Building Safety Month goes to the dogs
Raising awareness about the importance of building codes and building safety has brought about many creative and original events to celebrate Building Safety Month, with building departments employing a range of immersive activities from CPR classes and flash mobs to backyard pool safety demos and home improvement store barbeques. This year, two resourceful jurisdictions — the city of Florence, Ore., and the city of Phoenix, Ariz. — took their celebrations to another level, with a little help from some canine companions.
The “fido focus” helped exponentially increase community engagement; strengthen relationships with public officials, contractors and the community; and, in one case, sparked interest in the codes and inspection careers.
Working dogs raise code awareness
The city of Florence is a coastal city located on the Siuslaw River in Oregon. For the building department, a division of the Community Development Department, Building Safety Month has long been a time to build relationships in the community, though this year’s “Dog on the Job” photo contest proved to be the best yet.
The idea for the contest, according to Vevie M. McPherren, planning administrative assistant for the department, emerged during the 2018 Building Safety Month as a way to strengthen the rapport with contractors, property and business owners, and residents and raise awareness about codes.
“A great number of our contractors have dogs,” explained McPherren. “We knew Building Safety Month was coming and we wanted a theme that would get the attention of contractors and the community. So, when one of our contractor’s came in with his regular sidekick — his dachshund — for a permit, we saw an opportunity.”
They put a hardhat on the dachshund and posted it on the department website with a message about safety, which garnered a lot of attention from the community and set the course for the 2019 Dog on the Job photo contest. Entry was simple — submit photos of your dog on the job.
Winners were selected by a committee that included representatives from public works, the police department, the finance department and Mayor Joe Henry. In May, the canine winners and their contractor owners were featured on the city of Florence website and acknowledged during a city council meeting where a Building Safety Month proclamation was read and signed by Mayor Henry.
Each of the winning dog photos — a total of five — were also featured on the website with a Code Council code-related message. For instance, week one featured Dakota and Kane, two pups intent on preparing for disasters and the week two winner was Bear and his safety-first ear protection equipment, followed by Chica, Roody and Pepper all actively engaged in safe construction practices.
“The photo contest provided a great vehicle to bring people to our website and social media sites,” McPherren added. “It was a refreshing interactive experience, and more importantly, a way to bring the community together.”
A key metric for the success of the program was the number of unique page views, which nearly tripled from 2018 to 2019.
One surprising value of the program is that it’s already attracted at least one young person to investigate a career in the building inspections field. McPherren is hoping to expand the program next year, using the dog-themed activity as a way to raise awareness about building safety and codes to high school students.
Lucky dogs promote doghouse codes
The city of Phoenix Planning and Development’s 2019 Building Safety Month celebration has taken on specialized themes for a number of years. Three years ago, the annual display in the Phoenix City Hall atrium featured a small mockup of a covered patio with solar panel and an inverter donated by Solar City. Last year the display featured a Tesla car charger in a garage.
This year, the department opted for a “Lucky Dog Days” theme, featuring the construction and raffling of two dream doghouses. The doghouses were built by General Inspections Field Supervisor Donald Councilor, CBO, with $1,200 in materials donated by eight local Home Depot stores. Along with the construction of the doghouses, Councilor put together a video of dogs “talking” about the key steps to building a home.
“Going along with the Code Council theme for this year, I stepped through the necessary codes to build a doghouse,” said Councilor, who also chaired the Phoenix 2019 Building Safety Month committee. “We stepped through lumber take-off, permitting, plans and inspections with International Residential Code references along the way.”
The Phoenix Planning and Development Department sold raffle tickets for each of the doggie dream houses and the raffle was held May 29, 2019, inside the Phoenix City Hall. Special guests at the event included Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport’s Navigator Buddies (therapy dogs that assist travelers at the airport offering stress relief) and the Phoenix Police Department’s McGruff the Crime Dog. The drawing attracted over 100 people and raised $2,000 for the Planning and Development Department’s Employee Recognition Committee.
Each year, starting on May 1, the International Code Council — together with corporations, government agencies, professional associations and nonprofits — celebrates Building Safety Month. The international campaign raises awareness about building safety and the importance of building codes in making our communities safer and more resilient. Last year, the Code Council explored the roles building codes play in our day-to-day lives, including disaster mitigation, access to safe water, job opportunities in the building industry and innovations in building safety.
Building Safety Month is celebrated in a variety of ways, including building department outreach, training events, gatherings and receptions, school visits, service work days, and more. The Code Council has many resources — proclamations, podcasts, videos, interactive digital posters, guides and informational brochures, and more — to help promote and celebrate the month. It’s never too early to celebrate Building safety Month or to start planning for your own event. If you would like to get involved in your own community, learn more at http://www.buildingsafetymonth.org and join the conversation by using the hashtag #BuildingSafety365 on social media.