Thursday, June 27, 2013

Steps to safe structures: Celebrating building safety year-round

In a disaster, structures are often the first place we go for safety. But how do we make sure those buildings are safe? One way is through enforcement of strong building codes, as President Barack Obama noted during his Building Safety Month proclamation this spring.

“Time and again, devastating natural disasters have tested the strength of our communities and the resilience of our people,” Obama said. “Our capacity to withstand these threats depends on what we do to prepare today, from reinforcing critical infrastructure to making sure our buildings adhere to local codes and standards.”

It’s not just during national observances that we should think about building safety, however. Year-round, all types of conditions and weather can cause damage to buildings that could make them unsafe. Summer can bring high winds from thunderstorms and tornadoes, and winter can produce damaging ice and snow.

So what can you do to make sure a building is safe? While some steps take place before a building is constructed and others occur after a disaster, there are many ways to make buildings safer and protected.

Build it for safety: Building codes are rules that builders follow to make sure that a structure is safe and prepared for possible emergencies. Builders use information like where a building is located and common weather risks to decide how to build a safe and protected building.

In fact, this year’s Building Safety Month theme was “Code Officials Keep You Safe.” Each week, the International Code Council, founder of the observance, shared information about how codes protect us, looking at topics ranging from fires to dangerous weather.

Prepare it for safety: Even after a building has been built, there are sometimes more ways to keep it safe. For example, a house in an area where hurricanes are common could have shutters added to prevent damage to windows.

Evaluate its safety: If a disaster does damage a structure, officials will need to make sure the building is safe for people to enter again. High winds could damage parts of a home or spread debris around. In addition, earthquakes could damage a building’s foundation and flooding could leave behind mold conditions. All of these things could cause health problems or injuries.

It’s always a good time to consider the safety of your home, workplace or other buildings. For more details on ensuring buildings are safe for disasters, download our Get Ready fact sheet in English  or Spanish.

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