Building Safety Week in the United States is May 5 – 11, 2008, to promote the achievements and benefits of building and fire protection codes. I’ll bet some readers right now are rolling their eyes at what appears to be another marketing ploy of creating a “recognized” day of the year (in this case an entire week) to get you to buy something. I understand the sensitivity, but let me share with you why I am jumping on the bandwagon to recognize and even promote Building Safety Week. (I promise there are no greeting cards or gifts required) Building Safety Week was first observed almost 30 years ago in 1980. Since that time, local governments, building departments and fire departments have dedicated this week to raise public awareness on best building safety practices and to recognize the critical role that building and fire prevention codes have in standardizing building safety for everyone.
The theme of this year’s program is “Building Safety Where You Live, Work and Play.” This theme is intended to send the apparent message that most people spend the majority of their time inside some structure, so the topic of building safety deserves a moment of your time. For most people, when you enter a house or building, you’re not thinking about whether it is properly constructed and safe. This fact alone is a testament to the high level of trust we place in our building and fire prevention codes and the assumption we have that our public servants are correctly updating and enforcing these codes.
The sponsor of Building Safety Week, the International Code Council (ICC), along with other code development associations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), create the building safety and fire prevention codes that address all aspects of construction. This includes items such as structural soundness of buildings, reliability of fire prevention and suppression systems, plumbing and mechanical systems, and energy efficiency and sustainability. To ensure buildings are safe requires the active participation of property owners, building safety and fire prevention officials, architects, builders, engineers, and others in the construction industry.
This year’s Building Safety Week is especially meaningful to supporters of residential fire sprinkler use as the International Building Code (IBC) is at the centre of attention with proposed code changes pending that would require fire sprinklers to be installed in all residential structures. The recent US Fire Administration’s official endorsement of these residential fire sprinkler requirements has fueled the intensity of this debate.
In more significant numbers than ever before, fire prevention departments across the United States are utilizing Building Safety Week to raise public recognition and support for the use of residential fire sprinklers. Although we have achieved a high standard for building quality in the United States, there are still some proven fire protection benefits commonplace in commercial buildings, that are still missing from that building we value most…our home.