Most churches shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now that vaccines are available and being rapidly distributed and, as a result, restrictions are being loosened, churches are returning to more normal operations.
And while the opportunity to reopen your church building is exciting, it can also bring headaches. Problems crop up in any building that has been shut down and unused for a while, so don’t expect that you can walk in, turn on the lights, and immediately hold worship. If you haven’t been using your church building, take the time to reopen right. Here are some safety guidelines for a facility run-through to reopen your building safely.
Start with Safety Outside Your Church Building
Problems can arise before you even get inside your church building—and we mean that literally. If you have sidewalks on your church property, there’s a chance that tree roots or winter frost have caused sidewalks to rise, heave, and buckle, or cracks to grow. Check all paved surfaces as well, and make sure to fill in cracks large enough to catch the heel of a shoe and cause any injury.
You also want to check the landscaping around your church building. You may need to trim it back to clear walkways and clean up any trash that has blown in. This is also about making a good first impression. Finally, test all the external lighting to make certain it’s functioning, and that no burnt-out bulbs need to be replaced.
Test and Clean Your HVAC System
If you totally shut off your HVAC systems during the pandemic, air hasn’t been circulating around your church building. This presents an opportunity for mold to grow, or for the air to become stagnant and perhaps some smells to circulate inside your church building. Before turning on your system for the first time, make sure to have maintenance done on it and change all the filters.
If molds or smells have developed, you may need to do some heavier cleaning in your system to make certain the air in your church building is both safe and inviting for everyone coming back. (We also recommend running your HVAC system at a minimal level when your church building is not in use, to prevent problems like this and maintain the health of the system.)
Checking for Leaks and Other Safety Issues
Anytime a building has not been used regularly, there are more opportunities for leaks to develop and grow undetected. Any small leaks may have grown significantly over time, so thoroughly check your church building for any signs of leaking, moisture, or mold. If a leak is not promptly addressed, problems can develop in the drywall, wood studs, or even the flooring.
Finally, make sure to check all your safety equipment and systems, such as fire suppression systems and fire extinguishers, to be certain that they are still functioning and up to code. Check that all emergency lighting is functional and exit ways are not compromised or blocked.
As you can see, there’s a lot involved with keeping your church building functioning. In our next post, we’ll address how to plan safely for the future. Meanwhile, you can learn our latest wisdom on safety for your church building and other topics by signing up for our latest free i3 webinars.