As plans for reopening different facilities across the country roll into full gear, now is a practical time for church administrators to begin preparing their facilities for a return to in-person services.
Below is a look at some of the unique maintenance challenges that churches face, how the pandemic adds more layers of challenges to the situation, and some points of consideration and insights to help you prepare your church for a new reality.
Specific steps for Mitigating Reopening Risks
Churches play a unique role in our communities; they offer members a sense of belonging and a safe place to practice their faith, therefore, after being shut for so long, it’s understandable that attendees will be eager to resume services quickly.
But the potential for infection rates to rise again if reopening is rushed is still too high. It’s also important to note that although COVID-19 infection rates may appear to be gradually leveling off, the dangers are not over yet. All these considerations raise valid safety concerns for churches.
Preventing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases is of paramount concern right now and the following points, which are largely based on the Center for Disease Control (CDC’s) suggestions for faith-based communities, can help church administrators and managers to significantly reduce the risks.
The CDC’s guidelines fall into some major categories including:
1. Monitoring and Preparing
Before reopening their doors, the CDC advises churches to establish procedures for identifying, isolating, and transporting anyone exhibiting COVID-like symptoms from the facility.
In addition to that, this would be an ideal time to conduct preparatory inspections of the physical structure.
Start by assessing the overall condition of the facility. In particular, note any outstanding issues that can directly impair health under COVID-19 e.g. faulty HVAC and air filtration systems, faulty or inadequate cleaning/sanitizing equipment, etc.
After such a prolonged shutdown, check that water supply systems and features (heaters, tanks, fountains, etc) are safe to use to minimize the risk of Legionnaires’ disease and other diseases associated with stagnant water.
You’ll also need to revisit your overall preventive maintenance strategy to identify any pending maintenance and deep cleaning tasks.
Although it makes sense to acquire cleaning and disinfecting equipment that are designed to handle crowds such as automatic hand sanitizer dispensers and mist disinfection machines, a common challenge for many churches is that they are non-profit establishments, so acquiring new equipment to help fight COVID-19 has to be done in the most cost-effective manner possible.
That takes us to the next point.
2. Controlling Maintenance Costs
Another suggestion that the CDC has for churches that are reopening during this pandemic is that churches “maintain healthy operations” going forward mostly through commonsensical steps like promptly closing the facility once it’s established that an infected individual has mingled with the congregation.
Added to that, churches stand a better chance of keeping their operations healthy in the long term if they take specific steps to control their maintenance costs once they reopen.
Although church budgets can be tight, now is the time to be as cost-effective as possible by trimming any maintenance excesses and reserving those funds for CoV-related emergencies and circumstances.
Part of remaining cost-effective starts from assessing your building maintenance procedures to detect any loopholes that will allow for inefficiencies. For instance:
- Check if there are any areas where you can reduce energy consumption without compromising congregational health.
- Ensure that staff and volunteers are well trained before handing them any new equipment to avoid misuse. This will not only avoid wastage of funds but will help to preserve equipment lifespan as well.
- Employ better inventory and spare parts management practices.
3. Hygiene and Cleaning Practices
Considering the fact that COVID-19 spreads through contact with infected people and droplets, keeping your church clean and hygienic is a key requirement at this time.
You’ll need to provide several types of hygiene supplies such as hand sanitizers (with a minimum of 60% alcohol content) no-touch trash cans, soap, and tissues.
In addition, it’s critical that cleaners and volunteers understand the following:
- The need to protect themselves while working (by wearing appropriate protective gear always).
- The importance of using EPA-registered disinfectants and complying with the recommended contact time for using each one.
- The need to pay particular attention to high-traffic areas like the church reception areas, information desks, conveniences, and meeting rooms, and the frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces like door handles, staircase rails, elevator buttons, etc.
To simplify these processes and help to ensure that no tasks are forgotten or overlooked, church administrators can consider CMMS tools like Limble to serve as a repository of all required cleaning and disinfecting information.
A CMMS will also help with the planning and scheduling of cleaning tasks and other maintenance activities. It can also send notifications to assigned parties when tasks are about coming due.
Although we have touched on several points above, it’s important to conclude by mentioning the most important factor of all; the human factor.
As a church administrator, you need to have an action plan in place long before reopening, then take steps to help improve the success of that plan through frequent communication and thorough training of your staff and volunteers.
You should also consider how you intend to ensure compliance with agreed health and safety procedures.
Also, every facility is unique, that’s another reason why an inspection before reopening is so important.
Empower your team to be involved in the process, to give feedback, and to report any unsafe activities that they may observe.
This is vital for their personal safety, the safety of all church members, and all other stakeholders.
Although the dangers of COVID-19 will likely remain a challenge for some time yet, churches can position themselves to cope better by noting and complying with safety guidelines from authorities like the CDC and by implementing cost-effective maintenance measures.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.