City of Galax has an innovative plan to celebrate Building Safety Month amid pandemic
Faced with business closures, stay-at-home orders and limits on the size of public gatherings due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, building officials have been looking for ways to celebrate Building Safety Month in their jurisdictions while ensuring everyone’s health and safety. For one city in rural Virginia, the solution has been to enlist a tried and true technology that continues to play a central role in the community — radio.
James Moss, project manager for the city of Galax, Va., and president of the Virginia Building and Code Officials Association, is teaming up with the two FM radio stations in town — 96.5 WCGX “The Cat” and 98.1 WBRF — to produce radio spots on the Building Safety Month weekly themes that will air throughout May, and to air a special feature program on building safety.
“The spots will be broadcast multiple times daily,” Moss said. “We’re covering every topic that’s on the Code Council’s Building Safety Month website, and we have a script for each one. We’re producing the spots, and the stations are allowing us the time.”
The four weekly themes for this year’s Building Safety Month, under the banner of “Safer Buildings, Safer Communities, Safer World,” are: disaster preparedness; water safety; resiliency, sustainability and innovation; and training the next generation.
“In years past, we had partnered with Carroll and Grayson Counties and the town of Hillsville for Building Safety Month events,” Moss explained. “But this year, with the circumstances the way they are, they couldn’t participate. So we went back to doing an event ourselves. And with the help of the radio stations, you couldn’t ask for better.”
Moss said that while other audio technologies like streaming channels and podcasts are gaining popularity, radio still rules in Galax. The city, located in southwestern Virginia near the North Carolina border, has a population of around 7,000 people and is a popular tourist destination for its music and arts scene.
“Streaming is pretty much taking over everywhere, but for now in Galax radio is still the major communication medium — to the point that we just had our second FM station launch two years ago,” Moss said. “And we’ll be on both.”
In past years, Moss has been able to visit schools to talk to students directly about careers in building safety. This year, in addition to the radio spots, Moss said he is considering techniques that might appeal more to the younger crowd like live streaming or video chats.
Either way, Moss said, it’s proving to be a challenge to reach people when public events are largely forbidden. It’s a real blow to his department, Moss said, because over the past five years attendance at Building Safety Month events has grown steadily and last year drew an estimated 300 people. Not only that, but the events have helped strengthen the connections between his department and the local residents and business owners.
“Building Safety Month has become an important part of our community interactions,” Moss said. “We found out really early on that it was a very good way to interact with our community on a more personal level, as a way to put a different light on why building codes are important to a community, and how communities are sustainable because of them.”
“We’re able to drive home the message that the most prosperous communities are the ones that enforce strong building codes, with not only long-term benefits to the viability of the structures but also short-term benefits to the owners and the people who use them. To let it go by this year with nothing happening just didn’t seem like the thing to do.”