Facility Preparation – Consider “How” Before “When”
At this point in time, the safety of your congregation is of the highest priority. Buildings sitting idle need some help in coming back to usage, especially as that usage will probably be different than in the past. Many buildings have been sitting for over a month with little to no usage. To simplify how best to accomplish this task, it is worth breaking down the process into smaller projects.
As noted in our previous post, it is important to thoroughly clean and sanitize the facilities before re-opening. Staff and volunteers involved in cleaning should wear appropriate Personal Protection Equipment such as gloves and masks during the cleaning process. Surfaces should first be cleaned with soap/detergent and water to remove dirt and buildup. Once cleaned, surfaces should then be disinfected using an EPA registered disinfectant. Attention should be given to high touch areas that will require frequent cleaning while the building is being used such handrails, doorknobs, bathroom faucets, etc…
Inspect The Property
A visual inspection of the property is an essential part of creating a safe environment. Designate a person or team to thoroughly inspect the physical space. The inspection should include notations of any changes or repairs that need to be completed. Areas to review include:
- Parking lots: Inspect parking for potholes and uneven surfaces. Also begin to consider how the parking lot will be used with attendees having to space differently with social distancing.
- Walkways and stairs: Make sure areas are clear and again think through spacing and how people will enter and exit the building in a manner that reduces the likelihood of virus spread.
- Handrails and railings: Check all railings are secure as well as notating high touch areas to be addressed in cleaning processes.
- Roof and gutters: Check the roof for areas that may have been damaged by Spring winds. Identify trees that may impact the roof or building. Look for debris buildup on roof or in gutters that can cause long term damage.
- Bathrooms and Kitchens: These areas are susceptible to water issues. Ensure areas are in working order. Begin planning on how these areas will be used with social distancing requirements. Kitchens also have the added exposure of grease buildup. Check hoods and grease traps for accumulation.
Check The Systems
A church building is made up of many different systems that together help ministry get done. Designate a person or team to check all systems and make notations of repairs or changes that need to be made.
- Heating /Cooling Systems: Both heating and cooling systems may be in use soon. If possible, have a licensed contractor check your systems prior to re-opening. Visually inspecting mechanicals for signs of problems is an easy first step. Coils and over flow pans should be cleaned and drained accordingly. Pipes, flus and air flow vents should be checked to make sure they are not obstructed.
- Plumbing System: The plumbing system may be most susceptible to sitting. Check each faucet, toilet and major valves to make sure water is able to flow and stop as intended. Review areas of the system that may be prone to standing water and ensure water flow is moving correctly. Check pipes that are more susceptible to weather conditions to make sure they are in working order.
- Electrical System: Check all breakers or fuses to make sure there are not visible issues. Turning on the electric throughout the building should be done in stages. Check all extension cords and power strips to ensure they are not overloaded or in poor physical condition prior to turning on electric. Inspect lighting both interior and exterior and replace or repair any fixtures or bulbs requiring maintenance.
- Audio/Video Systems: Church audio and video systems can be delicate, and surges of power can be damaging. Check connections and turn on equipment in planned sequence or stages instead of all at once.
Summarize Findings For Action
A complete inspection will reveal areas to fix and improve. This is the time to tackle these projects and create a safe environment as you plan how to re-open the church. Itemize the list by category and prioritize the list according to the safety concern each issue poses to your congregation and staff. New ways of perceiving safety will be part of your re-opening. Be sure to identify the areas of the building that create safety concerns in regard COVID-19