Cold weather risks and precautions
Cold weather often causes the same common issues for churches. Here's an overview of the types of risk and how to address them.
A well-maintained heating system is very important to the efficient running of a church however, a poorly-maintained system can present risks to safety.
Most churches will have a system powered by either mains gas or fuel oil, stored in an external tank. Both require an annual service by a suitably qualified engineer.
During recent years, we have all become more aware of the potential for poorly-maintained heating systems to produce fumes. Carbon monoxide is particularly dangerous as it is odourless. Installing a carbon monoxide detector is a simple way of managing this risk – they are quite common in homes and are relatively inexpensive. One is probably sufficient for most Methodist churches.
Some churches supplement their heating with portable heaters powered by cylinders of liquid petroleum gas (LPG). These are not recommended as they pose an increased fire risk and if there is a fire in the church, emergency services will be wary of entering if they know there are LPG cylinders inside which could explode.
There is also the risk of children or vandals entering the church and interfering with the cylinders. If your church does need to use them, think carefully about where you site them. Consideration should be given to using other forms of portable heaters.
Under current legislation, anyone with an oil tank is required to have a drip tray or a bund – a protective wall or embankment – beneath the tank to capture any oil that leaks.
For Methodist Churches, a common problem we see with heating systems is water leaks. Pipes burst in cold weather as the water inside them freezes; when the ice thaws, water pours into the church damaging the fabric of the building as well as furnishings, books, carpets and electrical equipment. In order to prevent this, we recommend a regular inspection of the church’s plumbing system by an engineer registered with the Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers.