1. #1
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    Default We have to share the blame

    12 years ago this very department lost six brothers in an abandoned warehouse that was improperly secured, now they lose another in a building with numerous code violations.

    So who is to blame here? We need to share some of it!

    We all have buildings in our jurisdictions that have the same issues here and are future LODDs. Maybe it will be you! Maybe your brother or sister sitting next to you in your apparatus. What are you doing about it? Why are you sitting behind bay doors waiting for that LODD call to come in?

    What are you doing to protect your "brothers?"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Byrne View Post
    What are you doing to protect your "brothers?"
    As the Building Code Official/Fire Inspector I am documenting, documenting, documenting the schit out of every potential serious life hazard. I also communicate with the Fire Chief and send him emails on every bad hazard that I find. Unfortunately our hands are sometimes tied politically- which is also documented in the official files (with copies kept in my posession.)
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Yet when it comes time to cut one of the first areas cut is prevention, both public education and inspections.

    Until that mindset changes, we are still going to have buildings that never even get inspected, much rather get the followup on volations that they should be getting.
    Train to fight the fires you fight.

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    Violations documented or not, does anybody listen?

    Look at the Black Sunday tradgedy. The apartment had illegal partitions and after all the dust settled and courts were done, nobody was convicted of any crime.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/h...ticle-1.195062

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    And how about Stations pre planning buildings, response areas for vacant buildings, hazardous problems

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    Exactly! We document, document, document but does anyone listen? VERY true! But can we throw our hands up?

    Educate the public. As part of our educational program we discuss with the public code violations and the hazards associated with them. They are the tax payers AND..... the voters. We give them numbers and email addresses. We educate and arm the public. Does it solve the problem 100%? Nothing ever will! Could it stop just one fire? Save one life? Could 100 presentations just save one life? Is it worth it? Is that not what we came into this service to do?

    The public does not fear fire! They fear terrorism! They fear hurricanes! They fear crime? But no they do not fear fire. "It happens, people die, part of life." Sad isn't it! Our public will read about a child dying in a home without a smoke detector and become sad....not outraged! Who is to blame for that lethargy? Why is it our citizens could tell you all about terrorism, but not the leading cause of fire in their VERY community? - Whose to blame for that?? We are!

    Fire49 you hit on a MAJOR key!! Getting the companies out, in the buildings to do the above (educate) but also get familiar with the buildings and what they are up against? Could 100 building visits result in one firefighter knowing the location of a specific hazard or additional exit that will save his/her crew? Is it worth it?

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    Has anyone tried a little public shame? Public listing of code violations, like with other crimes, might have some impact.

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    Quote Originally Posted by auxman View Post
    Has anyone tried a little public shame? Public listing of code violations, like with other crimes, might have some impact.


    Maybe a step before that is get community involment churches, community groups, Politicians etc. get places cleaned up, identified, torn down , whatever

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    My previous department considered creating a nice plaque or certificate that states a particular fire safety rating based upon the inspection results; example, if certain number of violations and/or violations in a certain category would give them a “Good,” no violations “Excellent,” etc… that the business could display. In an article I wrote for Firehouse Magazine I discuss our Target Hazard program where they get a certificate to display stating their staff completed emergency safety training.

    The program was just getting off the ground when city government slashed the department and the Chief took it out of prevention to put more people on the trucks and thus the program largely went away. The decision was to put more firefighters on the trucks, to respond to more fires and risk, rather than attack the problem at its roots.

    So the problems are systemic and must be attacked from several angles; yet I feel we continue to bang our head against the wall.

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    Quote Originally Posted by auxman View Post
    Has anyone tried a little public shame? Public listing of code violations, like with other crimes, might have some impact.
    Have to be careful doing that, the property owners attorney's foam at the mouth with the very thought of lack of due process and violations of civil rights.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    Seeing as how in many towns the newspaper publish notices of arrests and such I don't see a problem. If its a violation of the law, its a violation of the law. After all, these are public records and if a newspaper decided to start a "fire code violations" column on their own, they could ask for and get access to the records.

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    Default auxman!

    While FWDbuff you do bring up a solid and valid point that needs to be considered, auxman may be onto something. I never even thought of something like that. I think the question would be the space. How about listing the number of violations with every commercial fire response? The public has a right to know which buildings they take their family into how hazardous it is.....

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    Well, if it went on a department web site, space wouldn't be an issue. However, I would probably consider some sort of incremental use of this technique such that only repeat serious violators get listed (may require some sort of dept. SOP) rather than the business that doesn't know any better that fixes things immediately.

    Although I mentioned the newspapers, I do doubt that unless we're talking about a REAL small town, they probably wouldn't regularly print a list.

    The tricky part might be describing the violation in a way that would make sense to the public and so that they would really understand how serious it was.

    Perhaps a good adjunct to this technique might be to also have some stats available for the percentage of fires caused by each type of code violation (might have to generalize a bit).

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    I don't think "shaming" businesses will help.

    Reporting to their insurance company their violations... or the landlord's insurance company. Now that would be fun.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

    "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list."

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    Hmm, that is actually probably a better idea though you may need to pass some sort of ordinance requiring that information on their insurance company and policy number be provided to the inspecting officer (if such authority doesn't already exist).

    However, I wonder if insurance companies are actually set up to randomly receive such reports and take action with them or whether someone in the mail room wouldn't have any idea what to do with them.

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    We were successful in having monthly statistics in the local paper and able to list number of inspections, violations found, and corrects made. But not business specific.

    Got to agree with the Chief here! To get corrections insurance companies are BIG! In chain stores I have found QUICK results going to Corporate and speaking with their risk management office.

    BUT!! The public is valuable because they spend the money! While doing the above might get a correction how long would it last? Within months it most often went back to the old way and we were in a circle. When John Q is educated and business owners know that the fire department makes inspection results public, that might get the real changes needed.

    How about a public data base on the department website? Where inspection results can be viewed? Inspections are public knowledge just as police reports. Would just the knowledge of the business owner that the inspection report will be open for public view be enough?

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    As tempting as it may be, "tattling" to insurance companies doesn't seem like a productive use of an inspector's time to me. Insurance companies that give a damn already do their own inspections or at least contact the AHJ about the compliance of insured properties.

    Most states have a legal process for enforcing code compliance that is sufficient to get the job done if there are enough qualified inspectors to get out in the field to do inspections and follow the appropriate procedures to enforce compliance.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Byrne View Post
    How about a public data base on the department website? Where inspection results can be viewed? Inspections are public knowledge just as police reports.
    The fact that a document may be available through a duly processed FOI request doesn't mean that it should be routinely published. Not to mention that any inspections that disclose serious violations are often likely to become open criminal investigations which are not subject to public view until the case is resolved.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    As tempting as it may be, "tattling" to insurance companies doesn't seem like a productive use of an inspector's time to me. Insurance companies that give a damn already do their own inspections or at least contact the AHJ about the compliance of insured properties.

    Most states have a legal process for enforcing code compliance that is sufficient to get the job done if there are enough qualified inspectors to get out in the field to do inspections and follow the appropriate procedures to enforce compliance.
    Insurance companies are always looking for better data...

    This would enhance their information and perhaps affect their risk tables.

    I suppose if the status quo is good enough, then we don't need new ideas, right?
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChiefKN View Post
    Insurance companies are always looking for better data...
    They need better information and too much unvetted data is not always useful.

    Think of it this way. If an inspection bureau were to decide to start reporting to insurance companies, they'd likely be obligated to report every violation to every insurance company every time. That would result in not only a significantly increased workload for them but also a huge amount of information -- most of it of little use --for the insurance companies to process. I just don't think the potential for improved compliance justifies the cost. We have better options.

    I suppose if the status quo is good enough, then we don't need new ideas, right?
    I'm not opposed to new ideas. I just won't support ideas that increase the administrative workload without promising a significant improvement in code compliance. Why should we be creating administrative work for ourselves to cajole the insurance companies to do our jobs for us instead of just doing it ourselves?
    Last edited by DeputyMarshal; 12-18-2011 at 02:55 PM.
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyMarshal View Post
    We have better options.
    The problem as presented is that repeated documentation of violations is not causing any actual change in behavior. What are the better options to get them to fix things?

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    [QUOTE=DeputyMarshal;1310619]As tempting as it may be, "tattling" to insurance companies doesn't seem like a productive use of an inspector's time to me. Insurance companies that give a damn already do their own inspections or at least contact the AHJ about the compliance of insured properties.

    Actually I had form letters for them and it helped justify the administrative position as well. The local legal process is great for the local mom and pops I think; but when you talk about large chain stores, large loss of life and property, and a target hazard - all approaches should be explored I believe.

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    Quote Originally Posted by auxman View Post
    The problem as presented is that repeated documentation of violations is not causing any actual change in behavior. What are the better options to get them to fix things?
    Documenting violations is only the first step in code enforcement. If the local AHJs aren't doing their job and taking enforcement action, why should they expect the insurance companies to do it for them?
    "Nemo Plus Voluptatis Quam Nos Habant"

    The Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.

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    Fact is my brothers, we are not reinventing the wheel! Other countries have successfully identified ways to accomplish many of the things we have discussed. Have a fire in Japan and see what happens!!

    Accountability and aggressiveness is the key!! Accountability for the business owner and accountability to ourselves and not throw our hands up! That's what happened at Penn State. Everyone reported what they saw and simply felt that reporting it was enough and in the end children were abused.

    Aggressiveness! Pursue every fire hazard to the extent your position allows you to. Follow up. Look for other avenues even if that means additional paperwork! Stop worrying about legalities (within reason) and simply do the right thing.

    In the fire service we are in the prevention business - or we should be. Our job is to prevent period. So if it takes a whole tree of paperwork, thousands of phone minutes, and dozens of meetings to simply correct that one hazard - is it worth it? That one hazard may be the hazard that started the fire that lead to the LODD.

    What started the last LODD fire? Could it have been prevented? Would you do everything in your power to stop that from happening?

    It really is that simple!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Daniel Byrne View Post
    Fact is my brothers, we are not reinventing the wheel! Other countries have successfully identified ways to accomplish many of the things we have discussed. Have a fire in Japan and see what happens!!

    Accountability and aggressiveness is the key!! Accountability for the business owner and accountability to ourselves and not throw our hands up! That's what happened at Penn State. Everyone reported what they saw and simply felt that reporting it was enough and in the end children were abused.

    Aggressiveness! Pursue every fire hazard to the extent your position allows you to. Follow up. Look for other avenues even if that means additional paperwork! Stop worrying about legalities (within reason) and simply do the right thing.

    In the fire service we are in the prevention business - or we should be. Our job is to prevent period. So if it takes a whole tree of paperwork, thousands of phone minutes, and dozens of meetings to simply correct that one hazard - is it worth it? That one hazard may be the hazard that started the fire that lead to the LODD.

    What started the last LODD fire? Could it have been prevented? Would you do everything in your power to stop that from happening?

    It really is that simple!
    While I can appreciate most of what you are saying, the comparisons people make of our fire service to other countries is often laughable.

    Yes...have a fire in Japan. In fact, be trapped in a fire in Japan. And let me know what the odds are of you actually making it out of that fire alive are.

    Have that same fire in many...NOT ALL....but MANY part of this country and the odds of your rescue go up dramatically.

    So while some countries MAY do some things better in terms of prevention, it is often because of the structure of their GOVERNMENTS, not their fire service.

    As far as fireground tactics and actual firefighting go, you will not find it performed better than you do here.

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