More than 400 balconies in Berkeley, California are in need of corrective work, according to a report on the city’s buildings that was commissioned following the deaths of six Irish students last June.
The Exterior Elevated Elements (E3) Programme was introduced by Berkeley City Council in July 2015, one month after the balcony collapse at a 21st birthday party in the city that claimed the lives of Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Ashley Donohue, Lorcán Miller, Niccolai Schuster, and Eimear Walsh.
Five of the six deceased were Irish students working in California on a J1 visa, while Ms Donohue was an Irish-American cousin of Ms Burke.
Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Sean Fahey, Conor Flynn, Jack Halpin, Niall Murray, and Hannah Waters survived the collapse but suffered a variety of injuries.
Matthai Chakko, a spokesperson for Berkeley City Council, told the Irish Examiner that the authority worked to ensure that such a fatal tragedy would not happen again.
“After the tragic collapse, the City of Berkeley not only worked incredibly hard to investigate the situation, the city also proposed and implemented a series of measures involving decks, balconies, staircases, and other exterior structures to try and prevent such an accident from happening again,” said Mr Chakko.
As part of the E3 Programme, the exterior elevated balconies and other similar fixtures were to be verified by licenced experts, with the certification of each to be submitted to the council by January 14.
Berkeley City Council has now published a report on these inspections. It wrote 6,090 letters to property owners informing them of the new requirements, and received 4,395 replies. A total of 2,219 of these replies indicated that the buildings were exempt from the programme.
However, while inspectors certified 1,774 properties as being up to standard, 402 were found to be in need of corrective work.
Mr Chakko said that the programme has been well received by locals.
“Property owners have been very co-operative and compliant,” he said.
“They have told us that they have seen value in the programme. The programme had a direct, dramatic impact on increasing safety for people in Berkeley.”
“This was an incredibly tragic situation, but City of Berkeley’s response and the creation of these measures have made hundreds of properties safer and will not only lead to safer buildings, but they will have recurring inspections to try and prevent anything like the tragedy from ever happening again.”
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