Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fire Inspections - Are They Worthless? Or Is There SOME Value To Them?

What are some of the most worthless mundane things that we do while we're on duty? No, I'm not talking about running calls, even if it's the same place we've been to a thousand times before, and the same patient we've treated a thousand times before. Running calls is our reason for being here. 

If you're thinking fire inspections, well, so am I. When it is announced that inspections is on the list of ta-do's for the shift, there is seemingly always a collective groan amongst the members. I freely admit that I'm one of them. In the towns covered by my FD, there are different building codes, which can  sometimes drive the Prevention Division members mad. As far as the general fire code inspections go, well, they aren't really very enforceable. The courts haven't backed us up, per se. That doesn't mean we can't do them, it just means that staying in violation of the fire code won't result in a legal penalty assessed by the court.

Is there value to fire code enforcement? Absolutely. For starters, since the inception of business fire code inspections in the early 1990s, our commercial fires are down. Dramatically down. When business fires are reduced, companies don't get markedly inconvenienced or put out of business when there is a fire. People keep their jobs. Employeed people can provide for their family's needs and contribute to the local economy. To me, a very good thing.

Another advantage: if/when there is a fire, the business's insurance carrier ALWAYS want to see the latest fire code inspection results. It seems that while the courts may not totally have our backs, the insurance companies have a bigger power of persuasion with businesses. Maybe it's better that way.

So, at least for me, I don't slack off when we go do them. Besides, most business management folks I've talked to almost always thank us for pointing out potential issues that can cause a fire. Business owners and managers who have good heads on their shoulders don't want a fire, and when shown how simply and relatively inexpensively they can remedy an issue, they usually start correction efforts on the spot, if they can.

Ok, so, this week my engine company got started on our annual list of fire inspections. We drew fifty-six businesses to perform fire code inspections on this year. Not bad. We usually start on them in late spring, and get them done before summer is out. We got thirteen done the other day, including a vacant (DONE!) and of the thirteen, six are complete already. The rest really only have minor issues - exit lights not functioning, fire extinguishers needing service, etc. Nothing worth shutting down a business over. I'm confident they will be corrected before we return in three weeks. Easy work.

Now, here is the part of inspections that I do like. (Ken, are you feeling ok? You said that you actually LIKE to do inspections?) No, I said there are parts of inspections that I like. Seeing what is stored, so that if/when we have a response, we know what hazards there are likely to be (Firefighter Safety issues) and to look at how various locks are used in our response area (Forcible Entry issues) for starters.

We rolled up to a gas station and during a walk-around we were surprised to see several barrels with labels on them stating the contents were either "Flammable Liquids" or "Non-Hazardous Waste". Hmmm... So, when we were talking to the manager, we got the scoop on them. Several years ago there was an accident there that resulted in underground pipes breaking, and there was a massive flood of gasoline in that part of town. Thank God it didn't ignite! Anyway, they recovered a lot of the product at an emergency dam built on a creek (it was an underflow dam IIRC). A shipper came and picked up all of the barrels except for what we saw on the visit. We suggested they contact that shipper again, or perhaps another one.



 Hmmm...
More hmmm...

One thing I've noticed over the past several years is the demographics of my town are changing. Drastically. And not necessarily for the better. Some folks blame the economy. Others blame urban flight. I don't know, or care, what you want to call it. But the marked increase in crimes over the past years isn't due to an increase in population - it's grown, but not as fast as the crime rate. So, why do I mention this? Because with increased crime rates come increased security measures. Increased security measures means we have increased forcible entry challenges.

Drop bar at a local business. Crude? Not really. Effective? Yes! Easy to force? Well, it is if you think it through.

Note the slot on the door that the steel tab drops in to. Pad locks hold it in place when securing the door after hours.

Using a K12-type of power saw can yield fast results. Cutting the heads of the bolts off will allow a traditional force, as the bar will stay in place when we force the door open. Then we can simply remove the bar, once the door is open.
Failing that, we can also cut the hinges, but this will take more time.


So, as you can see, going out and doing fire code inspections isn't always a bad thing. There ARE advantages to it, as boring, pointless, and mundane as they seem.

Thanks for reading.

Stay safe and God bless.

Ken

(NOTE: Before this gets out of hand: Folks, this is NOT an attack on the volunteer sector of firefighting. I have been a volunteer firefighter, and would gladly do it again, if I lived in an area that was served by a volunteer fire department. The intent of this post isn't to slam VFDs, but rather, to point out some of the more mundane things that have to be done in the paid sector. If there are VFDs out there who perform some/all of the same non-emergency duties that are performed in the paid sector, please accept my apologies for my ignorance, and let it lay. My sincere thanks for the services you provide to your community.)

1 comment:

  1. Fire inspection worth very much every were. In my view it is one of the basic requirement. In business complex monthly inspection could be mandatory of all fire equipments. There are so many important things to check such as fire extinguisher and fire alarms.

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