Throughout the month of May, members of City of Indio’s Building & Safety Division are taking part in the 40th Annual Building Safety Month. This worldwide campaign is presented by the International Code Council, its members and partners to promote building safety. This year’s campaign, “Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World,” highlights the importance of building codes for providing a safe constructed environment, and regularly updated codes that ensure that communities are protected in the face of disasters.
Each week, members of Indio’s Building & Safety team, which includes permit technicians, building inspectors, and plans examiners, will highlight what they’re doing on the City’s social media channels. Watch for photos and stories about their role in ensuring the safety of homes, stores, manufacturing facilities and other buildings.
The first week’s theme is Disaster Preparedness. In Indio, that usually means thinking about the possibility of earthquakes or flash flooding. However, at this moment, dealing with COVID-19 is forefront in the minds of those working in our community.
“Through this Coronavirus pandemic we’ve continued to provide an essential service through virtual inspections, online services, and meetings with customers on an appointment only basis,” said Gil Estrada, Chief Building Official. “We’ve helped our construction community continue to build much needed housing. We’ve helped keep people working, earning money to feed their families and pay their bills.”
This year’s campaign themes are: Week One, May 1-10, Disaster Preparedness; Week Two, May 11-17, Water Safety; Week Three, May 18-24, Resiliency. Sustainability. Innovation.; and Week Four, May 25-31, Training the Next Generation.
As we prepare ourselves for the increased severity and frequency of natural disasters, building safety is even more important. Disaster mitigation through the adoption and enforcement of building codes is one of the best ways for communities to prepare and protect against future disasters. Homes and buildings that are built in compliance with building safety codes and the officials who enforce the codes are essential to helping communities minimize the risks of death, injury and property damage in the event of a disaster.
“The men and women that serve as building safety and fire prevention experts are heroes to our communities,” said Estrada. “They inspect buildings and review construction plans to ensure code compliance and to ensure the places where you live, work and play are safe.”
In addition to educating the community about Building Safety Month, the City issued an official Proclamation on May 6, 2020, "Whereas our confidence in the structural integrity of these buildings that make up our community is acheived through the devotion of vigilant guardians-- building safety and fire prevention officials, architects, engineers, builders, tradespeople, design professionals, laborers, plumbers and others in the construction industry-- who work year-round to ensure the safe construction of buildings..."
With an extensive history dating back to 2200 B.C and the Code of the Hammurabi, king of the Babylonian Empire, building codes have protected the public for thousands of years. The regulation of building construction in the United States dates back to the 1700s. Today, the International Codes, developed by the Code Council and adopted by our community, are the most widely used and adopted set of building safety codes in the U.S. and around the world.
For more information about building codes and compliance, contact Chief Building Official Gil Estrada at email@example.com.
Learn more about Building Safety Month at www.buildingsafetymonth.org or join the conversation on social media using #BuildingSafety365.
Week One: Disaster Preparedness:
In our area, the biggest disaster we’ll probably have to face is a major earthquake. The San Andreas and other faults are nearby. If we were to be struck by a substantial earthquake, our inspectors would be deployed to do damage assessments. In a nutshell, they would determine which buildings are safe to enter and inhabit (those would be green tagged); which buildings are safe enough to enter only to obtain valuable personal belongings (building yellow tagged); and which buildings are unsafe and may not be entered (red tagged). Indio's inspectors are ready for a disaster with a hard hat, flashlight, caution tape, face masks, a laptop, cell phone and measuring tape, along with many other tools of the trade to safely determine the structural integrity of a building.
Week Two: Water Safety
Indio Water Authority makes sure that Indio’s water is drinkable (or potable). Once it arrives to homes and businesses, Building & Safety makes sure that all the water piping is properly installed. We also make sure that special devices called backflow preventers are used in the water system to keep contaminants out. Because there are liquid fertilizers and weed killers that you can attach to your garden hose, when the water is shut-off there is suction back into the water system; the anti-siphon device stops that from happening.
While still in or around the home, Building & Safety makes sure the home is in compliance by installing water-conserving plumbing fixtures. Because of California's droughts, we have Codes and laws that require toilets not to use more than 1.28 gallons of water per flush. And, working with other departments such as Planning and IWA, we have requirements for the use of water efficient landscaping and properly designed irrigation systems.
Finally, water safety comes to mind where homes or communities include private and public swimming pools. Again, the Codes and State laws require protection from drowning around the pools. For the most part, we’ll find fences, walls and gates around pool areas to keep young children from entering. Gates leading into the pool area are required to be self-closing and self-latching. This is required so that when one goes through it will close and latch on its own. Another protection is floating pool alarms. When water is disturbed, the alarm goes off to notify adults that someone is in the pool.
In sum, Building & Safety is here to make sure buildings comply with Codes and laws for water safety and efficiency within our fine City.
Week Three: Resiliency, Sustainability and Innovation
The International Code Council defines Resiliency as “the ability to plan and prepare for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events regardless of whether the subject is an individual or our society, a business or our economy, a single bridge or all critical infrastructure.”
Innovation is the act of coming up with new ways in dealing with old or new matters. Innovation usually means doing or creating something that is more effective and efficient.
In the wake of this pandemic, our Building & Safety Division has shown resiliency and innovation in adjusting or adapting so that we continue to serve our customers as best as possible. As an essential business, we’ve continued to provide all Building & Safety services which includes plan reviews, issuance of building permits, and building inspections.
To accomplish those tasks, we’ve pretty much gone completely digital, taking in permit applications and plans electronically. With that, we’re also providing virtual inspections when necessary or appropriate. Overall, we’ve been resilient and innovative by adapting to the social distancing requirements and by implementing innovative methods to continue to be effective and efficient.
In regard to sustainability, our City follows State and local laws and Codes for providing energy and water efficient buildings and sites.
By now, most of us have seen that most or all light fixtures are now some sort of high-efficacy, such as light-emitting diodes (LED). Our newer homes also include light fixture dimmers and/or photo-sensors so that we’re saving energy. Finally, but definitely not all inclusive, state laws and Codes require that builders recycle at least 65 percent of the construction and demolition waste materials.
Summing it up, the Building & Safety team strives to make sure that all our buildings will have a long life and that they will stand up to nature’s elements; that these buildings are utilizing the latest water and energy efficient technologies; and that we are properly reviewing and accepting the latest innovations in methods and materials of construction.
Week Four: Training the Next Generation
According to a 2014 survey conducted by the National Institute of Building Sciences, 80 percent of the existing skilled workforce will be retired or will have moved on to some other career by 2029. This workforce not only includes Building & Safety personnel but construction workers too. Looking on the bright side, this creates a tremendous opportunity for job seekers, especially our younger generation coming out of high school or college.
"To help train the next generation, I taught in the Inspection Technology program at San Bernardino Valley College from 1999 to 2018," said Indio's Chief Building Official, Gil Estrada. "During those two decades I was fortunate enough to see a number of students become Building Inspectors, and some eventually even Building Officials."
Through the years, Estrada has also attended a number of Career Day events from elementary school through college. For the most part, it doesn’t appear that many people are familiar with Building & Safety departments and what they do. So the message is to highlight how Building & Safety truly helps to protect our community, not just in the buildings where we live, work and play, but on the sites where these buildings reside.
"Since you are reading this quick summary," Estrada added, "Please consider and/or share with others the great career opportunities that exist in Building & Safety. Our department includes some of the following: permit technicians who assist the public with building plan submittals and permit issuance; building inspectors who inspect the construction process to make sure buildings are built to City Codes and are safe for occupancy; and plans examiners who review construction plans to make sure that buildings are properly designed and will stand up to natural forces like wind and earthquakes."
Lastly, our own College of the Desert has a Building Inspection Technology program for those that are interested in an exciting career in Building & Safety.