Winterizing Your Church
No matter whether your climate brings severe weather or just a temperature drop, churches should take steps to winterize their properties to minimize issues.
Corrosion, pressure, and faulty parts are frequent culprits in fires and explosions during the winter season. Schedule a certified inspection, and enter the season with confidence in your heating system. Find out what may be signs of trouble: Knowing how to read gauges and look for leaks and building pressure can prevent tragic accidents.
Keep your boiler room clear and clean. Do not use this room as a storage location. Remove any flammable materials from the room. Do not stack boxes, mops, equipment, or anything else on top of or leaning against the boiler or furnace.
Though not inherently hazardous, space heaters can become dangerous in several ways. Old models missing a grill on the front may have deteriorating wiring or lack automatic shut-off capabilities. Fires are known to have started when stacked papers came in contact with the heating coils of an unattended space heater.
Space heaters plugged into power strips or extension cords with too many other items also pose a hazard. They should be plugged directly into the wall. Use Underwriter’s Laboratory-certified space heaters, and operate it within the parameters found in the user’s manual.
Insulate pipes that may be exposed to freezing temperatures, and keep heat running at a low level in unused areas or buildings. Frozen pipes can burst and cause floods. If you do experience a burst pipe, turn the water off at the shut-off valve as soon as possible. You can find out more about preventing frozen pipes here.
Pay attention to the weather forecast, and assemble a winter weather team. Each member of the team should have a specific responsibility (or two) to ensure that the church is prepared for winter weather. These responsibilities could range from clearing sidewalks to drying interior floors to assisting people as they come from or go to their vehicles.
Make sure your parking lot snow removal contractor will be available on days you have services or winter events planned. Many contractors do not clear sidewalks and steps. A group of members who can assist in shoveling, sanding, or salting can be extremely helpful. Be sure that those doing the shoveling are healthy enough that they will not injure themselves or suffer a heart attack while exerting themselves. Let people know they should take breaks to rest and get warm.
Identify where snow and ice could accumulate and possibly refreeze. Give attention to areas that receive minimal sun, such as gutters and drainpipes, sidewalk corners, and doorways.
Discuss how and when to close the church or cancel an event. The duty should fall to one or two people responsible for making the call, who set the wheels in motion to communicate the closure to all involved.
When deciding whether to close, consider your membership demographics – their age and how far they travel to get to church. Let church members know how you will announce closures and set up an outgoing voicemail message or calling tree to spread the word.
By taking a proactive approach to winterizing your church, you will have a much better chance of having a blessed and wonderful winter.