Condemned homes across Scott County have been getting a paint job this summer, but not the type to give it a facelift.
Instead, Scott County code enforcement officers have been using orange spray paint on condemned properties to alert first responders of dangers inside the structures.
“The goal of firefighters is to save lives, but when they arrive on scene they need to know what hazards are present to know how to proceed,” said Tim Thompson, code enforcement officer .
“It lets the crew know whether to be on the offensive or defensive.”
Thompson said they have been marking more than 50 properties as they go throughout the county.
An orange box means it is vacant property, one line through the box indicates it has structural compromise and operations can be done inside only after examination and with extreme caution. An ‘X” in the box means severe structural compromise and offensive operations should be considered only when risk/benefit assessment by incident commander determines so. There will be a date along the top of the box, and then letters warn of specific threats: F, floor hazard; R, roof hazard; W, wall hazard; H, holes in structure; S, stairs compromised; C, chimney hazard; N, needles; and I, infestation.
A big concern right now is needles and homeless people who may be staying in a vacant or condemned building, Thompson said. While power may be cut off to the structure, there is the danger of people starting a fire to stay warm or drug users leaving their paraphernalia inside, Wahl said.
“We’ve had an explosion in the homeless population in Georgetown and Scott County,” he said. “In a lot of condemned houses, we find people have been there or we’ve had to clear them of people. My goal is to get down as many of these structures as we can before it gets cold.
“We have had vacant structures catch on fire. There are case studies across the country where fighters go into structures not knowing their condition and the floor or ceiling collapses on them. We’re trying to eliminate that.”
The painted codes are not just for firefighters, but to let emergency medical services, police or any other emergency service know what the building is coded for, he said.
“We want to educate the public on what these symbols mean,” he said.
“The goal of code enforcement is not demolition, but some properties are already too far gone to be worth the investment.”
Steve MCClain can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.