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Shapiro & Appleton

Gym roof collapses at Blacksburg High School, raises safety concerns

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The gym roof of Blacksburg High School collapsed on Saturday, Feb. 13, according to the Collegiate Times. Officials are investigating the case, but have not yet determined what caused the gym roof to cave-in.  The collapse has raised safety concerns about building codes and questions of whether the school received proper inspection.

Under Virginia's building code, once a structure has been built and inspected, it does not have to undergo inspection again.  The Virginia building code also does not require routine inspections for buildings that pass inspection the first time. 

Whether or not building code violation was a cause for the collapse will not be known until the investigation is complete, however, the fact that routine inspections are not required seems to be a safety issue itself.

A Virginia Tech associate professor, Thomas Mills, told the Collegiate Times that a building that meets code requirements should be able to withstand 30 pounds of snow per square foot.  It should also be able to hold 54 inches of snow.  Since Jan. 28, Blacksburg has only received 28 inches of snow.  It has received a total 50 inches the entire winter.  That means the gym roof received less snow than it should have been able to hold and still collapsed.

With the amount of activity that took place in the gym close to the time of the collapse, we are very thankful that no one was hurt. The Collegiate Times reports that a basketball game took place in the gym the night before the incident. The girls' basketball team was practicing in the gym the morning of the cave-in and only left the gym after debris began falling from the ceiling.

A cave-in like this could have caused serious problems such as brain damage/injury or even fatality if occupants weren't evacuated in time. The Roanoke Times reports that, "two people narrowly escape[d] the cave-in."  These people should feel lucky that they did not fall victim to personal injury or worse.

To ensure safety, building inspections should be raised to a higher standard.  As Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, told The Roanoke Times, "Buildings are like everything else. They need maintenance and repair. One would think there ought to be inspections at reasonable intervals."

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