Prepare Your House of Worship for Severe Weather
Our nation may be in a state of emergency due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, but that doesn’t stop Mother Nature from continuing with business as usual. You are just as likely to experience severe weather now as you were before the pandemic, and you need to make sure your house of worship is prepared.
In many ways, preparation for severe weather is much the same as it was before anyone knew what COVID-19 was. But there’s one big difference: If your facility is designated as a community shelter, you need to make sure you are communicating your building’s status so others know what to expect.
Before the storm
Take a close look at your emergency plan. Is it still accurate? Is the person who is designated as team leader still able to fulfill that function during the pandemic? Do you have a clear chain of command when it comes to communications (your website, social media, phone trees, etc.)? If you have a generator, flashlights, batteries or other items with which you intend to provide emergency power, make sure you properly disinfect them.
Many houses of worship across the country are closed to their congregants right now. If your building is normally available as a shelter for those who are out and about when a storm hits, make it clear that they need to find another facility. In this case, you cannot overcommunicate: List your closure on your website and social media, post a sign on the front of your building, notify local authorities and communicate clearly to your members.
Reopening for emergencies
In many cases, the American Red Cross is using hotels as its community shelters because they provide greater opportunity for social distancing. So, there may be no need for your facility in this particular situation. However, if you want to continue providing shelter, even if your building is closed for all other purposes, check with the Red Cross first. You may be able to become a Red Cross designated shelter—a situation in which that organization would provide operational and logistical support.
Additional precautions to consider during the pandemic situation include:
- Requiring health screening on admission (by either public health staff or health care professionals) with a separate screening area.
- Providing a minimum of 110 square feet of space per client.
- Enforcing social distancing.
- Requiring face coverings for staff, volunteers and clients.
- Managing feeding times to avoid lines and not allowing self-service.
- Establishing a limitation on items that can be brought into the shelter and/or donated due to sanitization requirements.
- Enhancing your cleaning and disinfecting schedule.
- Setting up additional hand-washing stations and providing hand sanitizer.
- Providing an isolation care area with physical separation from the “dormitory” area, which is managed by health care professionals.
- Staffing a screening area and shelter entrance/exit 24/7.
- Collecting contact information for all people using the shelter so you have a means of contact tracing should an infection occur.
Public health experts have advised that the coronavirus is most likely to spread when large groups of people are close together for an extended period of time. Use the utmost caution when providing shelter.
Need more information about staying safe when severe weather hits? Visit churchmutual.com/weather for preparedness guides, resources and more.
Have questions? Contact Risk Control Central today.
Call: (800) 554-2642 (Option 4) Ext. 5213