Prevent Arson & Protect Your Property

Religious Worship Centers

Arson is one of the leading causes of all commercial building fires. People associated with your place of worship can decrease the chances of arson by organizing and investing in a fire and crime prevention program. You and your organization can also take other measures to protect your facility from fire. Use this guide to learn more about risk reduction and fire prevention for your organization.

Why are Churches and Religious Organizations Particularly Vulnerable to Arson?

Most places of worship have predictable schedules. They also have multiple staff and volunteers in leadership positions that may often result in inconsistent security. Also, such facilities often become targets because of what they represent.

How Can You Help Reduce the Risk of Arson and Vandalism?

  • Keep doors and windows locked when the building is unoccupied.
  • Light all sides of the building and parking areas.
  • Trim shrubbery to prevent it from being used for hiding.
  • Remove loose material combustibles and trash from the property.
  • Have police routinely check premises.
  • Become involved in a "Neighborhood Watch" program.

Religious Worship Centers Community Awareness:

The Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service will work with each and every community in an effort to prevent/deter persons from burning religious places of worship in our community.

  • Have your members of the congregation check your the building daily. Leaders of congregations should appoint appropriate members to familiarize themselves with the risk assessment guidelines and work with community.
  • Report all suspicious persons, vehicles, or activities in or near your place of worship. The goal of this intiative is to involve the citizens that live in the immediate area of places of worship to unify and be trained on surveillance and observation methods that can be a deterrent to crime.
  • Encourage neighbors and church members to take note of strangers spending time in the neighborhood, both on foot or in cars; to record tag numbers of suspicious vehicles; and to inform the proper authorities of suspicious activities.
  • Alter activities at your church. Use it on different days and times. Schedule events and activities throughout the week.
  • Ask everyone living near your place of worship to keep an eye on the building. Involve the community.
  • When appropriate, check for proper identification from utility and service technicians seeking to gain access to the church facility.Remember vandalism and burglary may precede arson. Be vigilant.

Internal Security

  • Use properly installed deadbolt locks on all doors.
  • Windows that can be opened should have adequate locks.
  • Consider decorative iron protection for windows. Windows that are used for emergency exits must be able to open in case of emergency.
  • Solid wood or sheet metal faced doors provide extra security.
  • Install adequate fire burglar alarm system, preferably with a phone dialer.
  • Be sure to have a list of the individuas who have access to the building keys and change locks periodically.
  • Consider video surveillence.

External Security

  • Install lighting on the exterior as well as the entrance of the building. Install perimeter floodlighting.
  • Install motion-activated lighting near windows and doors.
  • Keep trees and other shrubs trimmed so that passing patrols can easily see the building.
  • If in a rural area, make sure that crops are far from the building to allow proper lighting.
  • Do not have signs block the view of the building.
  • Many religious buildings have basement entrances that are hidden. Secure these entrances by locking them when a gathering or worship is not in session.
  • Ladders, stairways and other fire escapes that allow access to the roof should be secured.
  • Use white paint or light colored brick to construct the building of worship so that human figure can easily be identified in the dark.
  • Consider fencing the areas that are not easily visible to patrols and neighbors.
  • Consider video surveillence.


  • Install night lighting.
  • Secure buildings with strong locks on windows and doors.
  • Eliminate woodpiles, paper, and leaves that are around the church that could fuel a fire.
  • Secure flammable liquids and other materials inside the church that could fuel a fire.
  • Limit the number of entrances into the building while still providing adequate emergency exits.
  • Be alert to unusual activities in the neighborhood.
  • Install a central station security and fire detection system.
  • Keep valuables locked up and out of sight.
  • Prevent unauthorized access to the roof, fire escapes, and stairwells.
  • Assign personnel to secure the building.
  • Limit keys to management only.
  • Leave some interior lights on at night.