In December 2013, 24 members of the Wilt family gathered on the deck of their neighborhood clubhouse in New Albany, Ind., for a group photo. Smiles turned to screams in an instant when the deck collapsed, dropping them more than one story to the ground below.
Thankfully, none of the family members were killed, although many sustained serious injuries, received emergency treatment on the scene and were hospitalized. Two of the injured are still not walking nearly three months after the accident.
As a result of the experience, family member Jeremy Wilt, who was not on the deck at the time of the collapse but whose wife and daughter were, is working to increase awareness about deck safety. He made a video to raise awareness and prevent another tragedy. The video shows the frightening collapse from several angles.
The number of failing and aging decks has been increasing rapidly, according to the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA). The organization emphasizes that it is critical for homeowners and those who own or manage property where a deck is located to inspect decks regularly to look for warning signs of decay and potential failure.
The NADRA has created a list of 10 ways for consumers to ensure their decks are properly supported and not showing warning signs of a potential collapse. The 10-point list consists of the following:
* Check several various areas of the deck for split or decaying wood, especially areas that tend to remain suspiciously damp, are regularly exposed to water, or are in contact with fasteners. Small holes may also indicate insects.
* Flashing is a metal or plastic guard used to direct water from sensitive areas of the deck. Always check to make sure the flashing is firmly and place and replace parts that allow water to collect rather than redirect.
* Nails, screws or anchors, known as fasteners, should be knocked into the wood. Rusting fasteners can also corrode surrounding wood if not replaced in a timely manner.
* Push on railings and banisters to make sure that all is secure and that there is no give. Also, check to ensure they are high enough to keep small children and pets from slipping through.
* Handrails on stairs must be tested and pressed on to ensure that they are firmly in place. Always keep stairs free of tripping hazards, such as planters, toys and other items.
* Leaves and other debris located on the deck should be cleaned and maintained regularly so that it never becomes slippery or promotes mildew. If mildew is already present, apply a new waterproof coating and use other steps to ensure the deck is still safe for the public.
* Although features such as grills, fire pits and chimneys create a fun atmosphere for a beautiful deck, any source of fire is a potential fire hazard. All flammable surfaces should be protected by a non-flammable pad. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions when dealing with sources of fire or heat.
* All lighting fixtures should be working and clean. Make sure no plants or tree limbs obstruct the light. Also, ensure no electrical cords are present and childproof electrical outlets when children are present.
* Avoid placing furniture near the edge of the deck. Keep all deck-related chemical products stored away from children and sources of fire, including barbecue lighter fluids, matches, cleaners, etc.