National Building Code Adoption Tracking Portal (BCAT Portal)

BCAT Portal image showing US colored according to level of code adoption

In a blog post the other day I shared information about the No Code No Confidence website where people can put in their zip code and find out the status of building codes in their area. Today I am going to introduce a similar site called the National Building Code Adoption Tracking (BCAT) Portal. According to FEMA which hosts the site, the BCAT Portal is an interactive WebGIS map that tracks five hazards (flood, seismic, tornado, hurricane wind, damaging wind) and displays:

  • Code adoption information for Census Incorporated Places
  • Additional metadata such as the latest decennial U.S. Census population and National Flood Insurance Program Community Identification (CID) number
  • Mutual aid layer displaying mutual aid laws
  • Regulations information from the annual Mutual Aid for Building Departments fact sheets
  • High risk areas and code adoption and weakening information for each individual hazard, or view a comprehensive combined hazards layer

People can use the map by clicking an area and then reading information about the community at that location. The information is displayed in a separate window on the left side of the screen as shown in the image at the top of this post. I’ve also embedded the portal at the end of the post so you can access it just by clicking on it.

In the example in the image, I have clicked on Custer county, Montana. You can see in the image the information that came up shows the county has adopted both the 2018 International Building Code (IBC) and the 2018 International Residential Code (IRC). The county’s CID number in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is also displayed along with the county’s status in the NFIP which is participating. The population of the county based on the census is shown too. If you click the “State Building Code Link,” it will take you to the state website which offers information specifically about building codes in the state. In Montana, the agency which oversees building codes is the Business Standards Division. Each state regulates building codes, permits, licensing, and training differently so it’s important to check out the specific requirements in the state in which you live or work.

The BCAT Portal applies a color to each area based on the level of code adoption in that community. The legend below shows what each color means.

BCAT Legend

When zoomed out, the colors are applied at a county level. If you zoom in the colors are instead applied to the communities within the counties. I’ve included an image that is zoomed in around the Dallas area so you can see an example of how the colors change to show community adoption status when zoomed in.

BCAT zoomed in on Dallas area in Texas

If you are focused more on protection from specific hazards you can click on the tabs at the top of the map which highlight different hazards. The two mutual aid tabs show information regarding Emergency and Incident Management compacts.


What Homeowners Need to Know about Building Codes

In June 2021 FEMA released a Building Codes Toolkit for Building Owners and Occupants. While I encourage everyone to check out the publication, I thought I would summarize some of the main points here in addition to adding a few of my own suggestions.

Why do we have modern building codes?

There are four primary reasons:

  • To minimize accidents and damages and related insurance claims
  • To eliminate squalor and impacts to health
  • To support local government in ensuring health and safety to taxpayers
  • To reduce damages and loss of life in the event of a disaster.

So why is this important to a homeowner? It’s important because having strong building codes which are supported by a good local inspection program helps make sure homes are built to protect people as much as possible. When I took training for becoming an electric inspector, they told us some provisions are added to the electric code because they have been proved to reduce deaths. Other provisions are in the code to protect against fires. I think most people want to be protected in their home as much as possible from fire and death.

But strangely enough when I was a building inspector I had a few experiences where people building a new home told me they shouldn’t have to follow the code because it was their home and they should be able to do what they want. The problem with this approach is that no one owns their home forever, and the home usually remains in the community long after the person who built it has moved on. So their decision to introduce a risk into the home impacts future occupants and the community. If something happens in that home such as a fire, there could be loss of life. And local firefighters who end up entering that home may face risks they are not expecting.

What codes should my community adopt?

While some states and local communities pass their own codes, many pass what is referred to as the I-Codes. These are standard codes developed by the International Code Council or ICC. This organization hosts hearings each year to consider suggested updates to the codes then publish a new version of the codes based on the outcomes of those hearings. A community may not need to adopt a new version each year, but it is important to stay up to date enough so that new building technologies and research that can lead to increased protection are incorporated into the code. Studies have shown many people believe their community is already taking care of this, but unfortunately many are not.

So how can you encourage your community to adopt up to date building codes? First you can check the No Code No Confidence website to see if your community has the latest version of the building code. If the codes are the most recent version, you could send a simple email like this to your elected officials:

“I was on the No Code No Confidence website and noticed our community has adopted the most recent building codes. I want to thank you for keeping our community safe by adopting these codes and ensuring they are up to date.”

If they are not the most recent, and especially if they are significantly out of date, you could send the following language in an email to your elected officials:

“I was on the No Code No Confidence website and noticed our community has not adopted the most recent building codes. I want to urge you to consider adopting the most recent codes. Not doing so puts property owners and building occupants at risk. Only by adopting up to date codes can we ensure our community stays resilient to disasters and other risks. Thank you for considering my request.”

What can I do to ensure my own home remains safe?

Sometimes we decide to make improvements to our own homes. In doing so, it is important to find out if the work you plan requires a building permit. You can find this out usually by visiting the building department website for your community or visiting or calling your local community and asking if a permit is needed for the work you plan. Getting a permit helps ensure the work that will be done on your home meets current codes and helps keep you safe.

Other resources in the toolkit

The FEMA Building Codes Toolkit also has a checklist with questions to ask your builder if you are having work done on your home or building a new home. There is also insurance information and links to many more resources.


Interactive Sites, Games for Kids, and Building Safety Handouts

Today I am sharing a few resources available to help people learn more about building safety:

Interactive Building Safety Month Poster – by clicking on the green dots on this site you can find out the codes which ensure these building components are safe.

Fun Things for Kids: The ICC has available for download a coloring book and a crossword puzzle both related to building safety.

Safety Tip Handouts: Share or link to them on your own social media sites.


Green and Sustainable Buildings

Electric Safety


Free and Online Access to Building Codes

Did you know anyone with access to the internet can check out current building codes at the International Code Council (ICC) website? It’s true! I am really excited about this because when I first started in the industry, I only had access to the physical books, and I always thought how much easier things would be if I could use and refer people to a digital version.

Well now we all can – building professionals and property owners and renters – basically everyone. All you have to do is visit the ICC website at and check out any of the 15 codes they offer along with other related publications. They even have different years of the code available. Of course they offer a subscription service with more features which is probably something a building professional would be more interested in than a property owner.

When you get to the site, you can filter the codes in the menu on the left which you can see in the image on this page. You can also go to a specific year by clicking the drop down at the top and choosing the year and version of code. To view a code which shows up in the display, just hover over the graphic of the title and when you see “View as Basic” click on it. The site will take you to the code. You can check out different sections of the code by clicking on the list of sections on the left of the screen.

One important thing to keep in mind is even though the codes are there for free for us to read, they are still under copyright. So in accessing and using them we need to make sure we don’t infringe on the ICC copyright.


Building Safety Month Webinars

Every good campaign is backed up with a series of related webinars, and Building Safety Month has a group of them ready for you. The first one will focus on Tiny Homes and Affordability and will be held May 3, 2022, at 3-4 pm ET.

The International Code Council (ICC) will also host at least two Facebook live events. The first will be with the ICC VP of Innovation, Ryan Colker, on May 2, 2022, at 1 pm ET.

Below is a listing of the all the Building Safety Month webinars and Facebook live events to be held by the ICC throughout the month. You can register now or stop back later in the month to click on the link and check it out.

Facebook Live Events:

May 2, 2022, 1 pm ET – with ICC VP of Innovation, Ryan Colker

May 10, 2022, 1 pm ET – with ICC Senior VP of Training and Education, Matthew Winn

Building Safety Month Webinars (and yes, you read that right – for some reason there is no webinar in week 3 and two during week 4):

Week 1, May 3, 3-4 pm ET, Tiny Homes and Affordability

Week 2, May 10, 2-3 pm ET, Career Paths for Military Veterans

Week 4, May 24, 2-3:30 ET, Backflow Basics: Repair & Testing

Week 4, May 35, 2-3 ET, Pool Owner Safety 101

If you know of any building safety month events going on that people may want to attend, send them to me, and I’ll add them to a future post. You can comment here or message me on Twitter (@publicworks) or Facebook.


Building Safety Month Kick-off

Well it’s here! Building Safety Month – a month to promote pretty much what it says: BUILDING SAFETY. And because all of us need to spend time in buildings or some sort of shelter, Building Safety Month is really for everyone. This year, the International Code Council (ICC) which sponsors the campaign has established four themes for each of the following four weeks:

Week 1, May 1 to May 8: Energy and Innovation

Week 2, May 9 to May 15: Building Safety Careers

Week 3, May 16 to 22: Disaster Preparedness

Week 4, May 23 to 31, Water Safety

Whether you are in the building industry or a related field or not, I hope to offer information and resources throughout the month for all of us. And if you are in the field, you can stop by the ICC Building Safety Month website to download toolkits, proclamations, and other materials to promote the month in your communities.