Building safety professionals — the quiet heroes
Nowhere will you find a museum, monument, statue or even a plaque honoring the heroic efforts of our building and safety professionals. Although they have saved countless lives over the years, most people are unaware of their silent vigil over our daily safety.
The fact is that we have become complacent about building safety. We don’t stop to think about it — we simply take it for granted that the buildings in which we live, learn, work, worship and shop are structurally sound and can be safely exited in the event of an emergency. We don’t worry about the water from our faucets harboring contaminates, or the risk of fire or electrocution when we plug in our electrical appliances, or the possibility of becoming sick due to improper ventilation systems. These examples point out just a few of the many thousands of minimum standards that the public at large has come to assume are enforced throughout the country.
How is it that we can be so carefree about building safety? The answer is embodied by the men and women who go about their daily duties as building officials, plan check engineers, building inspectors and permit technicians, to ensure that minimum health, life and safety standards are followed. Their proactive and preventive duties enforcing our building codes have afforded this nation a level of access and safety that is unmatched anywhere in the world.
Despite this, many people are not familiar or knowledgeable with the proactive work of these professionals serving their communities. Ask any elementary school student to describe the responsibilities of a firefighter or police officer and they will almost certainly be able to give you a good description, but ask about building inspectors and you will get a blank stare. Are these devoted professionals any less heroic because they help prevent injury, death and fire, rather than respond to it?
The difference is that one is catastrophic and newsworthy and the other uneventful and unnoticed, as our work is preventative. Sometimes, when building and safety professionals are noticed, they are considered agents of an invasive government; however, the majority of people accept and follow the minimum requirements for building safety as they realize it is not only for their best interests, but also for their family, friends and the community.
It takes years of education and experience to achieve the knowledge required to become a building safety professional, as they must understand and apply thousands of ever-changing code requirements and standards. These professionals are not self-promoting, they don’t wear recognizable uniforms or drive big red trucks, but rest assured they are working for us and our communities every day, fulfilling their important life-saving duties.
If the public realized the countless thousands of lives saved by our building safety professionals, they would surely honor them with the highest respect. Regardless if that never happens, these quiet heroes will continue their dutiful sentry, as they have for more than 100 years to promote, preserve and protect the health, life and safety of everyone.