One of the critical aspects of ensuring fire safety involves allowing at least one fire safety inspection to be carried out on your premises or facility to determine your level of emergency preparedness if a fire were to break out.
Since you may be biased or not have the expertise and legal jurisdiction to conduct the inspection, you’ll need to allow a fire inspector into your premises to perform an unbiased checkup.
But what exactly is a fire safety inspection, and what does it entail?
A fire safety inspection is a predetermined routine examination of your facility to determine its fire risks and hazards, your emergency preparedness for a fire outbreak, and your compliance with all the applicable fire codes, regulations, and standards as dictated by local, city, state, or national fire laws.
Fire safety inspections happen at a predetermined time: weekly, biweekly, monthly, quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly. It could also be random, as with food-related establishments.
The time-lapse depends on several aspects, such as your jurisdiction and the industry you operate in, since some establishments are at higher risk of fire than others.
Most of the time, fire safety inspections are done by fire inspectors from your local, city, municipal, or state fire department.
You may also hire a private fire inspector to help you ensure your office building, hotel, commercial residence, or construction site is up to date with fire matters before the main inspector comes.
You must always ensure that the fire inspector you hire is reliable and has knowledge of all the local, municipal, state, and national fire safety codes.
Your insurance company may send a fire inspector to your premises to evaluate the risks involved. The information collected will be shared with you, and the insurer will use it internally to determine how much you should pay in premiums.
Most fire departments use fire codes set by the National Fire Protection Association(NFPA), so you don’t have to worry much about conflicts in opinions.
If you have concerns about hiring an individual fire inspector, you can hire a private fire protection company with a solid reputation for reliability and accuracy.
During the inspection, the fire inspector or examiner employs different methods to come up with the right conclusions.
First, the examiner may go around your building on his own, making various observations based on their knowledge of what to check for.
Secondly, the examiner will require a walk-through or tour of your premises and ask relevant questions, which you must answer accordingly.
Thirdly, the fire inspector may interview various occupants in the building, such as employees, to verify what you have told them.
Once the fire safety inspection is over, the examiner will take a few days to review their notes and recommend what you and your employees need to remedy.
If there are immediate fire risks and threats to life and property, the examiner will ask you to remedy the situation immediately.
Your premises may be closed temporarily if the risks are too immense. However, if it’s only a matter that you can correct quickly, you won’t have to close down.
Failing to comply with fire safety regulations may see you fined or even put in prison.
The activities completed by the fire inspector may vary based on your industry and fire codes applicable in your jurisdiction.
Generally, the inspection entails the following:
- Determining the fire hazards the building is exposed to, including ways a fire could start.
- Evaluating your preparedness for fire outbreaks. Can your employees and fire warden handle a fire outbreak professionally before fire response arrives?
- Checking the status of your active fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers, kitchen suppression system, and fire pump.
They will also check your fire detection systems, fire sprinklers, fire alarm system, fire hydrant, special suppression system, and fire hose.
The examiner also checks your personal protection equipment, such as emergency escape breathing devices (EEBDs), fire fighting protective gear, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBAs).
The inspector examines the physical condition, storage mode, location, validity (not expired), functionality, and previous inspections of all the active equipment.
- Evaluating facility access by emergency personnel.
- Checking the status of your passive fire safety equipment or support systems, such as communication systems, emergency lighting, exits and exit paths, and fire assembly points.
- Finding out whether your facility performs regular fire safety drills.
- Checking that the installed fire protection and safety equipment are adequate based on the size of your premises and the fire risks involved.
Besides the above issues, your fire inspector will ask to see various fire safety documents, including:
- Emergency action plan/fire safety plan
- Fire risk assessment
- Proof of installation of fire protection and fire prevention systems, such as fire extinguishers, ventilation, alarms, detectors, sprinklers, and emergency lighting
- Evacuation protocol
- Records of employee fire training and past fire drills
- Fire safety maintenance checklist
- Qualifications of your building’s fire warden
- A list showing all the fire-risk substances in your building or within its compound
- Proof of previous inspections
Given all the mentioned aspects and requirements the fire inspector will look into, you might feel overwhelmed and throw in the towel.
However, that would be risky because as much as you might dread the fire inspector, it’s not about you and them. Instead, it’s about the safety of people’s lives and the prevention of property destruction.
Here’s why fire safety inspections are important:
1. They ensure full compliance with public safety and fire laws, eliminating incidences of deliberate or ignorant mistakes that could lead to fines, imprisonment, or temporary shutdowns.
2. They protect people’s lives, not to mention the lives of animals like pets in the building and plants in the compound.
3. They protect property against damage by fires or faulty fire protection systems, such as wrongly activated fire sprinkler heads. (You can buy our Shutgun and save thousands of dollars in water damages.)
4. They help identify problems in good time before they get out of hand and turn catastrophic in water damage or even fires.
5. They save you money since problems with fire equipment can be detected early and remedied in time.
6. They help you get a better building resale value. Buyers will be willing to offer more for fully compliant buildings.
7. They provide valuable data from the inspections of recent years. This way, you can see trends in compliance, maintenance costs, fire inspection costs, and systems performances. These insights help you plan better for emergencies.
8. They can help you get lower insurance premiums. Insurance providers often offer lower-premium incentives to clients who comply with fire safety codes and perform regular inspections.
Although it seems daunting, a fire safety inspection is crucial for all premises such as construction sites, hotels, residential houses, large office buildings, hospitals, event centers, warehouses, and many more.
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