Why Houses of Worship Need the Right Insurance Policy

DPSI
// December 6, 2017

Religious organizations are sacred places for members and guests, and maintaining proper insurance coverage is imperative to protecting the mission of each place of worship. The truth is that many houses of worship operate on small budgets, which means even minor losses could be devastating. Therefore, it’s important to understand the various risk exposures that houses of worship face every day and the risk management techniques that can help mitigate or prevent a loss.

From a property perspective, the most common types of risk exposures are fire, storm damage and pipe bursts. Fires can be caused by faulty or outdated wiring or even arson.  However, hiring an electrician to update wiring can help prevent electrical fires, and installing proper security fencing can deter arsonists. Candlelight, which can be an integral part of worship and prayer activities, can also lead to a fire. Instead, flameless candles can provide the ambiance of soft candle light without the risk of using an open flame.

A property loss from storm damage can be minimized by routine building maintenance.  Keeping nearby trees trimmed to prevent them from falling and completing necessary roof repairs will help protect a house of worship from property damage. Securing windows and doors in the event of high winds, and using sandbags for potential flooding can also help with reducing the severity of property damage.

Another common property risk exposure is pipes bursting. The main cause of pipes bursting is freezing conditions, but it can also be due to age or damage to the pipes. The aftermath can be severe, so maintaining proper heat in winter months, ensuring pipes are well-insulated and hiring a plumber to inspect and repair any areas of wear or tear can help prevent major problems.

Houses of worship face general liability risk exposures as well. Slip and fall, sexual abuse and counseling are the most common examples. Trips and stumbles can occur anywhere; however, maintaining parking lots and sidewalks by repairing cracks and clearing snow and ice are simple ways to mitigate a loss. Utilizing “wet floor” signs or safety tape and having spills cleaned up as soon as possible can also help to prevent this type of loss.

Many houses of worship go to court each year to defend against abuse and molestation allegations. It is important to ensure a strict selection process for volunteers and employees and certify that proper security measures are in place to prevent the abuse. Background checks should be conducted, prior employment and personal references should be checked and minors should never be left alone with any adult for any church-sponsored activity. Procedures should be in place for the supervision of all volunteers and employees.

The general liability risk exposure of counseling services is often overlooked. Counseling services are typically provided by clergy and offered free of charge to members of the house of worship. In these cases, the house of worship opens itself up to the same exposures of any other professional counselor. Clergy should refer members to professional counselors when appropriate and have procedures in place to protect the confidentiality of members. These changes can help prevent lawsuits for counseling errors and omissions.

The Devon Park Specialty Houses of Worship product could be used to safeguard against the property and general liability exposures that are unique to these religious organizations.

Some product features include:

  • Specialization in community, inner-city, start-ups or storefront operations for all faiths and denominations
  • Ability to consider risks with additional exposures, such as owned day cares, soup kitchens, food banks and thrift store operations
  • Property limits up to $10 million and general liability limits for up to 100,000 square feet
  • Optional pastoral professional and abuse and molestation coverages are available for up to $1 million

Contact your Commercial Lines Underwriter for more details about our Houses of Worship product.

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As always, thank you for your support and business!

Cheryl-RussellContact Cheryl Ryan,
Executive Vice President, Division Leader | 844-438-6775 Ext. 2582

Danielle ConnerWritten by Danielle Conner
December 7, 2017

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