Letter to the editor: Loose cannons

To the editor:

I would like to thank the Plain Talk for covering the Sept. 23, 2013 meeting on egress windows. More citizens need to know how our city operates. I will refer to Mr. Christensen, the city council, and Mr. Prescott, collectively, as the city. It is my opinion the city has loose cannons destroying city tradition, common sense, and previous agreements.

Not to start a rant, but how many thousands of dollars would you bet on an outcome that has much less chance of occurring than your chance of being killed by lightning? The city is willing to force some citizens to ante up.

The city finally did bring fire fatality statistics to this meeting rather than simply demanding conformity. Each fatality is of course a terrible loss, but every human decision is determined by the evaluation of three factors.  What is the desired goal? What are the resources required to reach the goal? Finally, what is the probability that the desired goal will be realized?

Utilizing FEMA national statistics, the probability of being an egress fatality is 27/318,000,000 or .0000008. Using NOAA figures, lightning strike fatalities have averaged 53 deaths per year over the last 30 years; an individual in the USA is approximately twice as likely to be killed by lightning than egress window size. The city is willing to force private citizens to spend tens of thousands of dollars of their personal money at these odds? The city encourages investment? There is a reason that Core Loss Reports for insurance companies don’t reduce premiums based on windows updates.

Mr. Christensen says the “larger-sized window has been in the international code since 1964.” I guess that means the city gets absolutely no credit for the 100 percent safety record in Vermillion, they being nearly 50 years behind on recognition and currently bull-headed and wrong-directed in their enforcement. The city should “grandfather” existing buildings, as has been the tradition in Vermillion, and as appears to be the current practice in neighboring cities. New construction and modifications should definitely be built to current code. Lastly, if, as the city tells me, the code is law, isn’t one of the law’s tenets no retrogressive laws?

Harlowe G. Hatle


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