Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me

This was the opening line of the song by Buck Owens and Roy Clark on the TV show “Hee Haw.” It seems to fit in the today’s situation. With the TV newscasters and economic analysts constantly reporting on the sad state of affairs, both economic and military actions, it certainly causes us gloom, despair, and agony.

Even though the inspection department has always been the first to experience cutbacks in travel and continuing education opportunities, now we are aware of departments shutting down entirely. We hear about and know about people losing their jobs because of the downturn in construction, residential and commercial. Governmental agencies, including inspection departments, used to be pretty much secure jobs, but now these agencies are terminating their inspectors.

About the only thing I remember from my college economics class is “supply and demand” and “diminishing return.” I don’t think I could engage in an intelligent conversation about either now. The Great Depression happened before I was born so all I know about it is what I was told by my parents, who lived through it. I do remember when interest rates were double digits and car loans were 21+ percent. I do remember when unemployment was double digits and construction was as low as it is now. I was a local government electrical inspector during some of those times. Our county government realized the importance of maintaining a knowledgeable staff and did not cut staff or eliminate training. I don’t have any idea about how to fix the economy or even if it needs fixing. But it seems to me that we, as individuals and together, need to stop listening to all the doomsday people and realize that by our own actions thing will improve.

I can’t understand what these city and county managers are thinking when they use the safety system – the inspection department – to cut spending. When the work force is gone, along with its knowledge base, where will the inspectors come from when construction again is going at full speed? And it surely will! The safety of the citizens should be foremost. I expect everyone—manufacturers, installers, consumers and inspectors—can agree that safety is greatly enhanced when another set of eyes is looking for safety issues.

Back in 1996, a group of electrical industry leaders got together to form An Industry Coalition Supporting Qualified Electrical Inspectors. It was recognized that electrical inspections were a vital public safety function. I quote some of the points that were highlighted in the original press release:

  • Inspections by qualified electrical inspectors reduce the potential for fire and shock hazards due to incorrectly installed electrical products and systems covered by the National Electrical Code, save lives, and reduce property damage that may result from unsafe electrical installations.
  • Electrical inspections help confirm that the electrical wiring and systems are installed “according toCode.”
  • Electrical inspections help confirm that properly certified products meeting U.S. safety standards are installed.
  • Electrical inspections protect against untrained or careless installers.

This vital public safety function doesn’t have to cost taxpayers or cash-strapped governments a dime.

Property insurance premiums are generally lower in areas with strong building codes enforced by professional inspectors.

James W. Carpenter
Former IAEI CEO and Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief for the IAEI News, James Carpenter was previously the chief electrical engineer, state electrical inspector for the Engineering Division of the Office of State Fire Marshal, North Carolina Department of Insurance. He had been with the department for twenty years, with twenty years electrical experience prior to coming to the state. He was a member of CMP-2 from 1987 to 2002 and was chairman for the last three cycles. He has been a member of IAEI since 1972. He was also a member of NFPA and is serving as the TCC chair and on the Standards Council. He was on the UL Electrical Council.