We don't know of any fire department that has too many inspectors for the number of inspections that should be done. However, we are aware of a need to prioritize what inspections should be handled by a limited number of inspectors or companies.
What we would like to do is to help you strategically plan how to handle what seems to be an ever increasing inspection load. In order to do this, some basic questions must first be answered.
What kind of fire history does your community have? Where are you experiencing hostile fires? What occupancy classification do you have the largest number of fires occurring? What occupancy experiences the largest number of fire deaths? What occupancy experiences the largest dollar loss? Once you have answered these questions, you can begin to show where issues are present.
Being the clairvoyant fire marshals we are we would assume you are having the highest fire incident rate (numbers of fires) in residential occupancies. We also will bet, baring a periodic unusual event, your fatality rate is highest in your residential occupancies. We would also assume that unless you are strictly a bedroom community, you are likely having your largest fire losses in commercial structures such as manufacturing, business or mercantile occupancies. If this is the case, we will provide you a good base template to follow in setting up a strategic plan for your area. If it is not, then the using our template will provide you a good model to use in devising your own plan based on your loss history. This process should be re-evaluated annual and modified as necessary to keep the right target in focus.
For purposes of example and planning, let's assume you are having your highest number of fires in residences, your highest fire death rates in residences, and your largest monetary losses in commercial structures. Okay, we know we have limited capabilities of enforcement in residential occupancies. We can impact apartment complexes with inspections, but it becomes problematic to deal with individual apartment units. Enforcement then is not our best tool for individual residences, but we would offer that community education and awareness is.
Now, let's look at some risk elements. What is the probability that we can have a multiple loss of life in a single family home fire as compared to an unprotected apartment building which may have limited access, interior hallways, etc. Experience tells us that where we have more people, we have greater risk. So, we would offer that inspection efforts have a place in apartment complexes where we can impact means of occupant egress, fire department access, fire hydrant operability, and active and passive protection/detection features. So, let's make annual inspections of apartment complexes a priority so that we can address the following items:
- Smoke detection and fire alarm operation (administrative controls by the complex)
- Fire apparatus access
- Fire hydrant operability and maintenance
- Pre planning
By making sure all the exiting provisions are code-compliant, we can be more assured that occupants who are made aware of a hostile fire can evacuate and protect themselves. Also, by addressing the administrative controls of the apartment management, we can feel more comfortable that smoke detectors are operable, being maintained and managed and that whatever fire alarm systems may be present will be working and alerting the occupants and/or fire department. The other check list items will help fire operations should they be necessary for rescue operations and fire attack.
Having addressed our risk to life in a reasonable fashion, we can now move to the property loss part of our mission. Assuming for example that large monetary losses are occurring in commercial faculties, we can assume the fires are a little larger and/or more serious in these same occupancies. Assuming that more of our bread and butter operations are also occurring in residences, we can assume that more complex and dangerous fires are happening in our commercial areas. This creates focus not only on more mitigation efforts for property protection but also more impetus on fire fighter safety.