Security & Protection of Property

Church Councils/Management Committees have a responsibility to protect the Church, its members and church property. All reasonable precautions should be taken to prevent initial loss, damage or liability. Failure to take all reasonable care to protect any property, may result in the loss being excluded altogether or an increase in the excess payable (eg. keys left on the premises rather than in a locked safe = $1,000 excess would be applied).

The media continually reports on accidents resulting in property damage and/or personal injury due to negligence. Because of the pain and suffering to people and the substantial court awards being made, it is essential that risks be suitably managed and accidents minimised. Risk assessments and regular property inspections should be carried out. Refer to “Hazard Management”.

Access to Keys

It is important for your Church Council to know who has keys to church buildings and sheds. We recommend a “key register” be established to ensure that only people who need keys have them. When no longer required, keys must be returned to the person responsible for the key register. Synod’s Insurance Services office, strongly discourage leaving keys on the premises. If keys MUST be left on the premises they must be locked in nothing less than a secure safe.
Keys should not be labelled with name of building/premises. Colour coding may be helpful.
Insurance payouts will not be made for replacement of keys or locks unless Synod’s insurer is satisfied that there are extenuating circumstances.
Digital locks (key pads) are a good alternative to keyed locks. It is best to provide a different code to each employee/volunteer and, upon termination of one’s employment or voluntary service, their code be deleted. When hiring premises out to third parties, a temporary code should be given and then deleted afterwards.
Users of premises must be confined to areas hired (toilets excepted)
Access to other areas must be controlled by locking gates/doors.

Building Security

  • It is essential that all activities on church properties are monitored to ensure the security of people within.
  • The appropriate church leader(s) should be aware of occupation and use of the premises at any given time and ensure that security provisions are in place to effect personal safety.
  • Leaders and participants in programs should have access to a telephone for use in the event of an emergency. If a leader is aware of an unsafe situation developing with an intruder, they should contact the police.
  • Do not work in a building alone, particularly at night. However, if this is unavoidable, make sure you advise family members/friends of your whereabouts. Check doors & windows are locked – premises are secure.

Contents Inventory

An inventory of contents items should be compiled when reviewing sums insured or in the event of a loss. An inventory should list the make, model, serial number and purchase price of valuables. It should be kept by the Secretary, Property Officer or a nominated person off site. Photos are valuable evidence of church assets and a copy also be kept offsite in case of fire etc. Items should be added to the list as purchased and the list be reviewed annually. Copies of content inventories are generally not required by Synod’s Insurance Services unless requested by the church’s insurer.

Contents/Valuables belonging to Third Parties

Privately owned property stored on church premises are not covered by the Church’s insurance policies and are left at the owners own risk! 

It is important to understand that there is no automatic insurance cover for privately owned goods, musical instruments, furniture, electronic equipment or valuables left on church premises. Insurance Services would need to be notified and obtain agreement with our insurer if the goods could be endorsed onto our policy before an event if you ‘assume responsibility’ for private property which is to be left in, and used by the church for an extended period of time.

The Church has no “insurable interest “ in goods they don’t own. If our insurer agreed to cover the goods, there would be an extra premium charged by the insurer to the congregation/organisation. This would also include items loaned to the congregation, but cover is not automatic and must be notified prior to the arrangement. There is no guarantee our insurer would agree to insure the goods if the item are of high value or risk, and some strict conditions may also apply. Normal policy terms and conditions of cover would also apply (e.g. no cover in the open air). This is called a "bailment." An example of bailment might be, a piece of art being provided to the owner of a gallery for display purposes. Another example would be, where a vehicle is placed into the custody of a repairer for a Service to be performed. A general Business Insurance Policycan make a claim for damage and/or loss in this situation. The repairer would then be entitled, at their sole discretion, to make a claim with their Insurer or not as it pleases the Insured. However, this is not what would transpire if an item was simply left in a church building, as it was not placed in the care of the church. Items brought onto a church property for a person’s own use and left there, does not constitute being left in the congregations care. It is akin to a customer of a restaurant leaving their coat at the table. The proprietor would not be liable for the coat in any shape or form.

There is no responsibility or duty placed upon the church, in any shape or form, for a stolen/misplaced/abandoned item left in or on the premises or any legal reason to offer compensation in any way to the owner of the goods. Even in the case where the Church Council has agreed for the personal item to be loaned to the Church, Insurance Services must be notified in order to amend the policy.

It is strongly recommended that, where a Congregation/organisation has allowed privately owned property (or property owned by a third party organisation) to be used or stored on site, discussion should occur as to who would be responsible should a loss occur to those items and whether the any insurance excess applicable should be fully paid or shared by that owner. This should be a decision of each Church Council and dependant on a case-by-case basis.

Things to consider:

  • Are the items to be stored, appropriate for the premises?
  • Have you made it clear to the owner the items left there at the owners own risk?
  • Should the property department be contacted to arrange a license agreement?
  • Has the request to store the item/s come from the Congregation or the item/s’ owner?
  • Who would be responsible for any excess if it is the only item stolen/damaged?
  • What would happen if both church property and the individual’s property is stolen/damaged – ie share proportion of the excess?
  • What is the total indemnity value of the goods? (This means what are they worth now, not what was paid for them)
  • Does the owner’s item/s increase the risk of a break-in, damage to property or injury to persons?
  • Are the items fragile or would they be easily stolen?

Contact Insurance Services if the value is considerable or there are any concerns to security or safety.

Exhibitions & Displays

Cover may be arranged for art exhibitions whilst conducted on church property, by contacting Synod’s Insurance Services office in a timely manner prior to the event. This may be particularly desirable for larger exhibitions. Information that is required to be provided to the Insurer in order to insure an exhibition, incorporating individual works of art includes: A written valuation for each painting based on current market values by a qualified art valuer; an inventory and the type of security (eg. monitored alarm) at the premises.
A “Permit Application for Display/Sale of Collections & Works of Art” form must be completed by each person/entity wishing to display and/or sell their items.

Money Handling

Cash handling is a high risk. Do not leave large amounts on church premises, in your car or in a home. Be aware of your own personal safety.
The following procedures are set out to assist congregations in the handling of offerings.
Congregations and Church Councils should agree to the appointment of persons who are authorised to handle offerings. Once appointed, they should be responsible for the counting, recording, security, and banking of all monies.
At the conclusion of a church service, the rostered authorised persons (at least two) should process the offering in the following manner:

  • remove offerings from worship area to a secure area;
  • count and record the loose cash;
  • count and record any special gifts or donations;
  • open offering envelopes and record the amount on the envelope. (The amounts recorded on the envelopes should be checked with the cash removed from the envelopes.) Record the cash received;
  • check that total cash equals the sum of the abovementioned points and do not leave it unattended;
  • keep two separate records of the day’s offering;
  • deposit the funds in a bank safety deposit box, or place it in a heavy safe, or take home if a suitable safe is not available (a locked filing cabinet is not secure enough for money).
  • for personal safety, vary the route taken when travelling between church/home and the bank. Banking days/times should also be varied to avoid a pattern being observed by a potential offender.
  • All cash collected (including at events held off church site) should be counted prior to being transported to an alternate location.

To reduce the amount of cash being handled, Synod’s Insurance Services office supports the use of electronic transfers as a means of gifting to God’s work. Copies of e(give) application forms are available via the Uniting Church SA website Alternatively, copies of forms can be requested by contacting UC Invest via email or phoning 8236 4220.

Notebooks/Laptop Computers

These items are particularly vulnerable and we recommend that they be secured to desks with a “Kensington” lock during working hours and be locked in secure storage areas overnight. There is no insurance cover for these items if stolen from an unlocked/unattended vehicle, or lost or damged in a property not owned by the Uniting Church. Contents is only covered in the church owned property named on our insurance schedule. Contact Insurance Services for full details.

Security Alarms

Security alarms reduce the likelihood of a burglary. Consult a professional security company for advice on the best system for your premises. We recommend that only monitored alarm systems be installed.

Security Lighting

Effective security lighting, in most cases minimises opportunity and desire to commit crimes during darkness. A target lighting system where lighting is directed toward buildings rather than away from them is recommended, where possible – particularly in high risk areas. Install intruder movement sensors to activate the target lighting. Lights and sensors should be fitted with a stone guard or be mounted out of range from vandalism.

Stained Glass Windows

Stained glass/leadlight windows should ideally be protected from impact (accidental or vandalism) and storm damage. We recommend they be covered with Perspex (minimum thickness 4mm) or polycarbonate glass. The cost of this safeguard can be justified by extending the life of the windows. Damage arising solely from deterioration is excluded from insurance cover.

Theft and Vandalism

Thefts from, and vandalism to church properties is increasing on a yearly basis. Security measures need to be constantly monitored and where necessary, upgraded. Because church properties are frequently unattended they are particularly vulnerable to malicious damage. Most thefts and damage occur when the church is left unoccupied.
The church’s insurer provides cover which allows for church buildings to be left open during the day for those who wish to pray, or to find a place for quiet contemplation. Tourists and other visitors with an interest in historic buildings find it disappointing when a church is locked – particularly if they have travelled some distance. This ‘open church’ cover is only available providing strict guidelines are met and the premises hasn’t experienced repeated theft/vandalism/arson attacks. Areas not intended to be open to the public should be locked. The church, however, must be locked and secured during hours of darkness – other than for services or when someone is present. The presence of legitimate visitors will also help to deter those with a criminal intent.
Risks of theft and vandalism can be reduced by:

  • A duty-person being present on the premises or regularly visiting the site.
  • Asking people living nearby to keep an eye out for anything suspicious happening around the church.
  • Organising cleaning, grass cutting and any other routine activities so that there is someone on the premises at times when it would otherwise be unoccupied and by ensuring that days and times of attendance are varied to avoid a pattern being observed.
  • Observation of suspicious or unusual activities by members of the congregation should they be passing the church site.

Good housekeeping is essential
The following are some examples of guidelines to be adhered to:
To avoid theft, lock away as many valuable and portable items as possible – high value items, such as silver, brass and pewter, should be kept in a good quality safe. If there isn’t enough room in the safe, lock them in a secure area like the vestry. Items that could be used in a domestic setting (such as chests, stools, musical equipment and sound/visual systems) are also vulnerable and, if can’t be locked away, consider chaining them to the floor or wall as this will at least prevent a “casual theft”.
To avoid theft of bikes, consideration should be given to adopting some or all of the following preventative measures:

  • Bike(s) to be stored out of sight – either behind a roller door or indoors (eg. inside a secure, locked shed/garage);
  • Always lock up bike(s); even in the garage, shed, corridor, veranda etc; the tighter the lock up, the harder it is for a thief to use tools to attack the lock;
  • Lock bike(s) to a fixed, immovable object like a permanent bike rack (bolted to the ground) or steel pole, so that it can’t be easily lifted and carried away;
  • Be careful not to lock a section of the bike (or to an item) that can be easily cut, broken or removed and that bike(s) cannot be lifted over the top of the object it is secured to;
  • It is recommended bike(s) be individually secured to a railing or cable with a U or D shaped bike lock - (lock mechanism/key facing downwards; don’t position the lock/chain close to the ground). The longer it takes a thief to get through bike security, the less likely of being stolen;
  • Before leaving the bike(s) always check your lock to be sure it is properly secured;
  • Always secure components (especially quick-release) and other accessories;
  • Never leave bike(s) unattended and unlocked, including whilst it is in a shed as the shed door may be open whilst the shed is being used for other purposes and a thief may notice and target the bike(s);
  • Keep good records of your bike(s) serial number, make/model, size, colour, specifications and purchase receipts and take a note of the frame number of the bike, which is usually just underneath the saddle or pedal hub;
  • Write the owner’s name on the bike(s) by engraving or using an ultra violet pen.
  • Consider the security of premises where the bikes are stored/housed, can this be improved? (eg. Sensor lighting). Premises, fences and gates should be secure without inhibiting escape in the case of fire.


Synod’s Insurance Services office recommends that safes be concealed in walls, under floors or in other inconspicuous places. Seek the advice of a security professional to ensure you purchase a safe that is suitable to your needs and this is permanently fixed to the wall/floor, fire proof to the requirements of its intended contents etc.


To avoid arson, petrol should not be left in the church or outbuildings. Candles (and matches) should be locked away when the church is unoccupied and not left burning when the church is locked at the end of the day. Rubbish and combustible materials must not be allowed to accumulate.

Graffiti removal

Graffiti artists and taggers like their “handiwork” on display as long as possible. Because of this, it should be removed as soon as possible as this will often deter re-offending on the same property. If graffiti occurs on a boundary wall/fence that is adjacent to council land (eg. street-front), contact your local Council office in the first instance as often Councils will remove graffiti free of charge.


Bomb threat

If you receive a bomb threat via the phone, keep calm and don’t hang up. Try to obtain as much information as possible about the caller, the way he/she speaks and about the position of the bomb etc. Call the police and evacuate the building.
Suspicious packages and letters

Be vigilant when opening mail. Do not open any suspicious packages or letters and report them to the police

Suspicious packages and letters

Be vigilant when opening mail.  Do not open any suspicious packages or letters and report them to the police