While we are still coming to terms with the full damage and effects of Hurricane Ida, hurricane season is just beginning. With climate change, environmental disasters are becoming more frequent and more destructive. To prevent more tragedy and destruction, building safety is of utmost importance.
It’s long been the assumption of many that America has strong building codes, high safety standards, and our buildings don’t just collapse overnight. But, on June 24, 2021 an industrial grade high rise building did just that, and tragically killed 98 people in the process.
Failure in risk management is a process, not an event. It took only seconds for Champlain towers in Surfside, FL to collapse, but the cause of the collapse was the result of years of failing to act to mitigate risk. This tragedy was preventable; there were many steps along the way for intervention. In 2018, the building was inspected during its required recertification process and was found to have “major structural damage” to the concrete structural slab due to failed waterproofing, as well as cracking and crumbling of support bearing columns. It was noted that the structural beams needed to be repaired in a “timely fashion”. Miami-Dade county requires repairs within 150 days of discovering structural issues during the recertification process, but it was not enforced, and the repairs never happened. Even from the original draft of the building, it’s codes may have not been up to muster. The severe damage to the building wasn’t necessarily due to age or upkeep, but “a major error in the original contract documents.”
Unfortunately, this is probably not a unique, freak event. After the collapse of Champlain towers, many of the surrounding buildings had to be evacuated due to not meeting the safety standards for the 40 year recertification. The U.S. certainly has many more buildings that are not up to safety standards. America’s infrastructure has needed an overhaul for decades. The most recent Infrastructure Report Card gives America a C- rating.
Florida has some of the strictest standards in the country, but that doesn’t mean anything without enforcement. If building codes don’t start being enforced, there are many communities that could become the next Surfside. Unfortunately, most companies, especially small and medium sized businesses like condo associations, perform reactive risk management. That is, when a key component fails, it is an “all hands on deck” emergency or a postmortem evaluating the failure and how to prevent it in the future. To practice proactive risk management, businesses need a tool which will enable them to be future focused.
At Trust Exchange, we have built a tool that enables governments and building inspectors to aggregate data to prevent collapses before they occur, and flag buildings for code enforcement. If each building is taken as a single entity, a single red flag is easy to miss. For instance, if severe structural damage was found in multiple 35 year old concrete buildings on coastlines, then other buildings with similar features may be at risk as well. When the data can be compiled and compared, a building with similar traits can be flagged and prioritized for inspection and/or code enforcement.
It’s hard to be proactive when you’re looking in the rear view mirror. As we discussed before, risk management is a process not an event. If Surfside’s government had had the proper tools to manage code enforcement could this tragedy have been prevented? At Trust Exchange, we are making it easy for you to proactively monitor risk BEFORE something goes wrong.
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