On March 26 AIA Ohio Immediate Past President, Elizabeth Corbin Murphy, FAIA asked members of the Senate Civil Justice Committee to pass HB17 which would provide civil immunity for architects, contractors, engineers, surveyors, and tradespersons providing volunteer services during a declared emergency.
Murphy said that currently architects are not able to volunteer in emergencies due to their status as licensed professionals. They risk losing their license by offering opinions on damaged structures without contractual language in place.
In an emergency, help is needed right away, but creating contracts is not a quick process, she explained. And if there is no contract, the architect will not be covered by insurance and would have to decline to help unless they had immunity, as she hopes will be achieved with the bill.
“Following a large-scale disaster, hundreds or thousands of buildings may be damaged,” she said. “Average citizens won’t know whether their homes and businesses are safe to enter or occupy.” That’s why she believes architects are essential during and after a declared emergency.
Sen. Skindell asked how architect volunteers are coordinated with the government in an emergency situation. Murphy said the architect has to be invited by a city, county or state official, as stated in the bill.
Representatives of the Associated General Contractors of Ohio, and the Professional Land Surveyors of Ohio also provided similar testimony.