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Property Protection In A COVID-19 World

Police warn of increased crime at church properties

With many churches around the country still unable to open their doors due to COVID-19 restrictions, we would like to again bring to the forefront of your mind the importance of protecting your church buildings and contents.

This week, we have received information from the Police who have indicated increased crime activity around unoccupied buildings and the need for churches to be actively checking on their properties.

Our claims department can also attest to similar increases in claims for burglary related incidents.  

In addition, severe weather on the East Coast of Australia has seen many church buildings damaged, some with damage that has gone unnoticed for several days or weeks due to the property not been regularly checked.

The following communication was sent out a few weeks ago, but considering the information received from the Police, we felt it timely to reinforce this important message.

A building which is either temporarily closed, or permanently unoccupied is exposed to increased risk such as vandalism, burglary or arson.

Aside from your people, your church property is one of your most valuable assets that needs to be protected.

Allow us to highlight some key areas to consider in the security and protection of your property.

Every single one of the following risks share one common risk management strategy – regular attendance at your property to check for loss or damage.

These checks need to be more than a cursory drive by. Physically checking that doors and windows are secure, and that the interior of the building has not been disturbed or damaged is key.

Burglary and Theft

It is common knowledge among criminal circles that churches are an excellent source of electrical, computer, sound, audio visual and musical equipment.  All these items are easy to remove, and even easier to move on.

Whilst properties are being used less frequently during the week, or permanently unoccupied the following key areas should be addressed:

  • Ensure the perimeter of your building is secure.  Doors and windows are locked and security systems (if you have one) are fully operational.  External gates are locked.
  • Consider installing a monitored alarm or CCTV cameras at your facility.
  • Check that security lighting is operational.
  • Trim trees or shrubs which may obstruct view to entrances or exits.
  • Lock away portable electronic equipment. The adage out of sight, out of mind is often an effective risk management strategy.  Alternatively, remove easily portable and valuable electronic or musical equipment to private homes or professional storage facilities.
  • Request members who store personal equipment at the church (e.g. musical instruments, computer equipment etc) to secure these at home when not being used.
  • If your equipment is stored in a trailer, ensure that the trailer is kept at a secure location, either in a locked garage, behind a lockable gate or fitted with an anti-theft locking device.
  • Be aware of who has keys or access codes for your property and seek to temporarily minimise the number of authorised people during this time.
  • Establish good neighbourhood watch relationships with property owners around you.  Be alert to suspicious behaviour and report unusual activity to the Police.

Vandalism

Unoccupied premises paired with school holiday breaks are often the target of vandalism or malicious damage.

Many of the same risk management strategies to ward off burglary and theft will also be effective in minimising damage to your property by vandals.

Fire and Arson

Unoccupied buildings can be a target for anti-social behaviour, squatters or malicious acts.

Electrical faults can also go unnoticed and may be the cause of a fire.

  • Ensure that intruder alarms are operational
  • Ensure that fire alarms and sprinkler systems are serviced and operational
  • Turn off and unplug unnecessary electrical appliances, heating and cooling units etc
  • Remove potential fuel sources from the perimeter of your buildings (eg rubbish bins, cardboard recycling)
  • Ensure that flammable liquids or gas bottles are safely stored

Storm and Water Damage

Australian weather patterns can be unpredictable at best, with short, sharp weather events often the most damaging and expensive to repair.

Likewise, unidentified water leaks from toilets, kitchen appliances or storm water pipes can cause significant damage.

Now is the time to ensure that your property is well maintained.

  • Check that gutters and drains are clear from leaf litter and other obstructions (e.g. balls from the last youth gathering)
  • Overhanging trees/branches are cleared
  • Roof sheets or tiles are in good order.  Look for areas of rust, poorly sealed flashing around air conditioning units or vents, broken or dislodged roof tiles
  • Following any significant weather event, promptly attend your site to check for damage (both internally and externally).  Water damaged plaster or carpet if unattended will quickly cause significant mould contamination which will substantially impact a claim.
  • If practical, isolate water supply to appliances such as dishwashers, hot water units, bathrooms etc.

Check Your Property Values

If you have your church building or contents protected through ACS Insurance Services, now is the perfect time to ensure that you have nominated an appropriate replacement value for all your assets.  You should list your buildings and contents for an amount equal to what it would cost you to replace on a ‘new for old’ basis.  Under declaring the value of your property can result in issues should a claim arise, and further impact your organisation financially.

If necessary, engage the services of a professional property valuer to establish a true replacement cost for your assets.

There are many online tools available which may also assist in providing a guide to the replacement value of a property.  Please contact our office for further information in this regard.

Unoccupied Exclusion

In the beginning of this article we stressed the importance of regularly attending your property to check for loss or damage.  Not only does this allow you to quickly identify and manage a loss, it also avoids claims being denied due to an Unoccupancy Exclusion which exists as part of most commercial property protections.

Your ACS Mutual Property Protection contains the following exclusion:

The Mutual shall not be liable for loss, destruction of or damage to any property protected hereunder caused or contributed to by any alteration after the commencement of this Protection:

c) whereby any premises containing any property protected hereunder shall be come unoccupied, and so remain for a period of more than thirty (30) days;

To avoid this exclusion being applied to your protection, we strongly advocate that churches engage a team to regularly attend their properties to check for loss or damage. 

ACS Financial have been serving Australian churches and ministries for over 25 years, and are passionate about serving your organisation and ensuring that you are equipped and appropriately protected to carry out your mission in your communities.  If this article has raised any questions for you, please contact our Insurance Team on 1800 646 777 and they will be more than happy to assist you further.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website reflect some of the commercial aspects and potential risks/obligations for your Church, School or Organisation. The information is given as a guide only and does not represent a definitive list or legal view in any way shape or form.  You are advised to seek your own professional advice on all your individual needs.
ACS Financial Pty Ltd. (ACN 062 448 122) (AFSL 247388)

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