How long should you keep records of inspections or reports? This question is one to be directed to your legal counsel. There is a lot of conflicting information, whether it is from policy or local legislation, state law, etc. The most common timelines are either three or seven years. Again, this is dependent upon what your legal counsel suggests. Keep in mind, as it often happens, you won't need the information within the year of your inspection but in the tail end of your required documentation filing date. Time and time again we have had to testify or research issues that are several years old. Having accurate reports in the only saving grace in trying to defend your position or develop a solution to a problem.
If you don't have specific rules and regulations for you or your staff to follow, you will likely loose accurate information and details that will be problematic in the future. Consult with your legal counsel, and your city and fire department administrations to develop the best possible practices and consistent methods for report record keeping. These practices and policies will help guarantee accurate information gathering, information archiving and detailed recall in the future if you need it. There are a lot of critics and professional witnesses out there who only want to discredit and invalidate your capabilities as a fire prevention manager or supervisor. Insufficient reports also reflect poorly on the inspector who will likely be the person called as a witness. Do all you can now to protect your future interests and protect you and your department from unwanted embarrassment and a lack of credibility.
BRETT LACEY, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is the Fire Marshal for the Colorado Springs, CO, Fire Department and a professional engineer. He has over 27 years in the fire service and has served on various technical committees including NFPA 1031, IFSTA committee for Inspection practices, and Fire Detection and Suppression Systems and the Colorado Fire Marshal's Association Code Committee. PAUL VALENTINE, a Firehouse.com Contributing Editor, is the Fire Marshal for the Mount Prospect, IL, Fire Department and formerly served as their fire protection engineer. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fire Protection and Safety Engineering Technology from Oklahoma State University and a Master of Science Degree in Management and Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University and is a graduate from the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program. Brett and Paul co-authored Fire Prevention Applications, published by Fire Protection Publications. They also presented a webcast titled Fire Prevention Applications on Firehouse TrainingLIVE. To read their complete biographies and view their archived articles, click here. You can reach Paul by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.