Fire risk assessments for churches

Safelincs has produced a series of videos about fire risk assessment in churches and general fire safety specifically for those with a responsibility for churches. Starting with a three minute video examining the risk assessment process for a church, it is followed by further videos of similar length concisely covering each aspect of church fire safety. These are:

• Sources of ignition
• Flammable materials
• People at risk
• Escape plans and evacuation
• Fire Exits
• Unsupervised visitors
• Arson risks
• Emergency lighting
• Fire safety procedures
• Fire doors
• Fire-fighting equipment
• Fire detection
• Testing of fire equipment

Churches and church halls all have a legal requirement to carry out fire risk assessments. Areas that need special attention are electrical wiring and the careful management of extension leads (frequently used since churches tend not to have many power sockets). Heating systems and any additional heaters need to be regularly maintained and of course candles, in regular use in churches, need to be adequately controlled.
Churches may be at increased risk of fire is when repair or restoration work is being undertaken.

Another consideration is that more churches that are incorporating cafes and hence cooking areas.

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Whatever the size or age of church, these “bite-sized” videos will be invaluable for anyone responsible for the general management of a church.

Safelincs rated ‘Excellent’ by Church of England customers

parish-buyingSafelincs are the contracted fire safety and H&S provider of the Church of England and the Church in Wales through their collaborative buying platform ParishBuying. We provide all fire safety products and services required in Churches, church schools, parishes, church buildings and offices as well as general H&S products such as first aid, PPE and winter safety products. Generous discounts for all Church organisations have been negotiated on top of the already competitive Safelincs internet prices.

The Church of England and the Church in Wales recently asked all their members about feedback about their service providers and Safelincs came out with the highest possible rating. Customers commented that Safelincs are ‘extremely helpful’, satisfied their needs entirely and that the service was ‘excellent’.

We are of course very proud about this feedback which has strengthened our philosophy of providing a personal service and best support on a nationwide scale.

The findings of the survey match the findings of our independent third-party ratingprovider, Trustpilot, which confirms our ‘excellent’ rating.

Praise for swift and honest extinguisher service as well as cost savings

Parish administrator Michèle Lyon had become frustrated with the fire extinguisher service she was receiving for the Holy Trinity and St Marys churches in Guildford.

Having cancelled one contract when it became too expensive four years ago, she decided to use a local company. They came in at a lower cost initially but then prices started to rise and she found that she was being charged for unexpected ‘extras’. One example was an invoice charge for CO2 extinguisher horns, despite this being an integral part of any CO2 fire extinguisher.

Michèle then sought two new quotes but at the same time received the Parish Buying Newsletter promoting Safelincs, who supplies the CofE with fire and safety equipment as well as fire safety services through the Parish Buying website (www.parishbuying.co.uk *).

A Safelincs service engineer attended the two churches and found that the incumbent supplier wanted to replace equipment that didn’t need replacing and had been completely missing servicing of other extinguishers in the past. Furthermore, the company had issued fire extinguisher certificates for items that had not been inspected.

Safelincs was able to advise that certain extinguishers were superfluous and the equipment and servicing it now provides, through the Parish Buying website, is costing Michèle around half the cost of any other quote.

“Safelincs is providing a positive, swift, reliable and, above all, honest service,” says Michèle. “The prices are clearly published on the Parish Buying website and there are no hidden charges. Everything is transparent and I feel that I am in control of my costs now. Money is very tight everywhere at the moment and I am sure many other churches would benefit from the service they provide. I shall continue to use them and am about to buy a carbon monoxide alarm for the boiler room.”

Safelincs supplies over 3500 fire safety products and services, including nationwide extinguisher servicing.

*Parish Buying is the central purchasing organisation of the Church of England and Safelincs is the fire safety and H+S supplier for Parish Buying. Parishes and church organisations achieve significant cost savings when purchasing Safelincs services and products through Parish Buying.

Fire Extinguishers in Churches

Fire extinguishers in churches and cathedrals are important to protect the often invaluable historic artefacts and mostly wooden internal structures. However, the extinguishers must be chosen with care. A well publicised case, where the extinguishers became the problem rather than preventing one, was the vandalism caused by two teenagers in a church in Spalding in 2006. In this case a powder and a water extinguisher installed in the kitchenette were set off. The powder and the water reacted to form a slightly acidic mixture which formed a hard crust. Valuable church fixtures, including the organ had to be restored at a cost of £240,000.

Powder extinguishers, while being excellent on forecourts, engine rooms and car parks, where they are valued for their rapid knock-down of flames from a variety of sources, are not really suited for indoor locations. The fine powder can obstruct vision and lead to inhalation of the powder. The powder will also attack electronics, soft furnishings and causes damage to wood and metal, especially when moist.

What alternatives are there?

In principle, water based extinguishers (water, water spray, ‘dry’ water mist) and foams are suitable, although foams contain chemicals that might be harmful to metal and wood. Please note that water extinguishers with additives can also cause damage. CO2 extinguishers, while leaving no deposit, are not really suitable for the type of fire risks in churches and can unfortunately be misused to intimidate people with their roaring discharge and the massive temperature drop the discharge causes.

Where traditional extinguishers requiring annual servicing are required , the E-series ‘dry’ water mist extinguishers from Jewel are perfect, as they create a very fine mist with much smaller water mist particles than those generated by normal water spray extinguishers. These extinguishers are also suitable for all common fire risks found in a church, including electrical risks (even up to 1000V, as long as a safety distance of 1m is adhered to). The mist is so fine that the damage to paintings and structures is limited and no puddles are formed. The extinguisher can also be used on clothing, wall-hangings and carpets.

Where in-house servicing of the extinguishers is required, often to help reduce costs , the Britannia P50 maintenance free foam extinguisher can be installed instead. It is suitable for the majority of the fire risks found in churches, however, its deposits are harder to clean up and potentially corrosive. After the initial install and certification carried out by Safelincs, the extinguisher only requires yearly visual inspection by the Church Warden. No refill after five years is required and the extinguisher does not require a service engineer for ten years!