Building Codes…Code Enforcement…What’s the Purpose…What’s the Importance?
Such a common question, such a common concern, such a common topic of sometimes heated discussions. Let me sum it all up with one statement: “OAKLAND CALIFORNIA, WHAT IF!”
I am sure by now most of us have had the unfortunate opportunity to see and hear about the warehouse fire that took the lives of 36 citizens of their community. Oh yes they have codes, oh yes they are there for the protection of their citizens, but if they are not enforced, they do absolutely nobody one ounce of good.
We tend to be more reactive than proactive, which means now that the horrific incident happened, all of a sudden everybody wants it fixed, everybody wants answers, everybody wants to point fingers at everybody else. If we are proactive as we should be, incidents like this quite possibly could be prevented. Oh, but that’s Big ole Oakland California, we are just a much smaller New Albany, Mississippi….Please don’t think this could never happen to us, IT CAN!
With all this being said, and from my point of view, these are the points we want to drive home to each and every one of us. New Albany does have a set of codes we follow for both new and existing structures and occupancies within our city. We have a Building Inspector and Code Enforcement Division that oversees this area of high importance, and on a daily basis works one-on-one with us here at the fire department.
One would think and believe when it comes to life safety, that there would be NO issues, NO confusion, and NO problems convincing others to make the right decision for life safety, go the extra mile, or spend a few extra pennies to protect those that live, shop, eat, or enter a structure you are responsible for. One would think that when we inspect, or request for a fire alarm notification system, sprinklers, fire walls, approved ventilation/exhaust systems, proper wiring, exit lighting and signage, and maximum occupancy limits, there would be no issues or complaints about complying with the LIFE SAFETY GUIDELINES code. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
We spend a lot of time dealing with these issues, and often with disgruntled individuals, because “they just don’t understand why they have to do these silly things”, or “they want to see the codes be more flexible, less stringent, more cost efficient for them.” We understand, we really do, but do we really want to be the headlines on the national news? Do we want to look a single person in the eye and explain why their loved one has been injured or died in one of our structures? Are we prepared to lie awake at night and live with the fact we saved a few dollars, or ten thousand dollars for safety on a structure that cost twenty thousand to remodel, or three million to build? Such a small price in the grand scheme of things.
When we view plans for remodeling or new construction and we request or require certain things, it is nothing personal, nor is it just a foolish request. It is for life safety FIRST, and property conservation second. When we deny a request, or cite a code violation, we are doing so knowing that we are doing it with the thought of we may be saving the lives of each and every person in that structure.
We love our city, and we care about each and every person who is in it each day. We want to work with you, and be a part of the growth of our great city. We just want to ensure that we are not the next Oakland. Please keep this in mind when we all are sitting down and planning how our structures can be a safer environment for all involved. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, we always welcome the opportunity to assist you in any way at 107 Cleveland, or 662-534-1000
Mark Whiteside, Deputy Chief,
New Albany Fire/Rescue