Safety. Security. These two little words can have a lot of different connotations for those living within, or providing management and other professional services to, a community association. From an engineer’s perspective, thoughts relating to this topic would naturally center on the physical environment and its relationship to the well-being of the individuals residing within a community. A safe physical environment is in itself a far-reaching category encompassing items ranging from proper maintenance of site elements, such as sidewalks and other walking surfaces, to engaging contractors who utilize best safety practices on construction sites.
It is common practice among property managers to perform regular visual observations of their community, even if they are simply in the form of an informal walk around the premises. It is recommended that, when performing an informal assessment of this type, a manager should particularly look for any conditions that may pose a safety hazard to residents. One common culprit, and a leading cause of on-site accidents involving tripping and falling, are walking surfaces including sidewalks, paved walkways, stoops and stairs.
Freeze and Thaw Cycle
Two natural elements—tree roots and water—are two of the main causes for the deterioration of walking surfaces. Tree roots can literally lift sidewalks, causing them to go out of alignment, and create an uneven surface for residents. Water can have the same effect when it infiltrates the sidewalk area, and subsequently goes through a cycle of freezing and thawing. Add freezing temperatures into the mix, and you have an icy slip-and-fall waiting to happen.
Other site elements that may be considered to fall into the category of aesthetics, but actually contribute largely to a community’s safety, are lighting and landscaping. Well-maintained lighting and grounds can create a space that provides overall protection from any potential threats from other persons. Additionally, certain landscape elements can themselves prove to be a personal safety hazard if not properly tended to. For example, New Jersey residents have experienced several large storms that brought down a number of trees and tree branches. After such storms, it is important for managers to also look up in making their informal community assessment. Are there any tree limbs dangling precariously over areas where residents walk or park their cars?