NASHVILLE – The Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) Fire Investigations Section and the Tennessee Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) are joining forces to highlight National Arson Awareness Week (May 7-13) with special focus on the 2017 theme of “Preventing Arson at Houses of Worship.”
This year’s nationwide campaign emphasizes the importance of a collaborative effort with fire and emergency service departments, law enforcement, insurance companies and the justice system to help reduce the horrific crime of arson at churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and chapels.
“While it’s impossible to prevent all arson crimes, basic steps can be taken to reduce the chance your worship center is targeted,” said State Fire Marshal and Commerce & Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak. “In addition, the installation of automatic fire detection systems and automatic sprinkler systems can help protect valuable assets, lives and property in the unfortunate event arson should occur.”
Arson destroys more than the buildings used as houses of worship; it can devastate a community, resulting in the decline of the neighborhood through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.
The SFMO’s Fire Investigations Section assists agencies like the ATF in investigating fires statewide.
From 2010 to present the State Fire Marshal’s Office Fire Investigations section has investigated 52 fires at houses of worship; of those 52, 25 were deemed arson. According to the ATF Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS), in the past decade there have been 82 houses of worship incidents in Tennessee.
“Oftentimes, arson is a crime of violence by placing innocent people’s lives and property in harm’s way,” said Steve Gerido, ATF Special Agent in Charge. “Something as simple as a locked door could be enough to deter the opportunity by an arsonist. By making Tennesseans aware of ways to safeguard their worship centers, we hope to help reduce the occurrence of arson and its devastating effect.”
The SFMO and the ATF share the following arson prevention tips for houses of worship compiled by U.S. Fire Administration:
Illuminate exterior and entrances – Arsonists, like burglars, fear light. Install lights, covering all sides of the building. Motion-activated lighting should be placed near the entrances. Interior lights on timers give the illusion that a house of worship is occupied.
Clear things like shrubbery that block the view of the building – Trim or remove shrubbery that blocks the view of the building from the street. During the growing season, bushes and trees may need to be trimmed frequently.
Clean up –Remove excess vegetation and piles of leaves. Clean around your building, removing unused and unneeded paper, trash, cleaning supplies, partial cans of paint, and other materials that could become kindling and fuel a fire for an arsonist.
Install smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system – The combination of working smoke alarms and home fire sprinklers reduces the likelihood of death from fire by more than 82 percent. The most effective fire loss prevention and reduction measure for both life and property is the installation and maintenance of fire sprinklers.
Keep doors and windows locked –Equip external doors with code-compliant hardware and secure them when the facility isn’t occupied. The best type of window hardware has spring-loaded bolts that insert through the window frame into the wall frame. Limit and track which members of the congregation have keys and alarm codes.
Clean up – Minimize the quantity of combustibles in storage and dispose of materials you don’t need.
Establish an arson watch program. For information on how, download the USFA’s Community Arson Prevention kit.
Get your congregation involved. Plan a “Safety Day” to learn about fire safety and crime prevention.
Issue a resolution or proclamation to declare your community’s commitment to preventing arson in houses of worship.
Use free brochures, handouts or posters to spread the word about arson prevention.
For additional arson awareness and prevention resources, visit the U.S. Fire Administration’s website.
– See more at: https://www.tn.gov/news/50370#sthash.OECKjI2l.dpuf