Reopening your facilities
So, you want to reopen your facility now that the Stay At Home orders are being lifted. What does that look like? You may want to hire a consultant, a set of outside eyes, to help you evaluate your facility and offer some guidance. A good consultant can help you:
Assess and analyze occupancy and space utilization.
Plan for social distancing and sanitization
Coordinate pedestrian circulation and flow
Adapt flexible spaces for safe, multi-functional use
Direct signage wording and placement to maintain a welcoming atmosphere while simultaneously adding layers of safety
Assess and Analyze - Your facility is much more than just your worship space. You probably have office space, fellowship space, education rooms, and multi-purpose rooms in your building. Further, you have often-overlooked common areas such as parking lots, hallways, welcome centers, and restrooms. Analyzing safe social-distancing occupancy is more than just taking your maximum occupancy as issued by the Fire Marshal and multiplying it by .25 or .50. A qualified consultant with an architectural and construction background can help you calculate feasible safe occupancy levels based on health authority guidelines.
Plan - Your occupancy study will determine how you implement and enforce social distancing. While every eventuality cannot be foreseen, it is important to determine ahead of time exactly how you will encourage social distancing. Exactly where will people be allowed to sit in the sanctuary? When and how will you sanitize spaces to ensure the health of your attendees? By coming up with a specific plan, you can maximize the utilization of your space while causing the least amount of disruption to your congregants.
Coordinate - How will people enter and exit your facility? Doors are choke points. If everyone is exiting the same doors others are entering, there is absolutely no way to maintain social distancing. You need someone to help you coordinate pedestrian patterns and traffic flow in your facility. You may have seen signs or floor markings at your local supermarket or other retailer indicating distances from other patrons or one-way aisles in the store. Take a page from the business playbook. Consider one-way hallways, entry / exit only doors, and reminder signs and markings to help people maintain acceptable social distance. A consultant can help you determine the most efficient and effective flow patterns for your facility.
Adapt - You may need to get creative in some of your space usage. Do you have areas that can serve as overflow areas for your worship space should your sanctuary exceed safe occupancy? Do you have technology available to stream the worship service to these areas? Do you have space that was originally designed and normally used for one purpose that can be better and more efficiently utilized for another purpose during these times of pandemic? How can you most effectively use your space to maximize your safe occupancy? These are all questions that an outsider with a fresh set of eyes may be able to help with.
Direct Signage - As you make changes to things like space utilization and pedestrian traffic flow, you will need to alert people to those changes. They need to know which door to enter and exit. They need to know which direction they need to walk. They need to know that you are asking for people to maintain social distancing, wear masks, refrain from handshaking, etc. Communicating effectively is key.
You see your facilities every day. You know your buildings inside and out. But, sometimes, a fresh set of eyes can help you see things you overlooked or help you imagine things you didn't think were possible. We encourage you to seek outside consultation to maximize your ministry potential in these difficult times.