We have begun to run our heating on a different schedule
- longer periods at a lower temperature - and this has been
successful in keeping us warm. But it does have a downside. Our
boiler vents behind the roof parapet, and one night recently a
passing policeman saw what appeared to be smoke rising. He rang the
fire brigade, who immediately sent an officer to investigate. This,
in turn, set off our burglar alarm.
No one wants to lose the lead off their roof, and this
in turn led to the alarm company phoning the Vicar, who rushed to
the church, not knowing what was happening, only that the alarm was
He was greeted by an array of officers, both police and
fire. "I am glad you arrived," a fire officer said. "I was thinking
we would need to break in through one of your good oak doors to
ensure that the building was really OK."
A VICAR, in his pyjamas and overcoat, running to the rescue, only
to find all the rescue services present - and, to top it all,
nothing to rescue! It's too good a story.
But here is the nub. The "smoke" was the boiler
smoke/condensation leaving the building by a flue, but there could
have been far greater damage in just trying to check that all was
The church had been diligent in giving contact phone numbers to
the alarm company, the fire brigade, and, I think to the police,
but that had been a while ago. Only the alarm company used the
number that it had been given. The Vicar's phone number is also on
the church's external noticeboard. Neither the police nor
fire-brigade used this information, which was somewhere in their
This story suggests to me that personal contact, or lack of it,
is far more important to the actions of people on the ground than
filled-out forms of computerised references.
Obviously, the churchwardens, when appointed each year, can (and
should) renew the information held by local services, even if it is
to repeat last year's details. But it may help to visit in person,
contact the beat officers, or drop into the fire station and become
personally known. Officers of the emergency and rescue services may
also appreciate invitations to events.
A friendly relationship can trigger a moment in the crisis when
someone says, "Phone that friendly guy who dropped by the station;
do you have the number?" It could save the oak door, or, if there
had been a real crisis, could speed up the officers' access to the
building and a resolution to the problem.
Plan to let the police and fire services have details of
keyholders, what they do, and their phone numbers. Addresses may be
relevant, too, because in an emergency the services will want to
call on the nearest contact geographically.
There is another recurrent and related issue that affects
fund-raising now that so many larger funders only work with online
applications: Why do so many churches, despite having an address,
have no postcode? They can be very difficult to find on maps, and
even more difficult when online forms use automated systems that do
not allow you to use the postcode of the nearest neighbouring
building. Has anyone found a good way round this?
Your questions and comments to