Safer Places of Worship

Fire Prevention

In addition to meeting compulsory requirements, there a number of precautions that places of worship can take to help reduce the risk of fire.

Please also refer the fire safety guidance provided in this site.

Heating systems, whether portable or fixed, should be kept in good condition and regularly serviced.

Fuel oil storage tanks

Tanks should be located with a catch pit or bund equivalent to 110% of the capacity of the tank to retain the contents in the event of a leak. Where fitted externally the catch pit should be fitted with a self-closing rainwater drain valve.

Tanks should be inspected regularly for signs of rusting and leaks and remedial action taken if necessary.

Portable heaters

It is recommended that you do not rely on heating your place of worship with portable heaters. If there is no other option then it is important to ensure that they are used safely.

It is advisable to consider the following points:

  • placing a portable heater where they may obstruct exit routes and locating them within 1 metre of any combustible materials or furniture is highly inadvisable;
  • it is inadvisable to place heaters on combustible floors or surfaces when the temperature of the cover exceeds 120ºC;
  • it is good practice to avoid leaving heaters unattended particularly outside opening hours;
  • guarding heaters will offer protection; the use of heaters with exposed elements should be avoided;
  • trying to move any portable heater while it is still alight / switched on could result in injury – always turn it off and allow it to cool first;
  • good maintenance of heaters will assist in preventing malfunction and possible risk to people and property;
  • heaters should be used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Electric Heaters

  • electric heaters should be British Electrotechnical Approvals Board (BEAB) approved and should be tested annually by a competent person;

Gas Heaters

  • the cylinder supplying gas to a heater should be located outside the building and approved pipe work used for supply. If this is not possible they must be located within a well-ventilated secure area;
  • fuel stocks should be kept to a minimum and stored in a secure location away from sources of ignition;
  • when changing a gas heater cylinder try to do this in open air. Otherwise, open windows and doors to increase ventilation. Check that the valve on the empty cylinder is closed before disconnecting it and do not turn on the valve of the new cylinder until it is securely connected to the heater;
  • store spare cylinders upright and outside whenever possible. Never store them in basements, under stairs or in cupboards containing electric meters or equipment.

For more information and using bottled gas safely please visit

Kitchens are potentially very dangerous places. The use of open flames, liquids and oils, together with the presence of combustible materials combine to make this area a high fire risk.

Cooking equipment should be sited where, should they catch fire, they would not obstruct the exit route. Cooking equipment and refrigerators should be regularly serviced.

  • Fats/Oils - If using a deep fat fryer ensure the thermostat is set at the correct temperature and operating correctly. Remember to change the oil regularly as overused oil can ignite more easily as it degrades.

  • Extraction fans - must be cleaned at regular intervals. Filters should be cleaned at least every two weeks and ducts should be professionally cleaned annually.

  • Electrical appliances - Do not use multi-point adaptors, each appliance should have its own socket.

  • Housekeeping - is also of prime importance. Safe end of day procedures must be adopted to ensure that all equipment is switched off individually and made safe.

  • Cooking apparatus - should not be left unattended at any time while in use.


Chimneys and flues should be swept at least once a year. If wood is used as a fuel this will need to be done more regularly.


Decorations should not be fixed, where they could potentially fall onto an ignition source.


Rubbish and unwanted articles should not be allowed to accumulate either inside or outside the building.


The organ and organ blower should always be switched off, when not in use.

Camping Equipment

Camping equipment should not be stored, or left to dry, on or close to heating pipes.

Flammable Materials

Ensure that matches, candles, lighters, fuel, motor mowers and the like are securely stored.

Incense and Candles

Extreme care must be exercised when burning incense or candles. Charcoal and thuribles must be cooled following use and before they are returned for storage. An effective candle snuffer should be used to extinguish candles.


Some plastic materials, particularly polyurethane foam, are flammable and will produce highly toxic fumes. Hassocks and kneelers with damaged covers should disposed of or repaired as soon as possible.

Wax Polish

Rags impregnated with wax polish may be prone to spontaneous ignition and should, therefore, be kept in lidded metal containers