Get ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ for Winter

by Gerry Lynch last modified 28 Nov, 2016 05:16 PM

Insurer urges churches to be winter-ready before the cold really takes hold

Churches across the Diocese are being advised to take three simple steps to prepare themselves for all that winter can throw at them this year. With the cold spell now well underway and the first of the seasonal storms already taking hold, specialist insurance group, Ecclesiastical, advises the churches it insures across the diocese to get ‘Ready, Steady, Go!’ for winter.

There are 571 Church of England churches across the Diocese of Salisbury, and specialist insurer Ecclesiastical is the predominant provider of insurance for these buildings. The majority of the Diocese’s churches are Grade I or II* listed and represent an important part of England’s irreplaceable built heritage.

Storm damage is the most frequent claim made by churches in 2015 to Ecclesiastical. Winter storms can be particularly damaging. Six churches in the Diocese reported wind-related damage in 2015, including damage caused to roofs and windows and water ingress.

Flooding is thankfully a rare event for churches in the Diocese – there was one reported flood in 2015. However, when a church does flood, the damage caused is considerable. Across England, over 70 Church of England churches, and associated halls, plus a cathedral were impacted by floods in 2015, with cost-related damage coming in at almost £3 million.

Ecclesiastical’s director of church operations, Michael Angell, said, “Churches across the diocese are gearing up for the busy Christmas season when visitor numbers and services are often at their height. Through following three easy to remember steps, you can make preparations, manage church buildings and grounds as winter progresses and know what urgent action to take should your church be seriously affected by winter weather.

“Church wardens and volunteers do an outstanding job of taking care of our churches across Wiltshire and Dorset. We provide guidance every year on winter readiness and resilience. Our guidance this year is a reminder of the essential tasks to complete before winter really takes hold and what to do when the weather threatens or causes damage.”

The Ven Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne, said, “Taking some relatively simple measures now can make a big difference later on in the season to lessening costly repairs or damage caused by wintry weather. Churches are the centre of many of our communities in Dorset and Wiltshire and though many of them have stood for centuries, we should not be complacent about the need to make them more resilient to the ravages of winter.”

Ecclesiastical has produced a handy guide for church wardens to refer to over the coming months. Its recommendations fall into three stages – Ready, Steady and Go.

Ready – being Ready is doing the essential buildings maintenance now so that churches are resilient to the coming weather. Ecclesiastical advises churches to clear gutters, gullies and drains; check for loose or missing slates or tiles and clear grounds including paths of dead or diseased trees and fallen branches. Ready also includes understanding the layout of heating and water pipes and for churches to know what to do should pipes become frozen or burst. While flooding is rare for churches, they should have a plan in place for managing floodwater and for moving church contents away from it.

Steady – Steady is keeping up the maintenance regime over winter and preparing churches for the larger than usual numbers of people visiting over the Christmas and New Year period. Ecclesiastical advises churches to continue to clear gutters, gullies and drains of leaves and other debris and to keep pathways clear. Churches should have an action plan in place for people to safely access the church during icy or snowy weather, i.e. know who and in what way snow and ice is cleared to make paths safe to use. Churches should keep an eye on weather forecasts and be ready to deploy their action plans should they be threatened with flooding or heavy snow.

Go – Churches should know what urgent action to take when bad weather hits. Even if the worse should happen, Ecclesiastical points out that there are some useful steps to take should a church be impacted by bad weather like gently thawing out frozen pipes, isolating the water flow when there are burst pipes, moving vulnerable contents to higher levels and knowing who to call and what to do and what not to do during a major weather event.  

The guide produced by Ecclesiastical has detailed information with advice and tips for anyone concerned about their church’s readiness for winter this year.  For information and advice, churches should contact Ecclesiastical or visit www.ecclesiastical.com

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