Protecting Your Church from Arson

February 16, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Posted in Insurance, Religious Institution, Safety | Leave a comment

Did you know that arson is the leading cause of fires in the United States, resulting in more than $1 billion in property loss each year?

Arson is one of the leading causes of fires along with open flames, electrical and lightning. Churches that have been victims of arson, incur on average, in excess of $450,000 in damages.

Why are Churches Targets for Arson?

Churches are often targets for arson because the buildings are frequently unoccupied and church schedules are very predictable. Security systems in many religious buildings also are often insufficient or absent. 

According to research from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS), sprinkler systems were not present in 95 percent of churches reporting fires, yet there was a 47 percent reduction in damage per church fire when automatic suppression systems were present.

However, not every Church can afford these systems. Listed below are preventive measures that can be done to protect your congregation without breaking the bank.

  • Always make sure all windows and doors are locked when the building is unoccupied.
  • Limit  the number of keys to the building, and make sure that all keys  are returned if an employee or volunteer leaves the church.  Locks should be changed occasionally.
  • All doors and windows should have adequate locks, jams and/or deadbolts.
  • Keep exterior building, door and parking lot lights on from sunset to sunrise. Remember to change the lighting timers with Daylight Savings Time.
  • Keep an interior light visible from outside lit at night or consider the installation of motion-activated lighting near entryways and windows.
  • Maintain shrubs and trees, ensuring that they are trimmed around doors and windows.
  • Establish a “Church Watch” program, enlist  volunteers & neighbors to check  the property at various times of the week and report any suspicious activity.
  • Reach out to local law-enforcement and ask them to patrol your property at odd hours when the building is not occupied.
  • Keep the grounds of the church free from debris and garbage. Have tools and ladders secured in a locked area.

For additional information please feel free to contact us at 631.403.4107 or on our website at NSAinsure/Churches and Synogues.

Are Your Emergency Evacuation Procedures in Place?

April 21, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Posted in Religious Institution | Leave a comment

While crowds of people assemble at churches and other houses of worship each week, it is relatively uncommon for churches to think about or practice how they will evacuate their buildings in the event of an emergency.  Given the number of elderly, disabled and children that attend religious services and activities implementing an Evacuation plan is a necessity.

When planning your Emergency Evacuation it is a good idea to involve your local fire officials.  First assess your facility and the means of egress, or escape from the building.  A means of egress should always be the nearest exit.  Remember evacuation paths should never be through high hazard areas, such as kitchens, boiler rooms or mechanical areas.  Make sure all routes to exits are clear of obstructions; that all emergency exit signs are in place and well lit. The emergency lighting units must provide adequate illumination if the power were to go out; appropriate panic hardware should be installed in the doors and signs need to be posted showing the emergency evacuation routes. Elevators should never be used in case of a fire.

It is also very important that you inspect all emergency equipment such as fire alarms, smoke & heat detectors and insure that they are in good working order.  It is also good practice to make sure that appropriate fire extinguishers are in place throughout your facility and are inspected regularly.

Your emergency procedures should include assigning responsibilities to all appropriate staff & volunteers including ushers, pastoral staff, any facility staff, ministry leaders and workers.  Designated responsibilities should be assigned to assist with the elderly, small children and the disabled in exiting the building safely. A safe gathering place outside the building should be established and communicated to all. With regards to the children a plan should be communicated to the parents where to meet up with their children if an evacuation should occur.

Once your procedures have been established, training of both those involved in the evacuation plan and the congregation as a whole should take place. Keeping the congregation aware of the exit routes and the planned evacuation strategies is extremely important.  Those with specific responsibilities should be trained on their duties. Planned emergency evacuation drills should be conducted to avoid any confusion and panic if a true emergency should take place. Having the local fire officials involved may be helpful and will provide insight and feedback on any improvements or changes that may be needed.  The local fire officials are always glad to participate as in the event of an actual emergency the more prepared you are the easier it is to have a safe and successful evacuation. Remember the practice drills should not only be carried out during worship service but during any ongoing activities.

Never take for granted that when an alarm goes off that there is not an emergency.  Many times an alarm may be triggered by candles or incents.  Following procedures will always secure a safe outcome if the alarm is ringing for a true emergency.

A little planning goes a long way.

Are You Fulfilling Your Responsibility as a Board Member?

March 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Posted in Religious Institution | 1 Comment

As a church board member there are many obligations to fulfill during the course of a year. Your responsibilities often reach beyond the spiritual well-being of your congregation to things like insurance. 

This project can be one of the most valuable tasks you perform all year. Protecting your religious institution comes down to more than just dollars and cents; it is also about proper, specialized and high-quality insurance coverage and an insurance agent that is an expert in writing this class of business.

 Important Factors to Consider

 Building and Property

  • Has the square footage changed?
  • Have building updates or improvements been made in the past year? Are you planning to do so?
  • Has there been a change in business personal property?
  • Have structures been purchased, sold or rented?

 Workers Compensation

  • Have staffing levels changed?
  • Do class codes need to be updated or changed?
  • Is appropriate documentation maintained and up-dated for any independent contractors? 
  • Are you requesting Certificates of Insurance for all?

 Liability

  • Are there newly added special events that need special coverage considerations?
  • Do they lease or loan space to outside organizations?
  • Is there a daycare, preschool or school established onsite? 
  • Do you have Umbrella coverage?

 Additional Coverage

  • Have changes been made to the automobile schedule?
  • Is the directors & officers coverage rated for the appropriate number of participants, if applicable?
  • Is the umbrella coverage adequate?
  • Do mortgagees need to be added or deleted from a policy?

We understand that updating your insurance policy might not always be a priority for discussion among your board members, but it should be a discussion with your insurance church specialist every time decisions are made that affect your exposures to a potential risk.  

Remember, in the event of a loss, a properly tailored, updated and well understood insurance policy may be your best friend.

This information is intended for educational purposes only.  As always, please feel free to comment on this or any other NSA Group blog post.

Is Your Church Ready for a Workers’ Compensation Audit?

March 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm | Posted in Religious Institution | Leave a comment

The thought of a Workers’ Compensation Audit for your Church may seem like a confusing, time consuming and somewhat cumbersome feat; however preparation is the key for an accurate and positive audit experience.

For starters knowing what a Workers’ Compensation Premium Audit Is

When a policy is issued, usually on a one year term, the premium is based on the annual compensation that is anticipated at the beginning of the year. The premium audit is the process that determines how much the compensation has changed by year end so a final premium paid can be made proportionate to the actual compensation amount.

Most insurance carriers use the following information in determining the workers’ compensation premiums.

  • The amount of payroll generated by the employer
  • The classification assigned to the employee based on business operations
  • The past loss experience of the employer

 Information to have ready for your Audit

  • Job Descriptions documenting your Employee’s Duties
  • Employee Tax information

             – Form 1099 for any employee who has an employment relationship

             – Employer’s Quarterly tax return form 941

             – Employer’s Annual Federal Tax return form 944

             – Accounting records of payroll – Make sure that the payroll information is related to the term of your workers’ compensation policy.

              – Any Financial transactions related to employees – this includes housing, travel, or any other expenses made on behalf of an employee.  Compensation not included in payroll should be broken out by each individual employee.

               – A listing of all Contractor payments, including general and independent contractors, visiting pastors and or a music/worship team.  Certificates of insurance for all contractors must be available for the auditor.  Failure to provide a certificate may result in an additional charge to you on your policy.

This information is intended for educational purposes only.  As always, please feel free to comment on this or any other NSA Group blog post.

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