I woke this morning to the noise of a country music radio disc jockey ranting on a topic he knew nothing about. He was complaining about the report by several news media sources that there were too few safe rooms in Moore, Okla.
He was regurgitating the media’s current hot topic. It’s easy to rationalize the devastation and suffering by attributing the cause to be the failure to follow what seems to be a simple idea.
Safe rooms are only part of an answer. If you want to read a-better-than-average news coverage on the topic of the need for safer residential structures, try “Why No Safe Room to Run To? Cost and Plains Culture” by John Schwartz in today’s New York Times. Schwartz's report attempts to focus discussion on this real issue. He suggests that builders think that homeowners will not pay for safer structures.
Schwartz supported this theme with this paragraph. “Construction standards in Moore have been studied extensively. In a 2002 study published in the journal of the American Meteorological Society, Timothy P. Marshal, an engineer in Dallas, suggested that “the quality of new home construction generally was no better than homes built prior to the tornado” in 1999.”
What is lacking in this discussion about safety is that we know how to build safe structures. For centuries, properly installed masonry structures have provided not only safe rooms, but safe homes.
Mackey Bounds, MCAA’s past president once told me that the best way that masonry can sell its product is to have contractors meet with their local building code and zoning officials. “We need to remind these community leaders why structural masonry is good for our communities,” said Bounds.
It might be a good time to make an appointment. I’m certain there’s a public sentiment that will support stronger codes. We need to remind everyone that structural masonry can be a key solution.
MCAA, BIA and NCMA have a wealth of information on this topic. And if you really feel strongly on this topic, move the discussion forward by talking about stronger codes. The Portland Cement Association has created a technical overview of the design and construction criteria to integrate functional resilience into green buildings. You can download the information here.