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Irene: Building Back Branford

Before residents got out the hammer and nails post Irene, they should have checked with the town Building Inspector Anthony Cinicola. Read on to find out why.

Branford’s was charged with to homes along the shoreline after Irene. While two homes sustained such extensive damage they were deemed “unsafe” for occupancy, all the new homes built in flood zones were structurally unaffected by Irene, a testament to the success of new building codes said Branford’s Head Building Inspector Anthony Cinicola.

Building Branford back up was no easy task and Cinicola shares why:

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Branford Patch: Many readers probably don’t know but the building department was faced with a lot of work after Irene. Can you briefly tell readers what the department is charged with following a storm like this?
Anthony Cinicola: The Building department’s role post storm is to initially perform rapid safety evaluations of buildings and structures and assigning/posting them a classification of unsafe, restricted or safe condition. Determine dollar cost associated w/ storm damage to buildings and structures and coordinate evaluations/assessments with FEMA response team. Identify hazardous materials and situations and report directly back to EOC.

Branford Patch: How many people started working, unaware of or neglecting the need to get permits? Is there a place on the town website you would direct readers about obtaining building permits?
Anthony Cinicola: Many projects that homeowners were directly involved with the remediation process were started without permits; most contractors were very aware of the process. The town web page does have information listed about obtaining permits but we are currently looking to update the site to include a Q&A section in the very near future to help answer the general public questions, and help people through the process. I have also implemented a document titled “Guidance for owners and occupants of damaged buildings” which will also be available on the web site for understanding the remediation process.

Branford Patch: How many homes were deemed “uninhabitable” after the storm?
Anthony Cinicola: Two structures were declared “unsafe” as defined by the CT State Building Code; several others were defined as “Substantial Damage” with damages exceeding 50% of the value of the structure.

Branford Patch: People know many homes were knocked from their foundations near the shore but how many homes more inland in town were destroyed by trees?
Anthony Cinicola: No homes were actually destroyed by trees but we did see many home sustained minor damaged by downed trees but nothing actually destroyed. The downed trees played a larger role with the power and utility lines.

Branford Patch: Can you briefly explain to readers, the rule about raising homes above the flood level when doing renovations? How many residents did this affect?
Anthony Cinicola: Let me first begin to state that every new structure that was constructed within a flood zone within Branford sustained very little or no damage what so ever, this was the result of good construction practice regulated through the permitting and code process. To answer your question about raising your home above the base flood elevation or commonly known as the “BFE” I offer the following response:

Current State building code and by town ordinance limit the construction cost of renovations to structures located within a flood zone as defined by FEMA mapping to 50% of the appraised value of the structure only (not including the land). Once a renovation project exceeds 50%, the project becomes a “substantial improvement” therefore the structure must be brought into full compliance with the SBC and FEMA regulations including raising the structure. Your home can also be classified as a “Substantial Damage” as the result of damaged sustained from the storm and therefore also be brought into full compliance with the SBC and FEMA regulations including raising your home. Although tropical storms and hurricanes are not a regular event to our area we all have to do our best to properly mitigate our current situations to possibly avoid potential damage to our homes in the future, this sometimes includes a change in elevation.

Branford Patch: Was there anything special the building department did to prepare for this storm or does regularly to prepare for potential similar disasters?
Anthony Cinicola: Our pre-storm preparation included meetings with the First Selectman and other department heads, and members of the EOC. We notified and put on notice all local utilities like CLP and CNG along with local engineering firms and heavy equipment contractors and operators. We identified areas of concern throughout the town that would be severely affected by the storm to better coordinate our efforts. I also prepared and fully stocked our vehicles w/ necessary equipment and supplies I felt essential to properly deal w/ the event.

Branford Patch: What was the most important thing you learned from the storm?
Anthony Cinicola: Preparation and preparedness is key to a successful outcome.

Branford Patch: What is one thing you are most proud of that you or your department did?
Anthony Cinicola: The most proud thing that my staff and I remember is the fact that we had a job and responsibility to perform as licensed building officials but we also acted like human beings and citizens of the town by just helping people anyway possible weather it was our part of our job or not. 

SolarPete August 30, 2012 at 11:44 AM
if this was a problem instead of passing the buck and saying folks should have looked on the towns web site they should have instead given info to all home owners and contractors for any repairs U would think contractors would pull permits, but if they didn't why does the town inspector blame the homeowner it is a shared responsible of both the homeowner and the contractors. Maybe the town needs to teach those involved what steps need to be taken instead of just saying go look at the web site. Older folks might not use the internet

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