The burning of a house of worship not only devastates the affected congregation, but wounds the entire community. Whether the motivation behind the arson is hate or reckless vandalism, a congregation views it as an attack on their beliefs and values.
Arson can rob a congregation of its valuable assets, lives and property, and destroys more than just the buildings used as houses of worship. It can devastate a community, resulting in the decline of neighborhoods through increased insurance premiums, loss of business revenue, and a decrease in property values.
The Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnership joined with the U.S. Fire Administration, the Department of Justice and others to help the faith community protect themselves from these sinister acts of hate. The effort resulted in a national partnership for Arson Awareness Week with the theme of “Arson Prevention at Houses of Worship.”
Houses of worship are particularly vulnerable to fire damage because they’re often unoccupied for long periods of time, and in many cases, in rural areas. Rural properties will generally sustain more severe damage – even with an accidental fire – since discovery and response time may be delayed.
Three steps you can take to prevent arson at your house of worship are:
- Clear things like shrubbery that block the view of the building.
- Clean up and remove anything that could fuel a fire for an arsonist.
- Establish an arson watch program.
We also encourage you to use our free brochures, handouts, and posters to spread the word about arson prevention and encourage partnerships with your local fire service year round. I invite you to use all of our free trainings and resources made available from federal partners.
Together we can help prevent arson at houses of worship. Together we can ensure every faith community knows how they can be best prepared for disasters. Together we will help keep America safe.