Sturdy fire escapes, fire doors that open outward, building codes have been called “the silent protectors” and the month of May has been declared by the town of Blacksburg to be Building Safety Month in recognition of the complex system of building codes that keep people safe and of the building code officials who understand and implement them.
“Building Safety Month was created to bring awareness to building codes and enforcement of codes that keep us safe at the movies, the grocery store, and in our houses,” Cathy Cook, a twenty-year Blacksburg building official, who suggested the town recognize Building Safety Month said.
In proclaiming Building Safety month at a recent town council meeting, Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith recognized Cook as prominent statewide as a past president of the Virginia Building and Code Officials Association.
“I know she would be pleased for me to pass along that we are proclaiming May Building Safety Month and that during May residents of the county can have free deck inspections,” Hager-Smith said.
During May, property owners in Blacksburg can call 443-1325 Tuesday through Thursday to have an existing deck inspected.
Because Blacksburg is a college town, the Planning and Building Department chose to focus on decks this year.
“Over the years the deck requirements have changed,” Cook said. “There were minimal requirements early on and we live in a college town and we don’t get one or two people on a deck.“
Now, deck construction requirements are “pretty stringent” said Cook referencing tragic deck collapses that good code compliance can protect against.
“Now they have attachments and footer requirements, so when new decks come in they’re safe. But there are a lot of decks out there that are older, so we offer that existing deck to be inspected and be strong and steady to prepare for summer fun and family picnics,” she said. We’ve already had one person call. We hope and expect many more.”
“Building code officials and fire officials are first defenders and our silent protectors. When building and fire code officials do their job right, nothing happens,” Bryan Soukup, the government relations regional manager for the International Code Council during a recent recognition of the importance of building codes.
Virginia has the most comprehensive building and fire codes in the nation. Mayor Hager-Smith’s proclamation recognized the “largely unknown guardians of public safety, building officials, who assure us of safe efficient and livable buildings that are essential to keep America great.”