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"I was the First One Locked Up in the Broward County Jail"., Mark LeBlanc

The engineering field has come a long way since the early 80s and so has much of the landscape in South Florida. Back in those days, engineering was heavily unionized in the state and some of the testing and practices that we have today had not been developed just yet. Mark LeBlanc, owner and founder of Specialty Engineering Consultants, was one of those pioneering engineers in South Florida. In fact, he was one of the first threshold inspectors on the construction of the Broward County Jail.


Mark was in charge of checking the rebar, slab and walls of the building. Threshold inspections are mandated by Florida Stature 553.71 for any building that has a structure that is greater than three stories, or 50 feet in height or has an "assembly" occupancy classification that exceeds 5000 square feet and an occupancy grater than 500 persons. A structural inspector is required for these types of buildings to check out all of the structural elements of the building during construction to make sure that the building is being built according to plan.


Towards the end of the construction of the jail, Mark was tasked with checking the construction of the walls. For cell blocks in a jail, the masonry in the wall was supposed to be filled completely, but during inspection he found that some of the walls weren't completely filled. The previous inspector hadn't noticed that some of the walls were missing interior masonry. The process to check all the walls would require hitting the walls with a hammer to check for voids, which would damage the walls.


During this, Mark found a way to check the walls with a tuning fork instead of a hammer which was obviously much less intrusive than hitting walls with a hammer. While working one Tuesday afternoon, Mark, checked his watch and saw that it was 4:15 PM in the afternoon and he was alone in the jail. He ran downstairs and the doors where locked! He went to a window and saw the security guard that was patrolling the building go by. He gathered anything he could find that could be used to get the security guards attention. Eventually, by throwing conduit at him Mark got his attention and yelled at him to let him out.


Today, Mark likes to tell the story that he was the first person locked inside the Broward county jail, but the story shows why it is so important to have a threshold inspector. Threshold inspections are now the law in Florida, but they haven't always been. Threshold inspections can save a lot of hassle, time, and effort while ensuring that a construction project is being built as safely as possible.

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