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New Alabama law worries first responders amid Florida building collapse

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 12:39 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - As the investigation continues into how a condominium building collapsed in Florida, there is growing concern in Alabama that some buildings could be at risk for a similar incident, especially schools, after lawmakers passed a new law in the last legislative session.

Every building that’s constructed is required to meet a set of standards, ensuring it’s safe for everyone who will be inside it.

“Keep in mind, it’s just a minimum standard building code,” explained Alabaster Fire Chief Tim Love. “They are reviewed by qualified plans examiners, so that they’re looking at the current building code to see if they’re compliant.”

Chief Love is well versed in building codes. Local fire departments are responsible for inspecting existing buildings to make sure they still meet safety standards.

“They’re looking for fire code violations, but the good thing about it is, if they run across a structural integrity issue, we can refer it to the building department, city engineer, we can call them in if we’re worried about something,” said Love.

Chief Love is the president of the Alabama Association of Fire Chiefs and is a member of a committee the governor formed after the legislature passed a new bill, stripping code requirements for future school buildings.

“Community colleges will be relieved of any oversight for code compliancy whatsoever. K-12 schools and universities with constitutionally created boards of directors, any capital project estimated to be $500,000 or less or any maintenance project $500,000 or less, and all HVAC and roof projects will not have to have code compliancy,” Love explained of HB220. “It is a very poor piece of legislation that needs some changes.”

In Love’s opinion, this law puts Alabama buildings at risk for an incident like the one in Surfside, Florida.

“Educational buildings, without a doubt,” said Love. “Any new or an addition to an existing educational building in the state of Alabama will be at a greater risk of injury, loss of life or damage to the children or the students that attend. And from my perspective, firefighters in the state that have to respond to those calls.

“When you’ve got all of the professional organizations, architects, engineers, builders, all of these people who stand to make money off of this telling you this is a bad bill, it is not a long stretch to realize something’s wrong,” Love added.

Lawmakers who passed that bill say it was designed to reduce government oversight and costs.

That committee will hold a public meeting next week to discuss what changes can be made to the bill. It’s set for 1:00 p.m. on July 6 at the Alabama State House and is open to the public.

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