarding fire prevention.