As we enter a new year and winter weather sweeps into the country, bringing colder temperatures, rain and the risk of snow and storms, Ecclesiastical Insurance is encouraging churches across Britain to take steps to help prevent damage from happening.
Each year insurers see a rise in claims during the winter months of December, January and February, especially when storms hit.
During recent years extreme winter weather has caused widespread damage to properties across the UK with the average insurance claim being between £20,000 and £40,000, according to the Association of British Insurers.
One of the biggest risks at this time of the year is flooding. The Environment Agency has already warned of a wet and windy January and February, which comes after 8,000 properties were damaged by flooding during the same time period in 2020.
Ecclesiastical’s risk management director, Jo Whyman, said there are steps that can be taken to help prevent flooding – but, with 1 in 6 properties in England and Wales at risk of being flooded in the future, being prepared is the best course of action.
He said: “People living in an area that might be susceptible to any form of flooding should think about what they would do in the event of a flood. Developing a flood plan for your church, setting out how to respond if there is flooding, is a really important step.
“Think about ways to prevent water from entering the church, such as flood barriers and ensure any gullies or drainage channels are cleared out. If a flood warning is issued try to move valuable items out of reach of flood levels and keep up to date with the latest alerts from the Met Office or the Environment Agency.
Think about ways to prevent water from entering the church, such as flood barriers and cleared out gullies. If a flood warning is issued try to move valuable items out of reach of flood levels and keep up to date with the latest alerts from the Met Office or the Environment Agency.
“Make sure you have a list of key contacts such as the emergency services, an electrician, a Gas Safe Contractor and your insurer in a safe and waterproof place.
It isn’t just the threat of localised flooding that poses a risk for churches though, with escape of water into property being among the most common causes of damage. Between 2015 and 2020, 5 per cent of church claims made to Ecclesiastical were as a direct result of escape of water. Water may enter into the property as a result of damaged roofs and blocked guttering while water pipes within the church may also be at increased risk of freeze and bursting.
The cost and inconvenience caused by a burst pipe can be considerable. The average cost of repairs is almost £3,000.
Even small leaks can release gallons of water leading to significant water damage but risk can be mitigated by taking some simple low cost actions.
If no one is entering a church property during a period of temporary closure, turn off any water supplies at the mains and if possible drain down the water system. If this isn’t appropriate try to maintain a minimum temperature of 7°C to prevent freezing pipes – insulating pipes can also help.
Other steps include:
- Regularly inspect water tanks and pipes to check for any leaks if the building is still in use
- Don’t ignore minor leaks such as dripping taps
- Check on roof coverings and gutters. Make sure roofs are in good condition and gutters are regularly cleared
- Make sure heating systems are regularly serviced and that the frost thermostat is working properly. Maintenance of buildings is permitted where this is reasonably necessary. Please refer to the Government guidelines for further information
- Knowing how to switch off the water supply in the event of a leak
The colder weather also increases the risk of slips and trips on premises. It is important that churches make sure people visiting can safely access the building by making sure paths that may be affected by winter weather are safe and well lit.
Ecclesiastical has also developed a Risk Calendar to support churches to consider some of the risks to their buildings throughout the rest of the year, including having electrical wiring checked to help prevent fire and reviewing security arrangements.
The calendar is designed to identify key risks throughout the year to help churches protect themselves and churchgoers from harm.
Although the latest set of nationwide restrictions has meant some churches have closed, those that remain open for worship should make sure that they keep churchgoers safe by following government guidance. The Ecclesiastical website also has information on how to make churches COVID-19 secure.
Michael Angell, church operations director at Ecclesiastical: “Extreme weather events are becoming more regular, which is another challenge to overcome on top of the risk of water leaks in premises.
“We know that escape of water incidents can be hugely distressing for our customers and in some cases can cause irreparable damage to historic buildings. Our claims teams are always on hand to help, even during the current pandemic – but it is better to prevent losses from happening.
“By taking these recommended steps you can reduce the risk of water damage to your premises and keep your church safe this winter.”
To help churches through the latest UK-wide lockdown, Ecclesiastical has made temporary cover enhancements relating to unoccupied premises. The full details of these and a full list of the advice on steps to take to protect church properties from the risk of water damage, and the risk calendar, can be found on the Ecclesiastical website at www.ecclesiastical.com