I was reading a few news stories online when I came across a very interesting and disturbing situation. Without knowing all of the details other than what appeared in the newspaper story, it appears as though the city of Watertown, NY, has ordered their fire department to stop inspecting buildings.
I'm not quite sure what administrative or political situation behind the scenes caused this action but I do know one thing, it's a mistake! Whether or not the inspecting firefighters have any enforcement powers to correct code violations or not, there is a huge benefit, for both the community and the firefighters, to having them visit and walk around and familiarize themselves with the interior layout and furnishings of commercial buildings.
When firefighters respond to a fire in a building, the conditions are usually smoky, hot and dangerous. Many firefighters are injured, become lost and otherwise have their effectiveness reduced by the fact that they are crawling into an unknown area to fight a fire or rescue a trapped person.
On the other hand, when firefighters make annual visits to the commercial buildings they will be responding to, they become familiar with the layout, the exit and entrance locations, the fire load and just about every other feature of the location. This makes a firefighter more effective, and successful and certainly reduces fire losses and firefighter injuries and fatalities.
To limit or restrict firefighters from familiarizing themselves with the buildings they will be fighting fires in is insanity. This action by the city is certainly short cited and sets the stage for disaster. Fire companies in New York City are scheduled for nine hours of inspection time each week. This time is spent looking for violations and also for familiarizing the crew with the buildings they will be entering when filled with fire and smoke on some future day.
If the Watertown firefighters are restricted from conducting inspections, maybe they should just find the time to visit and familiarize themselves with their local commercial buildings.