Iowa architects will be bending the ears of state legislators today in Des Moines, and an issue of concern is their possible liability when they are asked to provide services during an emergency.
The Iowa chapter of the American Institute of Architects has trained about 60 of its 900 members under the organization's disaster assistance program to help out in the event of natural disasters and man-made calamities.
Bill Dikis, owner of Architectural Strategies LLC, said it is difficult to recruit architects and engineers to conduct damage assessments in the wake of floods and other disasters because of concerns that they could face a lawsuit.
In fact, some insurance companies tell architects and engineers that they cannot volunteer for such duty, Dikis said.
Architects volunteered to do flood damage assessments in Mason City in July 2008 and Cedar Rapids in August 2008.
Despite doing more 500 assessments in a short time in Mason City, some property owners became irate with the slow pace of work. Those complaints set of warnings that architects and engineers could be sued.
Study bills have been introduced in the Iowa House and Senate that would provide protection from lawsuits when architects and engineers help out during disasters.
The bills specify that volunteers are not compensated, with exception of expenses. The disaster would have to be declared by the governor, and the protection would extend for 30 days, unless terminated or extended.
Architects could not just walk on the scene. Their assistance would have to be requested by national, state or local authorities.
Twenty-five states currently have a Good Samaritan law for architects, including Illinois, Missouri, Kansas and North Dakota.