Posted on May 29, 2020 by Nathan Parr | Church Facility Management, Coronavirus, Covid-19

Enjoy this script from Nathan Parr's latest podcast: "When the Honeymoon Ends". Feel free to listen to the podcast instead by going here! To view all of our podcasts online or subscribe via multiple channels, you can go here

Where do we go when the honeymoon ends? What happens when buyer’s remorse hits? Are we seeking the next solution without understanding the issues we need to fix?

The answer to the first two is simple…we must figure out the new course. The third answer is even simpler…yes. For many of us, we are being bombarded by “sources” with recommendations and solutions for the biggest fear at hand, yet we may not have been adequately prepared to deal with the pre-existing issues we faced. There is a mistaken thought that in a crisis we suddenly get smarter. Watch footage from any large crowd of people that become scared or emotional. Rational thought leaves the premises and fight or flight takes over. Or go to a large-scale sporting event. (sorry, could not resist). Most of us have experienced the pull of the crowd.

Unfortunately, when considering what you need to do regarding COVID-19, the pull of the crowd is strong. Regardless of the end of the spectrum you are on, you are emotionally invested. When you consider what you need to do, those decisions will be influenced by emotions in some manner. I prefer to research and see things in objective terms and verifiable proven facts. While my preference for information gathering and distribution is devoid of emotion (usually), the reason for it is not. In fact, it is founded on my recognition that I can be very subjective in certain areas, that it means so much to me that I want to be right so that I can feel assured that I have done all I can.

The issue becomes when that passion pushes me into the realm of confirmation bias. I have a strong position, and then I look for only those articles/individuals that support my position. However, I am not always right. (Yes, my wife has heard me say that before, that I am wrong. At least I assume she did… she had only been asleep for an hour or so I'm sure she heard me admit it.) Getting back on track...

If I find a product, process, or new information that I think is worthwhile and promising I first look for all the literature and material I can find that disagrees with how wonderful it is. I want to see why people think it is not good, what proof do they offer, and is that proof verifiable. Once I have explored those and built the best case I can for not liking it, I turn to the affirmative research. When doing that, I try to avoid only reviewing the affirming literature the company or founder of the process provide. I like to find 3rd party verification. When they quote scientific reports (on either side) I search for those reports to read as well. When I am done, I either agree with my original premise, hold reservations regarding my original premise, or reject it and try again.

So, what does that matter to us and COVID? Well, we are all in the hunt for the best way to re-open our facilities and make it safe as possible. UV lights in HVAC systems, ozone generators. Electrostatic sprayers and disinfectant fogging procedures. These represent a sample of items and questions we have received from facility stewards across the nation. After much research on many of these, here are some take-aways:

  • There is no one size fits all answer. Every gathering of believers is unique, the facility is unique, and the reality of COVID-19 in their immediate community is unique. You take in the info on what has worked for others and learn from their mistakes, but do not expect their process to work exactly for you.
  • There is some very promising data on technology like ozone generators and UV systems in your HVAC…but it will not solve any of the underlying deferred maintenance and lack of training issues you already had. Our research over many years affirms that deferred maintenance is a major issue across the country in churches, and custodial and maintenance teams are generally not afforded robust and consistent training opportunities. We are failing in the basics, adding in advanced technology on an inadequately maintained system decreases its effectiveness. It also adds a new need for better PM’s and upkeep, on a system that requires some specific training. Devices that can kill Coronavirus are generally not good for you to hang out and watch movies with. Before you invest in this technology, be realistic in your assessment as to whether you have taken care of the equipment and how well you have trained your teams.
  • Master the foundational elements, make a lasting difference. Train your teams, understand the science behind cleaning, train your teams, ensure that the products and equipment you use to clean is correct for your facility and in proper working order. Train your teams. If we have the foundational elements correct, we are better able to handle an increased disinfection protocol, and a properly trained team will continue to do it right past the point in time when the next new issue arrives (murder hornets anyone?)
  • You are not alone. Do not let those around you think they are. Refer to last week's podcast for more on that.
  • Everyone can make a difference, hold them accountable to it.
  • You probably should have ordered all the new cleaning equipment several months ago when you did not know you needed it. Fortunately, the basics of cleaning can still be utilized to keep you safe, just may require more time.

Wrapping this up, I encourage you to be judicious in any major investments of new to you technology in your building systems. Sure, there will be exceptions, but we are speaking in generalities. Focus first on your front-line and what they have available. Training, proper chemicals to do the work, proper equipment, support from all in the organization to do the job, and training.  Get that right, and then grow your capability. Otherwise, you may find that in a few months you have this massive thing in your facility that you do not know how to use, maintain, or how it is supposed to work. And as we return to more activities in our facilities, our time to train, perform preventative maintenance, and to learn becomes shorter. When that happens, we tend to fall back on engaging with the immediate at the expense of the long-term. 

There is hope, we will get through this together. Thanks again for dropping in on this Facilities Five and Dime, next week we will have some additional conversations with some folks and introduce you to a really neat tool. Stay safe everyone, till next week.

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