The General Conference Insurance Service was organized in 1936 under the direction of W. A. Benjamin, who successfully managed this growing and expanding department until his retirement in July, 1955. He remains one of our valued insurance counselors. V. L. Sanders managed the department from August, 1955, to May, 1957. Upon his resignation J. W. Peeke became the m'anager of the department. Today there are nine men and fourteen women in the office in Washington, D.C., and two men and four women in the office in La Sierra, California.
Our aim is to be of the greatest service to our denominational administrators in the implementation of their insurance program. This is done by appraisal and survey service, distributing our "Insurance Highlights" bulletins, holding insurance seminars, and properly settling loss claims as well as counseling on the need for adequate insurance coverage.
It is emphasized in the counseling service that adequate denominational insurance means:
- The ability to rehabilitate or reconstruct damaged or destroyed buildings.
- The ability to pay sizable liability verdicts to injured persons or for property damage of others.
- The ability to reimburse a substantial burglary or fidelity loss.
- The ability to reimburse workers by means of Workmen's Compensation in case of accidental injury or death while in the course of employment.
In order to determine what is adequate. insurance on our denominational properties, our insurance department offers appraisal and survey service. One of our specially trained men visits the larger institutions and other denominational properties for property appraisal and fire inspection. He passes this information to the insurance department underwriter who services the particular organization, and the underwriter then not only makes recommendations for the amount of insurance needed but also points out the steps to be taken for fire prevention and to safeguard lives.
The purpose of the "Insurance Highlights" bulletins is to assist our denominational administrators in understanding the technical points of adequate denominational property protection. Anyone who is not on our mailing list and who would like to receive our bulletins may do so by contacting one of our two offices. We will send you copies of all back issues and include your name on the list for future ones.
It has been repeatedly observed that appraisals of denominational properties reveal shortages of substantial proportions in the amount of fire and extended coverage in force. Reported data on fire losses indicate that a large number of our schools, churches, and institutions were underinsured.
This inadequate coverage of insurable values may be attributed to a number of factors. Sometimes it is the result of neglect on the part of management or a lack of interest in the insurance program—a failure to foresee the consequences that would result and to take steps to prevent them. On the part of some it may be due to the press of seemingly more urgent and important business problems.
One of the greatest causes of underinsurance is the failure of an administrator to realize the impact of inflation on construction costs. The failure to adjust insurance to present-day replacement values is of far greater danger now than in pre-inflationary periods. Another cause of underinsurance is the failure to take into consideration the value of the voluntary labor contributed toward the cost of construction of a church building. Every denominational administrator who adopts a complacent view toward an insurance program based on original acquisition values or outdated appraisal values is not only neglecting a moral obligation but is jeopardizing his personal integrity and reputation.
Although an adequate amount of insurance gives our denominational administrators a sense of security and permanence, and guarantees the continuity of the institution, there is also a need for precaution against losses. A careful analysis will disclose the amount and type of insurance needed to meet specific perils, and a survey is essential to help determine the insurance needs. However, this is of little value unless every possible precaution is taken to prevent losses of all kinds. In spite of all the care taken, losses cannot be completely prevented, though they can be minimized by taking proper safety measures.
Often church furnaces are taxed to capacity because a moderate, average temperature is not maintained throughout the week. This may result in overheated flues and chimney fires. The furnace or boiler rooms should be properly enclosed with fire-resistive partitions and ceilings, and the entrance protected by an approved self-closing fire door. Proper containers should be provided for trash; and with coal furnaces, ashes should be put in metal containers only—at no time should they be piled on the floor. The furnace should be inspected and kept in proper operating condition, and adequate insulation should also be required.
Chimneys and smokepipes should be inspected, and cleaned if necessary, at least once a year, preferably before using the furnace in the fall. In older churches it is well to check for defects in the masonry work, particularly where the chimney is not protected with a flue lining.
All electrical wiring in the church should be checked by a competent electrician who is familiar with the National Electrical Code. If a portion of the church building is used for recitals or other programs where footlights or side lights are required, it is important that such installations be made by qualified electricians; all temporary wiring should be checked to make sure that no circuit is overloaded. All fuses must be of the size specified by the electrician.
Lightning-rod protection should be installed on the building, especially on the church steeple, in accordance with the "Code for Protection Against Lightning," published by the National Fire Protection Association and the National Bureau of Standards. (Address available upon request.)
If the church is equipped with a kitchen, it must be kept clean. Cooking ranges should be installed, away from all woodwork and other combustible materials. A hood above the range should be provided and vented to the outside through a duct with adequate clearance from combustible materials.
Flammable liquids such as paints, varnishes, and cleaning solvents should be kept in metal cabinets or boxes, and self-closing metal receptacles should be provided for any oily rags or waste.
Approved fire extinguishers in the furnace room and in the kitchen are a must. Expert advice should be obtained from your fire department regarding the placement, type, and number of extinguishers that will be needed.
Adequate exits clearly marked with signs and lights are essential. Doors should open outward and be equipped with panic hardware; otherwise they must be left unlocked during the time the building is occupied. A safe, usable condition free from obstructions must characterize all exit ways, and battery-powered emergency lights should be provided for exit areas in the event of a power failure.
Everyone concerned with the church operation should know the location of the nearest fire alarm and how to operate it, and some responsible person should be assigned the job of turning in an alarm in case of fire. This person's duty is to remain at the box location to direct the fire department.
All draperies and other decorations used at any time in any part of the church should be properly flameproofed and protected from anything which could possibly ignite them.
It is essential that floors, stairs, and aisles have a smooth, non-slippery surface, unlittered and free of obstruction. Repair of loose boards, bricks, or tiles must not be delayed, and the use of slippery mats or loose rugs must be prohibited. Well-lighted stairways with rigid and sufficiently strong banisters having no sharp projections or splinters are a must. The tread and risers on stairs should be uniform since risers of uneven heights and treads of uneven width tend to destroy the rhythm established in climbing or descending stairs and can thereby cause tripping. For safety's sake, steps in dark locations should be outlined in white paint. The necessity for adequately strong and high guard rails for balconies cannot be overemphasized.
To prevent explosions it is recommended that boilers be provided with pressure relief valves, water level gauges, and low water alarms. It is essential that hot water tanks be provided with both pressure and temperature relief valves. Regular inspection by a qualified person for cracks, corrosion, embrittlement, and operation of emergency equipment is also a necessity. Air conditioning systems should provide for the intake of safe, pure air.
The local fire department should be requested to inspect the church property regularly, and the church custodian's duty must also include regular, frequent inspections of the church building. Two helpful check lists are available from the General Conference Insurance Service. These serve as guides by indicating what to look for in the regular inspection of the church.
Unfortunately, even with the best loss prevention program, losses occur. Financial hardships occasioned by unforeseen property damage and injury to persons can be avoided by proper insurance coverage. Most ministers and administrators of church properties are keenly aware of the importance of insurance, but they find it impossible to keep fully informed regarding the latest trends and coverages available. Thus a planned program needs to be developed. Changes are constantly being made, either in the insurance business or in the activities of the church; therefore, it is highly recommended that the denominational administrators or pastors secure the help of the General Conference insurance counselors in planning the best insurance program for their church property. What may have been an ideal insurance program a year or two ago may be very much out of date today.
It is recommended that vandalism and malicious mischief coverage be included in addition to fire and extended coverage protection. In determining the amount of insurance needed for sufficient protection it is most important to have an accurate valuation of the actual cash value of the property.
Valuable paintings, pictures, stained glass windows of value, and other objects of artistic or historic value may be covered separately under an all-risk fine arts policy.
Equipment such as motion picture projectors, tape recorders, and similar items owned by the church may be covered under a special policy to protect them against loss or damage while in or away from the church and while in transit.
In this day when people do not hesitate to sue a charitable institution or church, it is imperative to have public liability insurance which affords protection against suits or claims arising out of accidents occurring on the premises, or away from the premises if such accidents are the result of a normal church activity. It is recommended that the insurance should be provided by the broadest form of contract—the Comprehensive General Liability policy.
All churches need nonownership liability or hired automobile liability to cover autos operated for the benefit of the church in connection with its many home missionary activities. These coverages, plus the basic policy, protect the church—within the limits of the policy—against bodily injury and property damage claims arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or use of any motor vehicle, whether hired, owned, borrowed, or used on behalf of the church.
Liability policies respond when the church is legally liable, and usually negligence is involved. However, there are times when church members are asked to perform specific jobs for the church for which they receive no remuneration. Sometimes injuries occur while the members are performing these acts of voluntary labor and medical expenses are incurred. There is a special type of insurance to reimburse church members for these medical expenses and this coverage can be purchased by the conference on a conference-wide membership basis.
The benefits of the Voluntary Labor Accident Policy are as follows:
- Blanket Medical Expenses
- Death Benefit Rider
- Dismemberment Benefit
- Weekly Indemnity (maximum 52 weeks)
Persons eligible for this coverage are defined as all persons performing voluntary labor for a member church within the local Seventh-day Adventist conference, provided such person is authorized by the local pastor or a denominationally conference employed individual, or the head elder of the local church. The Weekly Indemnity benefit does not apply to an insured person unless he is engaged in a full-time gainful occupation and only to persons whose average earnings exceed by at least 25 per cent the indemnity for loss of time under all policies covering the person.
Church burglary and theft insurance is coming to be recognized as necessary to protect the funds and property of the church. In some instances fidelity bonds might be desirable.
Comprehensive glass insurance covers replacement of broken glass or glass damaged by acid or chemicals.
Heating boilers, hot water heaters and tanks, involve hazards that must be seriously considered, since these devices can explode with extreme violence. The boiler and machinery policy protects against damage to the property of the insured, including the insured equipment, expediting expenses, property damage liability, and bodily injury liability, resulting from boiler and machinery accidents. Periodic inspection of the insured equipment helps to keep it in top-notch condition.
If your church does not have the complete protection it needs, and you wish to plan a better insurance program, our counselors will be happy to work with you. Send your request through your local conference treasurer and it will be given careful consideration.