It has been one year since the featured ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR cover report about safety risks posed by waiving city electrical inspections of residential structures in areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina and the flooding that followed.
The story cited that in order to expedite reconnecting electrical service to residences repaired after the storms, emergency procedures adopted by several Gulf Coast cities and towns and the city of New Orleans allowed licensed electrical contractors to perform their own inspections.
A year after the “Disaster after the Disaster?” article, much remains to be done to rebuild the area, but electricians are no longer performing their own electrical inspections. Most communities had resumed responsibility for electrical inspections by the time the report was published, but New Orleans continued to allow inspections by electricians through the end of 2006, when the city’s emergency inspection ordinance expired.
The city’s electrical inspection department remains badly understaffed. There are three inspectors, including the head of the department, to cover the city of New Orleans and Orleans Parish. However, the Institute for Building Technology and Safety (IBTS) is providing additional inspectors, and they work under supervision of the city’s chief electrical inspector.
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTor’s report was the first national coverage of the issue, and representatives of the electrical industry expressed concern that compromising electrical inspections raises serious safety issues, as well as opportunities for numerous abuses. Many believed there was a significant risk that improperly inspected buildings could contain water-damaged wiring and electrical components that were not identified and replaced.
Following publication of the article, New Orleans NBC-affiliate WDSU-TV broadcast a special report about the subject, and New Orleans City Business conducted an investigation and documented that there had been numerous abuses by contractors who subsequently were barred from submitting inspection certifications in the future.
Local opposition to the inspection practices developed, and although the original emergency ordinance was allowed to expire on July 31, the city council reinstated it through the end 2006.
Industry sources say a series of meetings were conducted with the city council in the fall, and consequently, the ordinance expired without extension at year’s end.
The New Orleans mayor’s office of communications did not respond to requests to provide a statement for this update. EC