31st August 2017 started out like another typical day for Hertfordshire Building Control Surveyor Chris Leaburn as he made breakfast at his home in Ware.
Little did he know that events were already in play that would take up his full attention over the following 48 hours. On sniffing the air he wondered if he’d burnt the toast but soon realised that the pungent aroma was something more sinister.
He went outside to find that the nearby Deans Furniture store in Star Street was ablaze and Herts Fire and Rescue personnel were battling to contain the well-fuelled conflagration.
So work that day started a bit earlier than usual and toast remained uneaten as Chris donned a hard-hat, high-vis and safety boots to offer his technical expertise to the Senior Fire Officer on site.
Most people are aware of Building Control’s role in checking building designs and work on site for compliance with building regulations. However it’s not so well known that Surveyors are called out at any time of day or night to deal with dangerous structures that pose a hazard to the public.
This could be a building damaged by a vehicle collision, a leaning wall or a building damaged by fire to the extent that it is at risk of collapse (as in this case).
In the good tradition of the Surveying profession Chris proactively stepped in to ensure that any associated hazards were being dealt with. A delighted Fire Officer was saved the trouble of making the phone call that would have spurred us into action.
Working with the emergency services and following a rather smoky ride in the ‘Alp’ (Aerial Ladder Platform) Chris was able to get a good appreciation of the condition of the building and offer advice to the firefighters.
He was concerned about the stability of one of the external walls so the area around it was promptly cordoned off and avoided. He also instigated some improvements to the highways management to prevent pedestrians and traffic from approaching into the danger zone.
In the final hours he ensured that specialist contractors were dealing with the asbestos contamination and others were erecting security fencing to create a secure perimeter. His involvement lasted on and off until 5:30pm the following day when a colleague stepped in to relieve one very weary Surveyor.
Another typical day in the life of a Building Control Surveyor? Thankfully not!