DOB News | A Safer DC During A Time Of Unpredictable Weather

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August 2023 Edition

A Message From The Acting Director

Brian Hanlon

Dear Customers,

With summer soon coming to a close, we are halfway through the hurricane season which runs until November 30, 2023. Consequently, like all jurisdictions, the District is not immune to the effects of climate change, and we are facing an increased frequency of unpredictable weather here in the District of Columbia.

As the safety of District residents remains a priority for the Bowser Administration, the DC Department of Buildings (DOB) remains resolute in our ongoing commitment to ensuring safety in the District's built environment. We will continue to work closely with partner agencies to identify potential measures to help mitigate the damaging and detrimental impact of these natural events in the future. We also want to help you directly by sharing information that may be helpful in ensuring your family’s safety and that of your property. In support of our efforts to ensure that you are prepared, properly permitted, and approved through inspections, we can weather these many literal storms together.

To support you, DOB conducts comprehensive construction and property maintenance inspections, investigates illegal construction cases, and certifies and provides oversight of third-party inspection agencies. We understand the importance of transparency and clarity in the inspection process. To that end, we have created an infographic that outlines the inspection process, highlights key players, and clarifies responsibilities. This resource will help all stakeholders better understand the inspection journey and foster collaboration between the public and private sectors.

As always, thank you for your trust in us as we improve how we serve the residents, businesses and visitors of the District.


Director Hanlon Signature

Brian J. Hanlon, AIA LEED AP®
Acting Director

Protecting Your Home During Extreme Weather

Like all jurisdictions, the District is not immune to the effects of climate change, and we are facing an increased frequency of extreme weather events.

Protecting your home from flash flooding involves a combination of preventive measures and preparedness. Flash floods are sudden and can be extremely destructive, so it's essential to take the following steps to minimize the risk and potential damage:

  1. Understand Your Risk
  1. Elevate Electrical Systems
  • Using a licensed electrician, raise electrical outlets, switches, and wiring at least a foot above the expected flood level. This reduces the risk of electrical damage during a flood.
  1. Install Flood Barriers and Seals
  • Invest in flood barriers or sandbags to create a temporary barrier against floodwaters.
  • Use sealants and waterproofing materials to prevent water from seeping through gaps and cracks in your home's foundation and walls.
  1. Proper Landscaping
  • Create a slope away from your home's foundation to direct water away.
  • Use gravel, rock, or native plants in your yard to help absorb excess water and prevent soil erosion.
  1. Construct Barriers
  • Consider building floodwalls or berms if you're in a high-risk area.
  1. Elevate Appliances and Utilities
  • Elevate heating, ventilation, and cooling systems, as well as appliances like water heaters, to minimize potential damage.
  1. Foundation Waterproofing
  •  Apply waterproof coatings or sealants to your home's foundation to prevent water intrusion.
  1. Use Flood-Resistant Building Materials
  • If you are building or renovating, consider using flood-resistant materials for flooring, walls, and other vulnerable areas.
  1. Emergency Preparedness
  • Create an emergency kit with essential supplies like food, water, medications, flashlights, and batteries.
  • Have a battery-powered weather radio to receive alerts in case of power outages.
  • Develop a family emergency plan, including evacuation routes and meeting points.
  1. Consider Flood Insurance
  • Standard homeowners' insurance usually doesn't cover flood damage. Look into purchasing a separate flood insurance policy for added protection.
  1. Elevate Living Spaces
  • If feasible, elevate your living spaces, including your home's foundation, to reduce the risk of water entering your home during a flood.

Remember that flash floods can be extremely dangerous, and it is crucial to prioritize safety above all else. As part of your planning, be certain to understand requirements for permitting in the District of Columbia, and always select a licensed professional when undertaking a project. Being prepared and taking preventive measures can go a long way in safeguarding your home and family.

Why Permits Are Often Required And How They Help Ensure Safety

Building permits are legal documents issued by local government authorities that grant you the permission to start construction, renovation, or other types of building projects on your property. Here are the main reasons why building permits are required by District government:

Safety and Compliance

  • Building codes and regulations are in place to ensure the safety and well-being of occupants and the general public.
  • Permits are necessary to make sure that your project complies with these codes, which cover aspects such as structural integrity, fire safety, electrical wiring, plumbing, and more.

Structural Integrity

  • Permits help ensure that the construction or renovation work you're undertaking meets the minimum standards for structural integrity. This is crucial to prevent accidents, collapses, and other potential hazards that could arise from poorly executed projects.

Zoning and Land Use

  • Building permits often consider zoning laws and land use regulations. These regulations dictate how properties can be used and how they can be developed.
  • Obtaining a permit ensures that your project aligns with these regulations and doesn't violate any zoning laws.

Property Value and Insurance

  • Unpermitted work can cause issues with property valuation and insurance coverage.
  • If work is not done up to code and isn't permitted, it could lead to complications when selling the property or making insurance claims.

Liability and Responsibility

  • If you do not obtain the necessary permits and something goes wrong, you could be held legally responsible. This might involve fines, having to redo the work to meet code, or even legal action if the issue leads to harm or damage.


  • Permits provide an official record of your construction or renovation project.
  • This documentation can be useful for future property owners, appraisals, or in case you need to sell the property.

Professional Oversight

  • The permit process often involves review and approval by qualified professionals, such as architects or engineers.
  • The attestation of a licensed professional helps ensure that the project is designed and executed properly.

Utilities and Infrastructure

  • Obtaining a permit might involve coordinating with utility companies and other agencies to ensure that your project doesn't interfere with existing infrastructure or utility lines.

It is important to note that the specific scope of work for your project may require multiple permits. Obtaining the required permits is a critical step to ensure that your construction or renovation work is safe, legal, and compliant with all relevant regulations. If you are unsure whether your project requires a permit, DOB is here to help you. For additional assistance, please contact our Homeowner's Center.

The Inspection Process: Keeping You Safe

The Inspections Process: Keeping You Safe

As another step to help ensure safety, DOB is tasked with conducting construction inspections, housing code inspections, investigating, illegal construction cases, and certifying third-party inspection agencies to conduct construction inspections on our behalf. As part of this mission, promoting a safe built environment in the District remains the key. 

To aid in clarity for how the inspection process works in the District, we invite customers and stakeholders to use this infographic to help chart the inspection process, key players, and indicate who bears responsibility across the various stages. Showcasing our vital partnership with the private sector is vital to help stakeholders understand the inspection process in the District.

Contacting Our Agency

Contact DOB via email at, through our online inquiry form or during normal business hours using the live chat available on or by phone at 202.671.3500, and we will get back to you in three business days or less.