Risk Reporter for Religious Institutions
Winter 2014 Vol. 13, Issue 1
Keep boiler, furnace rooms clean and well maintained
Many congregations have storage issues. There are never enough closets or empty rooms to store all of the files, supplies, holiday decorations and other items that accumulate throughout the year. Although finding creative storage solutions is important, some areas are not safe storage options.
“Boiler and furnace rooms are designed with extra space to help keep the equipment running safely and efficiently,” said Ernest Freeman, vice president of engineering at The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company in Hartford, Conn. “It’s easy to want to fill this extra space with storage, but that can quickly become a fire hazard.”
A fire in a boiler or furnace room can be ignited by an open flame or hot surface of the boiler and fueled by gas, oil, wood or other combustible items stored nearby. Combustible or flammable items should never be stored in the room, and nothing should be stored within 10 feet of the boiler or furnace equipment.
Signs of trouble
“Use your senses to help identify other signs that there might be potential fire hazards in the boiler or furnace room,” Freeman said.
- Sound – Listen for loud noises coming from the heating system or fans. If the sound is noticeable or has changed since the last inspection, contact a maintenance professional immediately.
- Smell – Unusual odors are another sign of potential issues. Boiler rooms should be well-ventilated to avoid vapor concentrations. Sulfuric, sooty or smoky smells, as well as the smell of chemical compounds, such as chlorine or ammonia, can signify potential issues with airflow in the room.
- Touch – Excessive vibration or movement in the equipment and piping system can indicate pressure issues requiring maintenance. In addition, the equipment and piping should never feel hot to the touch (use a cloth when testing to avoid getting burned).
Equip the room
Boiler and furnace rooms should have self-closing fire-rated doors, fire-resistant walls and ceilings and smoke and fire detectors that are tested every six months.
“Don’t rely on water for the fire extinguisher needs in a boiler or furnace room,” Freeman said. “Keep a carbon dioxide or dry chemical fire extinguisher in the room.”