Maintaining Church Facilities in Light of COVID-19

Even though most churches are meeting solely online these days, we’ll want our church facilities ready for when we’re able to have in-person services again.  As you look forward to reopening your church building, now is a good time to identify any maintenance and deep cleaning to complete before that exciting date. I asked the church facility management experts over at Smart Church Solutions to share their insights.

VMM: In light of COVID-19, are there specific methods (including cleaning solvents) churches should use to clean their facilities? 

SCS: Even after this situation is over, we may see an increased focus on disinfecting common areas.  How can churches do that in a cost-effective way? When choosing a disinfectant, two things are most important. 1) Is it an EPA registered disinfectant (meaning it is a pesticide shown to kill live specific live organisms) and 2) What is the “kill claim” (generally, how long does the product need to remain wet on the surface to reach maximum efficacy)? These products will require a secondary rinse if they are used on food contact surfaces or toys.

Proper training is also paramount to effective cleaning procedures. Picking the right application method is huge. For example, using a spray bottle to wet a table will take an extraordinarily long time to accomplish, and it is unlikely to fully cover the entire surface and remain wet long enough. Using a microfiber rag that has been saturated in disinfectant will work more efficiently, but teams will need to be trained in proper eight-sided rag application methods and have access to enough rags to avoid cross-contamination. The most cost-effective way to disinfect your facility is to utilize the proper commercial cleaning products with modern equipment and application techniques with a team that has been trained on it. Invest in the hospital-grade ready-to-use (RTU) disinfectant wipes to use on high touch areas like doorknobs, locks, openers, etc.

VMM: Spring cleaning…many of us do some extra cleaning of our homes and update the landscaping this time of year.  What would you recommend churches do for their spring cleaning activities? 

SCS: Spring is a great time to get your roof and gutters inspected, and inspect the condition of your windows (especially the caulking and glazing if applicable).  It is warm enough to repair these areas but not too hot. Cleaning out from behind and underneath landscaping, pulling it away from the building, and sprinkler system check-ups are good right now. It is also a good time to get your annual back-flow preventer valve(s) inspections performed. Most plumbers and landscapers are not super busy yet. It’s a good time to start a coil cleaning as well (HVAC). Vehicles should get a full-service safety inspection now so that you are able to repair or plan for repairs before the summer travel season starts. Exterior pressure washing of flatwork and areas can begin in many facilities as well (as long it is past the freezing temps overnight) It is also a great time to get teams engaged in exterior patching and painting.

VMM: Even when we’re not in spring cleaning (or viral pandemic disinfection) mode, what should we clean, replace, or inspect each month to keep our church facilities and equipment operating smoothly? 

SCS: Inspect HVAC each month, run water through the overflow drains to make sure they function correctly. Make sure the drains are in good shape on rooftop mounted units. Entrance matting and entranceways should be deep cleaned at least monthly as reducing the amount of dirt and debris at entrances will reduce dirt in the facility. Monthly inspections of life-safety equipment and elevator recall inspections should be performed. Door hardware should be regularly inspected and adjusted and oiled as needed (door openers, hinges, knobs and locks, push bars, etc).

VMM: Maintaining a facility can be a lot of work, requiring coordination with several staff members and volunteers.  Tell me a bit about eSPACE…How can church leaders use this tool to coordinate regular maintenance, process work orders, and organize events?  

SCS: eSPACE provides a scalable platform to assist in the intentional and efficient utilization and maintenance of a facility. The software can be considered in two parts, Event Management and Facility Maintenance Management.

From an Event Management perspective, eSPACE Event Scheduler allows an organization to invite all relevant parties to an event to collaborate and communicate regarding the event, from creation to execution, from one shared platform. Event flow can be customized to the way an organization works best, and should the flow require tweaking later in the future, you can. The software is designed to give those needing a basic scheduling tool to have what they need as well as being capable to provide an organization a scheduler capable of having a multi-step, multi-approver approach to events. Flexibility, functionality, and efficiency are built into the process at every step.

Work Order Management is designed to operate in the area of CMMS (computer maintenance management systems) between too simple to be effective and too complex to be fully utilized. Work Order Management allows the most technology challenged individual a tool that is easy to learn and operate while still being capable of providing useful data to an experienced maintenance manager. With the ability to specify information flow through service categories and assigned roles, you can provide what is needed and to whom easily and effectively while tracking the progress of work orders and scheduling preventative maintenance.  It becomes a tool to assist in organizing the work-flow to the technicians providing the work while allowing management to use it to help forecast future budget and project needs.

The power of eSPACE is fully shown when an organization bundles the event scheduling and work order management modules. Now, relevant information can be shared easily across the modules, allowing event schedulers to send room setup information directly to crews and allowing service personnel to schedule spaces for maintenance work directly, thus avoiding a potential double-booking of space for an event and maintenance. In addition to the basic modules, eSPACE can be further customized with additional modules. These currently include (in Event Scheduler) Event Registration and Online Giving, Billing and Invoicing, HVAC control integration (for specific systems), Access Control integration (for specific systems), and Digital Signage integration. These all are scheduled through and with the event scheduler, so a change made in the event will automatically track to all the additional modules. 

Work Order Management has a newly released add-on called Asset and Inventory Management. This takes the basic functionality of Work Order Management in regard to inventory and equipment and supercharges to a level normally found is software ten times as expensive. All of the additional available modules are designed to be easy to implement, use, and understand and they are all supported by a dedicated team of specialists at Smart Church Solutions.

Many thanks to the team at Smart Church Solutions for sharing their expertise!

At the time of this writing, the “stay at home” guidelines vary by location.  Hopefully, this pandemic will soon fade away. When that day comes, let’s make sure our church facilities are ready to welcome everyone back for a big celebration.  In the meantime, stay safe, healthy, and connected (just from a distance).