Patrick Brown says BOASC presidency gave him more inspiration to promote codes
Patrick Brown enjoys nothing more than taking his boat 20 to 25 miles off the coast of South Carolina and settling in to hook some sea bass or snapper from the Atlantic. “It’s the most relaxing thing to be out in the boat, no phone service,” Brown said. “It’s my therapy.”
But he admits he hasn’t been able to get out on the boat much in the past three years while serving as president of the Building Officials Association of South Carolina (BOASC). “It was very busy,” said Brown, building code administrator for the town of Edisto Beach, S.C., since 2006. “There was always some legislation that required us to be in Columbia (the capital), a two-and-a-half-hour drive, starting out at 5:30 in the morning. But it was fun, too. I learned a lot more about how the International Code Council works and gained a lot of experience on how to use the Code Council’s services to help more people and represent the organization.”
Brown already has done well in that regard. His honors include the Code Council’s Region VIII 2021 Code Official of the Year, and both BOASC’s 2020 Building Official of the Year and 2021 Marion Clement Outstanding Code Official of the Year, which BOASC has given out only seven times. And when Code Council Board President Greg Wheeler came down to help BOASC celebrate its 70th annual conference this year, Brown also was honored to hear that the Code Council Board of Directors approved a chapter designation for the South Carolina Association for Hazard Mitigation (SCAHM), the first hazard mitigation chapter the Code Council board has approved.
The SCAHM chapter is dedicated to educating South Carolina communities about hazard mitigation and loss prevention. Its members represent various professions, including but not limited to building code enforcement officials and inspectors, company presidents and vice presidents, emergency managers, engineers, floodplain managers, geographic information system technicians, hydrologists, planning and zoning officials, and project managers. It is a chapter member of the Association of State Floodplain Managers, Inc., the primary professional association of floodplain managers in the U.S. And now, the Code Council as well.
As SCAHM’s chapter chair, Brown hopes this will inspire other hazard mitigation groups nationwide to reap the many benefits of Code Council chapter designation. “We already had a relationship with FEMA, but we really wanted to firm up our partnership with ICC,” he said.
Initially founded some 15 years ago by a group of floodplain managers, SCAHM morphed into a more general hazard mitigation group, specializing in prevention and damage assessment. Brown still remembers the scene when he got to Seneca, S.C., three days after a tornado with wind speeds of up to 170 mph hit the town in April of 2020. “It was an eye-opener,” he said. “Devastation everywhere.”
Under his direction, Brown was able to gather 12 officials to help out in Seneca. He had to wait to get there because his own town, Edisto Beach, had been hit by an EF-2 tornado the day before. “We’re still evaluating data from Seneca before we make any recommendations. As part of SCAHM, we gather a lot of data following disasters,” Brown said. “We’re hoping what we find will improve the codes and provide a safer home.” Following their recommendations, communities have seen a 20-percent drop in insurance costs due to improved fire ratings, he said.
The Seneca tornado hit just as the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining steam. Brown said one challenge in his final year as BOASC president was to make sure building departments in the state had what they needed to keep operating safely. “We talked about all types of solutions — Zoom, virtual inspections, credit card payments over the phone, anything to keep contractors working,” he said. “If contractors can’t work, there’s no purpose for us. We never lost a day in Edisto Beach. I don’t think there were any building departments in our group that did, except maybe to shut down for a couple of weeks due to COVID exposure.”
As he begins to lean into his immediate past presidency, Brown said he wants to make sure those considering the building profession realize how important the codes are, even to their careers. “I started out as an electrical contractor, but I always was drawn to the codes,” he said. “And I know this: The more I got to know about the codes, the faster I rose in my career.”
He took a pay cut to become a building inspector for the city of Anderson Building Department so he could spend more time at home with his son. Not too long after, he took and passed the Commercial Building Inspector test without studying, and soon was hired as the commercial building inspector for the County of Anderson. A few years and a bunch of certifications later, Brown took the job in Edisto Beach. He said he’s thankful to be working for a mayor, council and administrator that value his work in code organizations as much as he does.
As he starts to think about revving up the boat motor once more, Brown said his wife of 30 years, Missy, loves to be out on the water now as well. “At first, she didn’t care much for it. Now, if I’m taking the boat out, she wants to be on it.” Brown also is looking forward to some deer hunting in the fall, already getting stands ready. But he’s not abandoning the strong work ethic he got from his parents as the youngest of seven children. And the purpose that has driven him to be among the best. “It has been a mission of mine to help increase the profile of the code official, and I will take every opportunity at meetings, other associations or in talks with political leaders to ensure they get a good understanding of the importance of the code official,” he said.
“I’ll also continue to spread the word in the code community that we as code officials are the ambassadors for our profession, and it is each one of our jobs to make sure we take every opportunity to have the conversation with contractors, council members and our bosses to raise the profile of the code official.”