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Is Your Backyard Party Friendly? 5.10.2006

By C.M. Mattessich

As summer approaches, the International Code Council (ICC) is urging homeowners to take the time to check their outdoor areas for potential safety hazards.
The ICC, a membership organization dedicated to building safety and fire prevention, develops the codes used to construct residential and commercial buildings, including homes and schools.  Most cities, counties and states that adopt codes choose the International Codes developed by the International Code Council.  (Many people still refer to the ICC by its former name – Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc., or “BOCA”.)
The International Codes provide minimum standards to help communities protect lives and property.
Here are some tips the ICC has published to help prepare for summer fun.  The ICC cautions, however, that before conducting any type of work on your home, you should contact your local building department to determine what permits are needed, if any, and exactly what codes must be followed.
Porches, Decks and Balconies
Porches can be at risk of collapsing if they are not properly constructed or if they are old.
A common safety hazard occurs when porches are nailed to buildings rather than being attached with the proper anchors or bolts.  Nails are a poor method for attaching porches to buildings because they work their way loose over time.
Other safety hazards to look for are:
* Split or rotting wood
* Wobbly handrails or guardrails
* Loose, missing or rusting anchors, nails or screws
* Missing, damaged or loose support beams and planking
* Poor end support of the porch deck, joists or girders
* Excessive movement of the porch when walked on
* Swaying or unstable porches
The International Codes specify the amount of weight a porch is required to support.  Always be careful not to allow the porch to become overcrowded.
Grills
Grilling on or near combustible areas can be a fire hazard.  It not only puts your family and visitors at risk, but, especially in condos and apartment buildings, can put your neighbors in danger as well.  The most common grilling hazards are open flames and heat generated in the grill base that can be transferred to the wood of a porch or the home’s siding, causing a fire.
When grilling, follow these safety tips:
* Place the grill away from siding, deck railings and out from under eaves and overhanging branches
* Periodically remove grease or fat buildup
* Use only proper starter fluid and store the can away from heat sources
* Check propane cylinder hoses for leaks before use
* Do not move hot grills
* Dispose of charcoal properly, keeping ash containers outside and away from combustible construction
The 2003 International Fire Code prohibits the use of charcoal and gas grills and other open burning devices on combustible porches or within 10 feet of combustible construction.  There are exceptions for certain homes and where buildings and porches are protected by an automatic sprinkler system.
Swimming Pools
Because they can be attractive – and dangerous – to young children, in-ground and above-ground pools should be surrounded by a fence or other barrier.  Small, inflatable pools must also be protected.  The International Building Code states that any pool with more than 24 inches of water has to have a four-foot fence or other barrier around it.  All gates must be self-closing and self-latching.
Other things to consider when installing a pool include building permit and zoning requirements;  electrical clearances and utility easements;  and obtaining proper insurance coverage.

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