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Building Safety Month May 2023
The Department of Land Use is proud to join the International Code Council in observing Building Safety Month, an international campaign held annually in May to raise awareness about building safety. The campaign reinforces the need for the adoption of modern, regularly-updated building codes, and helps individuals, families and businesses understand what it takes to create safe and sustainable structures. This year we will be focusing on how building safety is a personal, local, and global initiative that all begins with you!
All communities need building codes to protect their citizens from everyday disasters like fires, weather-related events such as floods, and structural collapse that follows deterioration over time of buildings of all kinds. Model building codes adopted and enforced by well-trained, professional code officials are society’s best way of protecting each other.
The 2023 campaign, “It Starts with YOU,” encourages all residents of New Castle County to consider how building safety impacts nearly every part of their lives including their homes and families.
The International Code Council is the leading global source of model codes and standards and building safety solutions. Code Council codes, standards and solutions are used to ensure safe, affordable and sustainable communities and buildings worldwide.
Week #1 Focus: Building Safety Starts at Home
Welcome to Week 1 of Building Safety Month 2023! As part of our "Building Safety is Personal" theme, this week we're highlighting "Building Safety Starts At Home" and how building safety impacts our everyday life as family members, friends and individuals at home. Here we'll dive into everything from fire safety tips and home maintenance best practices, to how to be more sustainable to ensure a cleaner and greener tomorrow.
What are some ways building safety impacts you at home? Join the Building Safety Month conversation – tag the NCC Department of Land Use on social media, and use #BuildingSafety365 to help spread the word!
Fire Safety At Home
Modern homes and buildings incorporate the latest building codes and are designed to minimize the possibility and effects of fire and other risks. While building safety professionals help maintain this system, there are things we can do at home to stay safe and help reduce the risk of fire. If a fire does break out, it's also critical to know how to make a safe exit – it takes less than 30 seconds for a small flame to burn completely out of control and turn into a major fire.
Here we've listed a few fire safety tips, and be sure to download and review our complete guides below.
- Put a smoke alarm on every level of your home, outside each sleeping area and inside every bedroom.
- Test each smoke alarm regularly. Keep batteries fresh by replacing them annually.
- Make an escape plan so everyone knows how to get out fast. Pick a meeting place outside the home where everyone will meet.
- Portable heaters need their space. Keep anything that can burn at least three feet away.
- Keep all items that can burn away from your home, clean leaves from your gutters and clear dead leaves and branches from shrubs and trees.
- 10 Important Tips To Remember for Fire Safety and Awareness
- Alarm Safety Tips From Your Building Inspector
- Gas Appliances Safety Tips
- Exit Safety Tips From Your Building Inspector
Building Safety At Home
Regardless if you own your home or you're renting, keeping your home maintained is important to ensure you're living in a safe environment. Home maintenance encompasses a wide range of preventative tasks that all contribute to occupant health, occupant safety and security and overall sustainability (more on this in the next section). From mold prevention to electricity safety tips from a code inspector, here are some of the highlights pulled from the resources below.
- Never overload electrical cords or power strips. Be sure the total amount of energy used by appliances and lights plugged into the cord or strip does not exceed that capacity.
- Don’t use appliances that have damaged cords.
- For mold prevention, watch for leaky pipes, condensation and wet spots, and fix sources of moisture problems as soon as possible.
- There are several materials and items that shouldn't be flushed down the toilet, including medication, disposable wipes, coffee grounds and more.
- To prevent your pipes from freezing this winter, drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer’s or installer’s directions.
- 10 Important Tips To Remember on Mold Prevention and Control
- Electrical Safety Tips
- Prevent Accidents, Save Lives Pool Safety Brochure
- 10 Important Tips To Remember For Backyard And Pool Safety
Sustainability At Home
The International Code Council is helping our communities forge a path forward on energy and sustainability to confront the impacts of a changing climate, and these guiding tenants can be used at home, too! With fresh water supplies at risk and an ever-increasing load on the power grid threatening communities around the world, every proactive step we take at home makes a big difference in decreasing our footprint and burden on the system. Keep these tips (more below) in mind the next time you set your thermostat, plan a home renovation and more.
- Install water-saving shower heads and low-flow faucet aerators, and use your water meter to check for hidden water leaks.
- Never dump anything down storm drains.
- Change the filters in the heating and cooling system of your home regularly.
- Replace your light bulbs with LEDs, which use up to 90 percent less energy and last up to 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Design your home with materials that are easily recyclable, reusable, renewable, durable, affordable and low maintenance.
- Build a rain garden to capture roof drainage and divert it to your garden or landscaping. Be sure to check your local rules on rainwater harvesting prior to installation.
Week #2 Focus: Building Safety Professionals and You
Week 2 of Building Safety Month introduces you to the important role that building safety professionals play in keeping our homes, schools and businesses safe.
Do you have a building safety professional you'd like to thank? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and use #BuildingSafety365 to help spread the word about Building Safety Month!
Who are Building Safety Professionals?
While you’re probably very familiar with what your local police and fire departments do, you may be less familiar with building safety professionals. In that way, building safety professionals are the silent defenders of public safety.
Here are a few things you should know:
- Building safety professionals include building inspectors of all kinds, building officials, plans examiners, permit technicians, fire marshals and more.
- Building safety professionals are constantly training and keeping up with the latest codes and standards.
- Their knowledge spans every aspect of the life of a building – from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the roof – and everything in between.
- Many building safety professionals have experience as architects, engineers, contractors or even government officials.
- There are many paths available to become a building safety professional.
Resource: Careers in Building Safety
What Do They Do?
Building safety professionals provide guidance and advice to architects, engineers and contractors to help them bring building projects to life while ensuring safety for occupants and residents. They also help keep existing buildings safe by conducting inspections and adopting the latest building codes. They are community-oriented and dedicated to making the world a safer place. Building safety professionals:
- Protect the public through their commitment to building safety.
- Enforce code compliance to empower and educate partners to embrace and integrate safety standards in their work.
- Ensure that buildings are constructed to withstand the stress of everyday use.
- Perform safety checks that protect your home from emergencies before fire, flood or disaster strike.
- Support economic development by making our buildings studier, and therefore longer lasting.
- Play a significant role in community planning decision making as a connection between government, business and built environment partners.
Did you know? Land Use staff collectively hold 194 certifications and/or licenses which ensure they are keeping up with the latest innovations in the building industry!
With 80% of code professionals retiring in the next 15 years, educating today’s youth is more important now than ever. As a result, Land Use partnered with Paul M. Hodgson Vocational Technical High School to implement the International Code Council (ICC) High School Technical Training Program (HSTTP). The program helps students gain building code knowledge that goes hand-in-hand with practical training for the workplace and opens the doors to future career opportunities.
As a result, Hodgson Vo-Tech became the first school in New Castle County and the 45th nationwide to join the program during the 2018-2019 school year. After completion of the prestigious training program, 15 students took the final exam and passed with a score of 80% or better! It is our goal to expand HSTTP to all New Castle County technical schools and Delaware Technical and Community College in the near future.
Week #3 Focus: Prepare Your Community
Week 3 of Building Safety Month 2023 focuses on how to protect your home and your community from disaster. Read on to learn more about how building codes help to protect us against flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes and wildfire events. You’ll also learn how to plan to help limit damage to buildings in your community.
How Codes Protect Against Disaster
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), one of the most cost-effective ways to safeguard our citizens and our communities against disasters is to adopt and follow hazard-resistant building codes.
When adopted and enforced, building codes can save lives, save billions of dollars and protect property for generations to come.
Here are a few facts to consider:
- Since 1980, the average number of billion-dollar disasters has been six per year, but from 2016 to 2018, the number jumped to 15 per year.
- A staggering 65 percent of counties, cities and towns across the U.S. have not adopted modern building codes.
- Only 27 percent of hazard-prone jurisdictions in the U.S. adopted the latest two editions of hazard-resistant building codes.
- The I-Codes could help communities avoid $132 billion to $171 billion in cumulative losses through 2040.
- If all new buildings across the U.S. were built to modern editions of the I-Codes, the country would save more than $600 billion by 2060.
Having an evacuation and communication plan in place and an emergency supply kit on hand can help protect you and your loved ones. Review these simple, life-saving tips and visit Ready.gov for specific tips on dealing with earthquakes, extreme heat, floods, home fires, hurricanes, tornados, wildfires and more.
- Develop a family action plan and share with everyone in your family, so you will know where to go if an evacuation is called.
- Review at least two exit routes from your home or neighborhood to a designated meeting place for your family.
- Create a disaster supply kit that will allow you to remain in your home after a disaster or for use after evacuating to a safer location. Be sure the necessities in your kit are fresh and restored as necessary.
- Stay tuned to radio, TV and NOAA Weather Radio for official updates and critical lifesaving weather information. Remember, reception is usually best if placed near a window.
- Safety First - Disaster Preparedness
- 10 Important Tips To Remember For Disaster Safety And Mitigation
Hazard mitigation is a defensive approach that reduces long-term risk to people and property from future disasters. According to Climate.gov, the impacts of climate-related hazards are already occurring, and they are projected to worsen in many regions around the world. Here are a few tips to consider before the next hazardous event:
- Visit Climate.gov to check how your exposure to five common climate-related hazards is projected to change over time.
- For earthquakes, start by anchoring or relocating top-heavy or large objects, securing fixtures, electronics and water heaters, keeping a clear path to the exit and latching your cabinets.
- For flooding, store valuables in waterproof containers, floodproof basements, elevate utilities above the BFE, install flood vents and use flood-resistant insulation and drywall.
- For wildfires, construct your roof with fire-resistant materials, create 30 feet of defensible space around your home, remove debris from roof and gutters and seal gaps around exterior walls and roof.
- For severe winds from tornados or hurricanes, protect windows and glass doors with storm shutters, reinforce garage doors, fortify your roof and remove rotting trees and limbs.
Week #4 Focus: Advocate for Your Community
Week 4 gives you all the tips and tools you need to help advocate for building safety in your community! There are many ways to get involved – from social media to county council meetings. Read on for more tips.
We all have a role in making sure the places where we live, work and play are safe. From reaching out to your local media, to advocating for building safety to local leadership, even the smallest action can make a difference. Here we've included education and advocacy tips, as well as templates that are easily editable and shareable.
- Talk to your network about building safety and share fact-based information and resources on your social media accounts.
- Share news releases with your local newspapers, radio stations and television networks to encourage local media to cover stories related to building safety.
- Share building safety information or concerns with your public information officer, city manager or mayor.
- Plan community events to raise awareness or attend local events about building safety.
- Contact the code officials in your area to learn more about the building industry and discover local volunteer opportunities.
Get Kids Involved!
We've put together resources here and on our Kids Corner page to help parents, teachers and community leaders teach kids what building safety professionals do, and how they make our homes and communities safer for everyone. With a little help from CODiE the Cheetah, kids can work through our Building Safety Month activity book to complete their training and earn a certificate as a Junior Code Official.
- Listen to our special episode of the Pulse Podcast on "Kids and Building Safety".
- Print our kid's safety checklist used in the episode for an interactive building safety experience at home.
- Our Building Safety Month activity book includes fun puzzles and games that teach kids what to do to keep themselves and their families safe, aware and prepared. Check out our Building Safety Month coloring book as well!
- Parents, teachers and chapter leaders browse Building Safety Month-themed items that are perfect for little aspiring safety officials at home.
- Host a Building Safety Kids Day to spread awareness and encourage kids to explore building safety.
Become a Building Safety Professional
If you're looking for a fulfilling career that makes a difference in your community, consider a career in building safety! There are many paths to becoming a building safety professional and many roles within the industry:
- Building Officials
- Inspectors - electrical, mechanical, plumbing
- Fire Marshals
- Permit Technicians
- Plans Examiners
If you’re new to building safety, consider taking advantage of our Safety 2.0 Program that helps students and professionals who are interested in career development and assistance. No two building safety careers are the same – here's a look at some of their many responsibilities:
- Building Safety Professionals assist design professionals, contractors, building owners and the public to understand how to design, construct, operate and occupy buildings in conformance with the International Codes and technical standards adopted by local and state jurisdictions.
- Code officials have opportunities to serve as building safety generalists, but also to become experts in specific code specialty areas.
- Project opportunities span private businesses, residential applications and public works initiatives across a regional jurisdiction.
- Jurisdictions vary greatly, and can encompass state, local, tribal and territorial governments.
- Inspectors have a dynamic workday – working both indoors and outdoors between office settings and construction sites
Resource: Careers in Building Safety
Week #5 Focus: Solving Challenges Together
Week 5 elevates Building Safety Month to a global scale and addresses some of the issues that we face as a global community including extreme weather events and water scarcity.
Global Water Scarcity
Clean water is the world’s most precious commodity, and public health depends on safe and readily available water. The World Health Organization estimates over two billion people live in water-stressed countries, which is expected to worsen in some regions due to a changing climate and population growth. Water conservation and efficiency issues have become crucial conversations amongst building safety professionals in recent years. The building industry looks to increase water efficiency through innovative practices and technologies not just domestically, but worldwide. Here are some examples of countries in water-scarce areas that are innovating:
- Saudi Arabia boasts the highest production of desalinated water worldwide (removes salt out of water from the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf) and are in the process of converting their desalination plants to solar.
- Israel is leading the world through their policies, practices and technologies for its water resources and conservation, most notably through reclaiming over 80 percent of its wastewater and stormwater for agricultural operation.
- Cape Town, South Africa, is incorporating automated domestic water metering installations to set a target water usage for each resident per day, leveraging alternative water sources and is updating their supply network infrastructure.
- The United Kingdom is cutting water use through water metering, incentives for water-saving technologies, hosepipe bans and investing in updating the country's water supply equipment.
- The 2000s drought in Australia (also known as the "Millennium drought") compelled a coordinated response on water conservation. Changes were added to the Plumbing Code of Australia (PCA) that regulated stricter water flow rates on household appliances, the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme for products covered by the scope of the PCA (including washing machines and dishwashers) was introduced and using water for irrigating gardens and washing cars was banned.
Building Resiliency Solutions Around the World
Communities worldwide are experiencing an increase in disaster events that are significantly impacting their societies, economies and cultures. Here are a few resiliency success stories that we can all learn from:
- Copenhagen, Denmark is combatting flooding in one neighborhood by replacing asphalt with innovative tiles that allow rainwater to seep back into groundwater aquifers.
- After severe earthquakes in 2011 and 2016, New Zealand has incorporated base isolation systems that allow a building's foundation to move horizontally to dissipate seismic forces.
- The Netherlands have addressed their vulnerability to flooding by creating a "Room for the River" program that creates diversions, restores riverine landscapes and removes silt to combat river floods.
- Białystok, Poland has built green bus stops designed to withstand intense rainfall, strong winds, drought and heat waves. They feature vegetation on the roof and walls and can retain up to 250 liters of rainfall.
- Canada's Zibi waterfront city is a 34-acre master-planned community that relies on post-industrial waste energy for heating and the Ottawa River for cooling, and the urban design prevents local flooding.
Modern Building Codes Support Sustainability
Globally, buildings and building construction sectors combined are responsible for over one-third of global final energy consumption and nearly 40 percent of total direct and indirect CO2 emissions. Modern building codes are at the core of conversations on increased energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Here are a few ways that building codes and sustainability intersect:
- The European Commission has been aggressive over the past 15 years improving the energy efficiency of new buildings in member countries, and satisfying net-zero emission building code requirements. This has been achieved through a series of building directives that promote policies that help:
- achieve a highly energy efficient and decarbonised building stock by 2050
- create a stable environment for investment decisions
- enable consumers and businesses to make more informed choices to save energy and money
- Since 2005 the National Construction Code (NCC) in Australia has seen incremental increases in the stringency for greenhouse gas emissions and energy savings in all classes of buildings. These changes have been introduced in accordance with a Trajectory for Low Emission Buildings – the end point of which is net-zero ready buildings.
- Dubai Municipality issued the second edition of the Al-Sa'fat system in early 2023, which aims to include a set of mandatory requirements for all new buildings to obtain the Silver Sa’fa as an official green building rating system (replacing the existing green building code). The update would help streamline the process of reducing energy, water and material consumption, and enhance design and construction related activities for efficient building operations.
- As green building councils around the world are increasing focus on embodied carbon in buildings, expect to see a growing need for Environmental Product Declarations for all building products. An EPD is a comprehensive disclosure of a product's environmental impacts based on a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) based on the ISO 14025 standard. Learn more about the ICC-ES EPD program here.
- The International Code Council and ASHRAE are developing a joint greenhouse gas (GHG) evaluation standard (ASHRAE/ICC Standard 240P) to provide a methodology to quantify and document GHG emissions associated with buildings, building systems and equipment over their life cycle.