May is Building Safety Month, and during a recent ceremony at the Sean T. Connaughton Plaza, Prince William Chairman Corey Stewart explained that this recognition serves to remind people of the importance of ordinances and building regulations.
Stewart told the story of the Iroquois Theatre Fire in Chicago that killed at least 603 people on Dec. 30, 1903. Those deaths were the direct result of building codes that weren't up to par, said Stewart. Fire escapes at the theater were insufficient. Most of the 30 exit doors were locked and the doors opened inward, which prevented people from opening them in the press of the crowd. "These types of incidents led to the development of the international fire code and building code that we have today," Stewart said.
Cindy Davis, deputy director of the Division of Building and Fire Regulation with the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, also spoke at the event and said that Virginia is known for its comprehensive building code and that Prince William County officials share the knowledge and expertise to make sure building codes are met. "The leadership in Prince William puts you and your locality in the spotlight statewide and nationally."
Davis went on to say that it's hard to say how many lives are saved because of safe buildings, but safe buildings do prevent disasters. "You cannot quantify what does not happen, so the importance of what you do every day is rarely recognized."
Bryan Soukup, the government relations regional manager for the International Code Council, echoed Davis' comments. "It's important because building code officials and fire officials are first defenders and our silent protectors. When building and fire code officials do their job right, nothing happens."
For more information about the many agencies that work closely together to ensure the safety of the buildings in Prince William County, visit www.pwcgov.org/dds.