Here are seven recommendations for preventing frozen pipes and damage to your church property.During the winter of 2014, my wife and I decided to travel for the weekend. After living four years in California, this was our first winter living in Maryland where temperatures tend to drop below 32°F during the winter season. I was not a risk manager at the time and was unaware of the effects that the low temperatures would have on the pipes in our house. So before leaving on our mini vacation, I turned the heat off. Little did I know that weekend a big snow storm would fall on Maryland. We returned to find our house literally under water. As we opened the door, I saw my sandals floating on 2-3 inches of water. Throughout the entire first floor, the soaked carpet squished beneath our feet as we walked through and surveyed the damage. This incident taught me a lesson that I will never forget: Always take care of your pipes and do NOT turn off your heater in cold temperatures.
Winterizing Your Church:The term “winterization” refers to the process of preparing for cold weather, whenever that may occur for your area. Part of winterization includes preparing your facilities to avoid the situation I found myself in during the 2014 winter. Here are seven recommendations for preventing frozen pipes and damage to your church property.
- Keep the Heater On: Most experts recommend that heat should be left on and set to no lower than 55ºF. (12.78º C.) If you know that your building is poorly insulated, leaks cold air through windows, and has areas that do not get as warm as other, turn the heat up higher.
- Bundle Up: Before cold weather arrives, bundle up your plumbing. Pipes protruding through walls to the outside and exterior faucets should be insulated, as should pipes running through attics, crawlspaces, garages and other unheated areas. Only use such equipment if it is Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL) approved.
- Test and Replace Your Batteries: Gas heating systems can produce carbon monoxide which can be a real danger for members and visitors in our churches and schools causing headaches, dizziness, weakness, vomiting and other ‘flu-like’ symptoms and even death. If your facility does not have carbon monoxide detectors, install them. Carbon monoxide and smoke detector units should be tested every month and replaced after 10 years. Batteries should be replaced twice a year in early spring and late fall.
- Prepare Vacant Buildings: If you need to leave the building vacant for an extended period, consider shutting off water and draining lines by opening faucets at the highest and lowest points. Open cabinet doors under sinks in kitchens and bathrooms, to allow heated air to circulate underneath.
- Conduct Furnace Maintenance: Test your furnace routinely. An initial strong odor is typical when the unit has been off for an extended period of time. But if the smell lasts too long, turn off the furnace and call a professional heating contractor to perform a check. Replace the furnace filter regularly and have a professional clean and service the unit once a year.
- Collect shovels and snow blowers in advance: If necessary, have a snow removal plan for your facility. Service the facility snow blower or tractor or contract snow removal services before the cold weather season begins. Have an adequate amount of snow and ice melting products on hand and gather enough shovels to use in clearing walkways. Train deacons or other staff on their responsibilities when snow falls.
As church and school leaders, it is our responsibility to care and love those entrusted under our supervision. Conducting maintenance and upkeep tasks of the building shows that you not only care for those who use the facility, but you also have embraced God’s calling to love and care for His flock. Everything belongs to Him, so be proactive and think ahead. Let’s show the winter season that we are ready for it. Don’t be caught off guard.