ICC Members: Shaping the safety of the world around us — Virgil Rome, Jr.
Code professionals ensure building safety today, for a stronger tomorrow. As the individuals behind modern codes and standards, these professionals are responsible for ensuring the safety and compliance of codes and standards, shaping the safety of the world around us, and serve as the safety foundation for our buildings. They don’t just ensure that buildings are constructed to withstand the stress of everyday use, they are behind the security and stability of every building. They specialize in preventative measures to help communities weather unforeseen natural disasters and ensure that first responders have less to worry about and can do their jobs safely. Code professionals are an essential piece in the building and construction puzzle and are engaged in the building process from the initial building plan to the finished product.
The International Code Council is a member-focused association with over 64,000 members dedicated to developing model codes and standards used in the design, build and compliance process to construct safe, sustainable, affordable and resilient structures. They protect the public through their commitment to building safety; enforce code compliance to empower and educate stakeholders across the built environment to embrace and integrate safety standards in their work; support economic development by making our buildings sturdier, and therefore longer lasting. Their knowledge, skills, and abilities impact every building, in every community.
The Code Council recognizes the importance of continuing to grow awareness of the important work that code professionals do and the impact they have, in the hopes of encouraging aspiring building safety professionals to join in on the building safety movement. In this exclusive feature for the Building Safety Journal, we asked Virgil Rome, Jr. to share his experience in the industry, highlights of his professional career, and any insights or advice he has concerning the industry and the future of building safety.
Virgil Rome, Jr.
County Fire Marshal
Newton, New Jersey, United States
International Code Council member for five years
BSJ: What was the path to your career — how and why did you pursue a profession in building safety?
Rome: I have had a rather interesting path to this career. I first worked for 25 years as a Detective in a County Prosecutor’s Office, focusing on Major Crimes, and leaving as Lieutenant when I was asked to assume the role of Undersheriff in the County Sheriff’s Office. The position of Undersheriff is the second in command within the office. After six years, in 2010 I retired. Two years later, I was asked by the current Sheriff to return to serve as an Emergency Management Coordinator and also to oversee the construction and implementation of our first Countywide 911 Communication Center, which opened in late 2014. A short time after that, there was a sudden and unexpected vacancy of the County Fire Marshal. Having a background in fire investigation and also having participated as a volunteer firefighter in my community I guess I appeared to be a likely viable candidate and was asked by the Sheriff to transition to that position. Of course, this meant taking crash courses and passing certification exams on regulations and codes, as well as learning to perform inspections and all of the other administrative responsibilities that go along with it.
BSJ: What three things do you need to be successful in this industry and in your profession?
Rome: Number one is a competent and hard-working support staff that understands the mission and are willing to sacrifice and be committed.
Number two is mutual respect, cooperation and working relationship with the community and all of the local business owners.
Number three is a strong desire to learn and participate in constant continuing education. The dynamics of this position are so fluid and constantly changing that it is critical to have a thirst and endeavor to learn. I have always subscribed to the philosophy that any day that you don’t learn something is a wasted day and that it is equally important to share that knowledge.
BSJ: What role have mentors, advisors or your network played in your career?
Rome: There is no way whatsoever that I could have succeeded in any part of my career without having mentors, role models and networking. From growing up having my best friend’s father being a Detective and that becoming my initial motivation for a future career path, to then being assigned to a partner/training officer following completion of the police academy, to having older firefighters in the firehouse that had been there and done that – all so critically important. And it must be stated that attending seminars and conferences which provide the opportunity to network while also learning new things is so important and invaluable. So much is learned outside the pages of books and is often even more useful and important.
BSJ: What led you to become an ICC member?
Rome: I became an ICC member when I heard of the organization while attending Fire Inspector certification classes. Having the mindset of always wanting to learn and expand my knowledge I immediately felt that such an organization would be something that I wanted to become a member of. I have found the resources offered by the ICC in the form of training materials and certifications to be extremely useful.
BSJ: Are you involved in any ICC committees or councils? Do you have any ICC certifications?
Rome: I currently possess an ICC Certification for Fire Inspector 1. I am not a member of any ICC committees.
BSJ: How long have you been in the industry?
Rome: 6 years
BSJ: What major changes have you seen?
Rome: The biggest change I have seen in my short time being involved in this industry is constantly evolving building construction relying upon lightweight materials, as well as much improvement in the areas of fire safety equipment and public safety awareness and education.
BSJ: What excites you about the future of your industry?
Rome: As noted in the last response, there seems to be an increasing public awareness by the general civilian population concerning safety, particularly with respect to fire prevention. Because of advancements in the construction and implementation of fire safety equipment such as detectors, alarms and sprinkler systems, there seems to be a significant decrease in structure fires around the country. Obviously, this should result in fewer injuries and deaths, as well as reduced financial losses.
BSJ: What is one piece of advice that you would give to those starting out in the industry?
Rome: Do not stop endeavoring to learn and expand your personal knowledge. You can never learn too much. Likewise, do not be afraid to share and pass along this knowledge.
BSJ: What do you see as most surprising about the work that you do?
Rome: The personal satisfaction that I can take away from any situation in which I assisted or helped someone
BSJ: What would you like to do next in your professional/personal life?
Rome: I would like to serve as a role model or mentor for new hires and for my ultimate replacement, with the hope that he or she can continue what I have put into place and improve upon it so it works even better.
BSJ: What do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
Rome: What leisure time I have is spent working around my home and property, playing golf and participating in two bowling leagues. I enjoy reading, anything that has to do with nature and following NASCAR auto racing. In March of 2020, I was diagnosed with COVID-19. I was very sick for five weeks and have completely recovered. It was very early on in this awful pandemic and very little was known at the time. The experience has caused me to be humbled, very grateful and feeling quite fortunate when considering how many others were not as fortunate. It has inspired me, even more, to do whatever I can to help others.
If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title would be?
Rome: Drive, Diversity and Dedication — Pieces of the Puzzle
There’s a world of opportunity in being a member of the International Code Council. Membership provides the tools to get the most out of each workday: from discounts on essential International Codes and other publications to the best prices on top-quality training and ICC certification renewals, Code Council membership helps budgets go further. Exclusive member benefits include code advice from expert technical staff as well as access to member-exclusive news and articles at the Building Safety Journal news portal. Plus, only Code Council members vote in the ICC code development process. An online Career Center allows job postings and searches for new job opportunities — all at no additional charge.
The Code Council offers numerous councils, committees, and resources to help code professionals grow and network with colleagues. Six discipline-specific Membership Councils offer members a place to come together and be a more powerful force in shaping your association, your industry, your career, and your future. Code Development Committees are an instrumental part of the ICC code development process and are responsible for the review and evaluation of code change proposals submitted to the International Codes. Professional Development Committees serve to better align the ICC education programs and certification programs to ensure that quality training is available to meet the needs of all members, customers and certification holders. Finally, the Value of the Code Official toolkit helps members to heighten awareness of the importance of code officials to their communities and to highlight the code official’s role as a helpful advocate for community safety, health and welfare, and economic development.