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Communities Affected by Katrina Should Make Proactive Start

Hurricane Katrina will forever be synonymous with deadly destruction and lives shattered, left in disarray. Still, families and businesses affected by the devastating storm want to return to their homes, lives and economy.

Established as a French Colony in 1718 and constructed over 287 years, many of the old buildings that once graced the streets of New Orleans will be tough to replicate; as will the historical monuments of Mississippi, Alabama, and other affected areas. Although Katrina left great damage, in the aftermath of her ruin, a tremendous opportunity exists to rebuild with a commitment to a safe built environment with professional building codes.

Building departments, community leaders and builders along the Gulf Coast will approach the coming months with reservation and anticipation as they prepare for the reconstruction. Some may attempt to rebuild communities too quickly, without much forethought and in a relatively short three-year period. The construction and reestablishment of the areas' 200,000+ lost homes and estimated 110,000+ buildings will be an enormous undertaking. The lure of big dollars and quick profits could entice builders to move hastily without benefit of proper Plan Review and Inspection of new and existing construction.

Now is the time for local officials to make important code enforcement decisions. Questions should be addressed such as "is there anything that should be changed or included? Should building codes be adopted, updated, amended?" Changing or amending codes to achieve reliable construction may be what is needed to maximize the structural integrity to withstand a catastrophic event.

This is an equally appropriate time to "raise the bar" for the safety of the occupants of the new homes and businesses. Achieving greater standards require the strong will of good community leaders and a supportive political climate.

Important life and property saving measures, such as sprinklers for residential and commercial buildings, should be implemented right from the start. All planned and proposed safeguards should be discussed immediately, because once construction begins and the eyes of country are watching, backpedaling will only impede progress. I encourage those responsible for overseeing the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast to lead with a proactive start.

Richard A. Piccolo is president of B & F Technical Code Services, Inc. With more than 30 years in the building code and fire industry, Mr. Piccolo is a Master Code Professional, a Certified Building Official, a Certified Fire Official, a Certified Property Maintenance Inspector, a Certified Building Inspector, a Certified Plans Examiner, an Illinois Certified Fire Inspector and a Certified Firefighter III. He has helped write building and fire codes for the state of Illinois as well as a number of municipalities.
B & F Technical Code Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 957648
2401 W. Hassell Road., Suite 1550
Hoffman Estates, IL 60169
  Phone: (847) 490-1443
  Toll-Free (800) 232-5523
  Fax: (847) 490-1476