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It’s Time to Build an Ark! Not really.

It’s Time to Build an Ark! Not really.

Zach Folmer

Zach Folmer

Associate partner at ChurchWest.
Zach Folmer

Latest posts by Zach Folmer (see all)

Church Rain CaliforniaIt’s Time to Build an Ark!

Not really.

But it is time to prepare for the rains to come.

Water conservation and the drought in California have been top-of-mind for the past few years. But, do you remember the last El Niño we experienced?

It started in October of 1997 with a hurricane that slammed into Acapulco leaving behind heavy damage including hundreds of deaths. In December, Orange County experience a 24-hour deluge described as the most intense rain in more than a century. Over the next months a string of storms hit Southern California causing 17 deaths and washing out roads and rails.

“There is a 95% chance that El Niño will continue through the Northern Hemisphere in the winter of 2015-16,” according to the Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society.

Bill Patzert, climatologist for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, says that the southern U.S., from Southern California to Florida, can expect a very wet winter. For great graphics and explanations of El Niño and its status, click here.

The recent storms, flash floods and mudslides on October 15th, that closed a section of I-5 north of Los Angeles, may be just the beginning.

It may not be time to build an ark, but with El Niño on the way, it’s certainly time to work on preventing property damage and to prepare for disasters.

Be proactive about your facilities. An ounce of prevention now will save you costly repairs in the future. And when the storms hit, the lines will be long for repair men and the costs will go up.

Here’s a checklist to consider.

Contact the Authorities:

Contact your local fire department and public works agencies to discuss emergency planning at your facility. During an emergency, their resources will be strained. Planning with them now may save you that call.

Roof Inspections:

Annual roof maintenance can save you thousands of dollars when compared to emergency repairs due to unexpected leaks. Water leaks can encourage mold growth, damage interior support structures, start fires when dripping over wiring or appliances, cause ceilings to collapse, prevent you from holding services, force you to move until repairs are made and are just what the devil ordered to bring mayhem to your ministry.


It’s time to clean out the gutters on the roof and check the gutters and ditches or holding ponds around your property. Check that drains are clear and working. Test and correct drainage flow away from your structures and improve if possible. Prepare sandbags for troublesome water flow areas.


Employ a professional to make recommendations concerning slopes that might slide. Check large trees that might fall, if the ground around them gets too soggy, and make plans to trim or remove them. Old Eucalyptus trees are especially vulnerable. Your hardscaping will shed water quickly, and your plantings may be washed out.

Drought conversions to xeriscape can reduce the water-into-soil infiltration rates. Lawns that have dried out, from reduced watering, will become water-shedding mats. Subterranean drainpipes may have become clogged with roots from trees seeking water sources.

Building Heating:

Being trapped at your facility or your home during an emergency situation is no fun; but being trapped without heat is even worse. Worse than that is being trapped and unaware of dangerous and odorless carbon monoxide. Call your HVAC technicians now, before they get busy, to review a checklist and to make sure your heating systems are ready for winter. Also check furnace areas to ensure that nothing flammable has been stored near your furnace.

Emergency Preparedness:

Review your plans for emergency situations that will impact your staff, your congregation and the community. Assemble emergency supplies with flashlights and batteries, water, food, blankets and first aid kits. Discuss and develop a plan for responding to an emergency with your staff and volunteers. Who should be called? Where are things? Where should you assemble?

Your congregation needs attention too. You might develop a class to instruct members on the preparations they should make at their homes. First Aid classes for the congregation and community could be offered. Develop a list of trained medical and first aid people, within your congregation, who would be willing to assist.

Emergencies provide opportunities to help. Assemble teams of youth and adults who are willing to help older members of the community clean out their gutters and help with other home preparations.

Consider your outreach to the community around you and develop plans to help provide sand-bags or become a shelter location for food and overnight accommodations. Check with your local authorities to coordinate your efforts with other organizations in the community.

Noah was ready when the rains came. We should be too.