Under Construction Newsletter, Special Edition, May 2021

Building Safety Month masthead for Under Construction newsletter with buildings, crane, hardhat and rolled plans

May 2021

Message from the Director

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DPIE Director Melinda Bolling

Happy Building Safety Month 2021!

May is here, and with it comes Building Safety Month, the time when building and construction professionals and the private entities and public agencies, such as DPIE, that work with them celebrate safety. This year’s theme is “Prevent, Prepare, Protect. Building Codes Save.” The commemoration was created 41 years ago by the International Code Council (ICC), the leader in establishing codes and standards to ensure building safeness. Each week features a different focus: Week 1: Energy and Innovation; Week 2: Training the Next Generation; Week 3: Water Safety; and Week 4: Disaster Preparedness.

We adhere closely to ICC codes in the County to make sure structures built here are safe and sustainable. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, construction has flourished in Prince George’s. Here at DPIE, we are doing our part by reviewing plans, issuing permits, conducting inspections, and working with entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Visit our website for webinars, trainings and information to help you in your quest to create a business.

My team and I urge you to join us in saluting the men and women construction professionals who work to help jurisdictions, such as ours, to safely grow bigger and better. We are proud to work with them!

Be safe!

Director Melinda Bolling's signature block

Inspections: The Standard for Structure Safety

One of DPIE’s most important functions is making sure structures built in the County are safe. Inspections are the best tool to guarantee builders comply with codes that guarantee safety.

Inspections team members (left to right) Michael Young, Omobola “Moby” Sokoya and Darrell K. Terry inspect wiring during an electrical inspection

The Inspections Division regulates construction, development, and grading activity in Prince George’s County through inspection and enforcement of building, electrical, fire, mechanical, energy, accessibility, grading, stormwater management, site and road and other applicable State and County codes.

The team reviews projects from room additions to single-family homes to major commercial building projects. “Safety is at the heart of what we do,” said Inspections Division Associate Director Behdad Kashanian. “Our inspectors check structures for compliance with the codes.”

On a recent afternoon, Chief Inspectors Omobola “Moby” Sokoya and Darrell K. Terry and Inspector Michael Young conducted electrical and foundation wall inspections at a new home construction site in District Heights.

Sokoya, a supervisor for residential and light commercial projects in the southern section of the County, also coordinates DPIE’s Demolition Program, through which unsafe structures are razed.

“You just have to make sure that any structure that people inhabit will be safe,” she said.

3 inspectors climbing stairs. Inspectors Sokoya, Terry and Young head to the second floor at an inspection site in District Heights.

Young said he began working in the construction industry in 1974. Only after he came to work at DPIE did he understand the scope of the precautions that he was required to take as a contractor.

“Being an inspector is very important to me,” Young said. "I really enjoy this work.

Terry said he is proud that Inspections was able to continue its work despite the limitations of the pandemic.

“The housing market and the building market seem to not have stopped and our inspectors have not stopped,” he said. “We’ve pushed through this pandemic. Our inspectors have done a good job and even the developers and the contractors have done a good job trying to get these houses done so that we can keep economic development moving in the County.”

photo of 2 inspectors checking slabs. Terry and Young inspect foundations of homes under construction.

Beautify and Comply

DPIE has implemented a new program to encourage residents to make repairs to their properties to bring them into compliance while planting flowers, bringing out the deck furniture and making other outside preparations for summer — “Beautify and Comply!”  Under the program, residents are asked to take a look at a list of common property maintenance issues and repair any that exist on their property. Making the changes will improve the aesthetic value of your home while ensuring your property complies with County code requirements. Beautify and Comply also aligns with the County’s Beautification Initiative, which urges residents, business partners and visitors to reduce litter and become stewards of the environment. 

Click here or on the flyer below to view in Spanish

Beautify and Comply flyer, photo of red flowers, list of Property Maintenance Standards tips

Program Addresses Drainage Defects in Newer Homes

Photo of flooded basement around furnace with submerged weight bench, toys and carpet floating on water.

Effective October 2020, DPIE has enhanced its process to address drainage complaints from owners of homes that are five years old or less and whose fine grading permits are still open. The Drainage Defects Complaint Program, which was implemented in October 2020, created enhanced enforcement options to hold builders, developers and engineers associated with new home construction accountable for mistakes related to construction and grading that affect drainage from storm water.

The enhancements were spurred by legislation proposed by Maryland State Senator Susie Proctor in response to complaints about drainage issues in new home communities. The program requires DPIE to establish a process for homeowners to request an evaluation of a defect; provide a written analysis of any defects seen during an inspection; and to collect data on home builders who have constructed homes where defects were identified.

DPIE Associate Director Mary Giles, who supervises the Site/Road Plan Review Division, said frequent complaints in new homes include excessive storm water flow in the back yard and wet basements. Drainage issues are among the most frequent complaints received by DPIE staff.

The enhanced process includes a special form on which residents file their complaint and provide basic information. It defines qualifying homes as those that were built less than five years ago and for which the site development fine grading permit has not been closed. Other homeowners with drainage complaints should file them with 311.

“Our goal is to effectuate a solution before the permit is closed to get the builder to come back and address the problem if it was created by something done by the builder,” Giles said.

Recently, DPIE, the Department of the Environment (DoE), the Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPW&T) and the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District (PGSCD) collaborated on a comprehensive study of drainage issues. Their findings were compiled in a report entitled Drainage and Flooding in Prince George’s County, which can be accessed on the DPIE website. The report explains which County agencies investigate different drainage complaints.

For more information about the Drainage Defects Complaint Program, call 301-636-2060.

Take Precautions to Avoid Injury, Property Damage During Summer Storms

Man directing traffic in a flood. Identifying possible hazards is the first step in preparing for natural disasters

Warm weather brings an uptick in hurricanes, tornadoes, thunderstorms, floods, heavy rains and hail — any of which can turn a beautiful summer day dangerous in just moments. Make sure your family is ready for summer weather disasters. The International Code Council (ICC) offers the following tips to help you and your family prepare to stay safe from these potential disasters:

Brick house with windows boarded up in preparation of a bad storm.

•  Develop a family evacuation plan. Establish at least two exit routes from your home or neighborhood to a designated meeting place for your family. Plan ahead for your pets as many shelters will not accept them.

•  Create a disaster supply kit for use if you remain in your home or are forced to evacuate after a disaster. Be sure the necessities in your kit are fresh and properly stored.

•  Stay tuned to the internet, TV, and National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for updates and information.

•  Flooded roads have hidden dangers. Never drive through floodwaters, on flooded roads or cross flowing streams. It takes only six inches of fast-flowing water to sweep you off your feet and two feet of water to move an SUV.

•  If you live in a high wind or hurricane-prone area and do not have code-approved shutters, consider temporarily protecting your doors and windows with plywood covers.

•  Secure lawn furniture and any loose outdoor items that may become wind-borne.

•  Consider building or retrofitting to create a tornado-safe room in your home.

•  Use surge protectors to protect electronic appliances.

For more information, visit www.buildingsafetymonth.org.

Another Kind of Water Damage: Mold

Room with black mold on walls. Mold in a house is a serious issue that may pose health consequences.

Special Measures Needed to Prevent Growth

Mold is caused when microscopic, airborne spores land on moist surfaces and spread rapidly. Although some mold can have useful purposes, most mold creates significant problems. Unchecked mold growth on interior wood, wallboard, paper and carpet has been blamed for serious illnesses. It can be exceedingly difficult to eradicate and has even rendered some buildings uninhabitable.

According to the EPA, there is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores indoors, but mold can be impacted by controlling moisture. Builders and contractors must carefully construct buildings in accordance with approved plans and follow good construction practices in assembling building components. Property owners and tenants must take steps to maintain existing buildings and their systems to prevent moisture from accumulating.

Cleaning mold of wall with sponge and spray, using rubber gloves. Removing mold is important to protect the health of residents, as well as visitors.white space
Plumber working on faucet. To avoid the growth of mold spores, fix plumbing leaks as soon as they are discovered.

Mold Prevention Tips

Here are some common-sense precautions that builders, homeowners and building owners can follow to avoid mold:

•  Fix leaky plumbing and leaks in the building envelope as soon as possible.

•  Watch for condensation and wet spots.

•  Repair sources of moisture problems as soon as possible.

•  Prevent moisture caused by condensation by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in the air.

•  Insulate or increase air circulation to increase surface temperature.

•  Increase ventilation (if outside air is cold and dry) or dehumidify (if outdoor air is warm and humid) to reduce the moisture level in the air, and repair ventilation leaks.

•  Keep heating, ventilation and air-conditioning drip pans clean, flowing properly, and unobstructed.

•  Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside where possible.

•  Maintain low indoor humidity, below 60 percent relative humidity (RH).

•  Adhere to a regular schedule of building/HVAC inspections and maintenance. 

Source: International Code Council

Preparedness Kits Serve Families in Disasters

photo of tornado on ground to reinforce need for family planning for disasterswhite space
FEMA ready to go first aid pack shows sample of items to have on hand

Whether you are preparing for an earthquake, tornado, hurricane, flood or wildfire, the following basics will help you prepare an effective emergency supply kit. Remember to store all items in water tight containers and rotate food and water every six months.

•  Face masks and hand sanitizer

•  Cell phones, tablets, radios with chargers and batteries

•  Flashlight, lanterns and extra batteries

•  Water, nonperishable food, unbreakable dishes and utensils, including hand-operated can opener

•  Infant formula and diapers

•  First aid kit and bug repellant

•  Prescription and non-prescription medications

•  Important family documents in portable airtight container 

•  Matches in a waterproof container

•  Cash or traveler’s checks and change

•  Blankets, bedding, sleeping bags

•  Extra clothes and durable shoes

•  Tools (wrench, hammer, utility gloves, etc.)

•  A kit for pets.

For details on preparing an emergency preparedness kit, visit the Homeland Security website at www.ready.gov.

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New Hires

DPIE welcomes the following new hire and congratulates him on joining the team!  The new staffer has shared some information to help us get to know him and his start date.

Anderson Atabongakeng, Permitting and Licensing Division – Engineering Technician I

Anderson Atabongakeng, Permitting and Licensing Division — Engineering Technician I, 1000-hour, 4/26/2021

I am currently studying Industrial Engineering at Morgan State University. I am a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) and the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). I am a hardworking student who has goals in life which I plan to achieve. I enjoy different challenges and especially solving those challenges with others.

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Employee of the Month

Alex Espartinas, Employee of the Month, May 2021

DPIE Congratulates Alex Espartinas
Employee of the Month for May 2021

Alex Espartinas is being recognized for professionalism and excellence. He has proven to be an invaluable member of the team during the COVID-19 telework era. Alex was asked to perform multiple duties when DPIE transitioned to working from home, including issuing permits. During this past year, he has issued 5,498 permits, an admirable accomplishment. He collaborates well with coworkers. Alex was recently promoted due to his diligence. He goes above and beyond in providing the best customer service to both our internal and external customers. His positive attitude and work ethic inspire his colleagues.

DPIE commends you for your exceptional performance!

Mask Up

Remember, masks are still required for everyone indoors, on public transportation, and when in crowded places outdoors.  #MaskUpPrinceGeorges #PGCCOVID19

Recuerde, las máscaras todavía son necesarias para todos, en interiores, en el transporte público y cuando estén en lugares concurridos al aire libre.  #MaskUpPrinceGeorges #PGCCOVID19
Picture of 2 faces - one wearing mask correctly, one not wearing mask correctly as it is under the nosePicture of 2 faces - one wearing mask incorrectly below the nose and one wearing the mask correctly. Text in Spanish

Proud to be Protected – YouTube Video #1, Why should you get vaccinated?

Proud to Be Protected

Why should you get vaccinated?  Hear some of your fellow Prince Georgians discuss why they are Proud to be Protected from COVID-19. #ProudtobeProtected #PrinceGeorgesProud