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Jun 05
2007
CEN

The Hidden Value of Church Inspections

Posted by: CEN

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The elderly member of the local volunteer fire department stood on the front lawn of his church, frozen in his tracks, shocked at what he saw in front of him.   There was his church, of which he had been a member his entire life, fully engulfed in flames.   He was instantly flooded with the hundreds of memories.   There were the births, baptisms, weddings, funerals, social events, revivals, and scores of others.     And now all he was left with were those memories.   Tears ran down his face.

The elderly member of the local volunteer fire department stood on the front lawn of his church, frozen in his tracks, shocked at what he saw in front of him.   There was his church, of which he had been a member his entire life, fully engulfed in flames.   He was instantly flooded with the hundreds of memories.   There were the births, baptisms, weddings, funerals, social events, revivals, and scores of others.     And now all he was left with were those memories.   Tears ran down his face.

After the fire was put out, inspectors searched for a cause.   It was finally determined that a space heater in the office was the culprit.   It was old, worn, and beyond its prime.   And it had been left on by the secretary when she left for the day.   And now the questions emerged.   Could we have done something to prevent this?   And for many fires, the answer is a resounding, “yes!”

While many congregations might spend some time and effort protecting children or thinking about transportation safety issues, one of the most overlooked areas in protecting ministry involves having an ongoing, regular, documented inspection program.   It really is not that time-co9nsuming.   But it takes intentionality.

Who Should Inspect?

Most anyone can be put in charge of this task.   If you have a custodian or maintenance worker, they might be a good candidate.   A trustee or board member might also be asked to conduct the inspections.   This can also be a job for a member in the congregation that has some experience in construction, electrical or facility manager.   The idea is to engage them and make sure the inspections are completed on a regular basis.

How Often Should We Inspect?

There are several levels of inspection.   A daily, cursory inspection   before the staff leaves the building will detect burning candles, the smell of gas, leaky plumbing, open doors and windows, or other noticeable hazards.

On average, a more thorough inspection should be conducted at least once a month.   This would include opening all doors, looking in cabinets and storage closets, checking out the electrical, heating and air conditioning equipment, and really looking for hidden as well as obvious hazards.

Annually, a comprehensive full indoor and outdoor inspection should be completed.   If needed, bring in an electrical engineer or other professional to check for those things that are not seen by the naked eye.

It is important to document the inspections.   They can help you should there be an questions later.

What Are We Looking For?

The key to inspections is to uncover anything that can cause harm to people, resources, facilities, and ministry.   You will want to look for equipment left in the open and vulnerable to theft, storage areas cluttered, stairwells and hallways obstructed, hazardous materials not being stored correctly, leaks in plumbing and pipes, dangerous toys in the children’s area, loose handrails, loose or hazardous carpet and floors, poorly illuminated halls and stairwells, overloaded plugs, and yes, old, hazardous space heaters.

And don’t limit your inspection to those things inside the church.   Walk around the outside too.   Look for objects falling from the church building (such as shingles and bricks), inspect steps and railings, check for limbs and debris, look for cracks and hazards in the parking lots,   and see if there is enough lighting to illuminate the entire facility at night.   If you have a playground, this should also be inspected, as these areas often fall into disrepair rather quickly.

Take Action

Once a hazard is detected, take immediate steps to correct it.   Legally, once you are aware of a problem and do not take steps to repair it, you could be liable.   If you personally cannot repair it, mark the hazard clearly and get the right person in to get it fixed.   Use only qualified labor.

Many extreme emergencies (fires, flooded buildings, explosions, etc.) start off as a little problem that went un-noticed or was not repaired correctly or in a timely manner.   By conducting regularly scheduled, documented inspections, your church can rest easier, knowing that you have been faithful in protecting the resources and facilities God has entrusted to your care.


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