Establishing Fire Protection and Life Safety Objectives

What is the purpose of a fire inspection program?  Why do fire prevention bureaus exist?  For what reasons do fire protection and code consultants exis?  How can you know if your prevention program is accomplishing its objectives?

In 1975 the American Insurance Association published "Special Interest Bulletin No. 5, The Value and Purpose of Fire Department Inspections".  This bulletin outlined 7 objectives for an inspection program.  As you examine these objectives, evaluate your department, company, or organization and determine whether you are meeting these objectives, which of these you are great at, and which objectives need more of your attention.

  1. To obtain proper life safety conditions. 
  2. To keep fires from starting.
  3. To keep fires from spreading.
  4. To determine adequacy and maintenance of fire protection systems.
  5. To preplan fire fighting procedures.
  6. To stimulate cooperation between owners, occupants, and fire departments.
  7. To assure compliance with fire protection and life safety codes, standards, and regulations.

Proper life safety conditions can be obtained by evaluating the adequacy of exits, protecting the path of egress, making sure that building evacuation plans are current, and determining occupant loads of the space.

Fires can be prevented by monitoring the hazards associated with a facility or process.  Many people in the work force become complacent as they conduct their daily responsibilities without incident.  Public education, therefore, becomes an essential component to keep fires from starting.

The general public passes through our buildings everyday, largely unaware of the life saving features that surround them. Structural features such as enclosures, fire walls, fire partitions, and fire doors must be inspected and maintained to adequately keep fires from spreading.

There are three primary reasons that a fire sprinkler may fail. The top reason that sprinkler systems fail is due to a lack of maintaining operational status of the system, this can be followed up by inadequate or incomplete coverage of the fire area or hazard to be protected. The final reason a sprinkler may fail is inadequate performance of the system itself.  Any prevention program or fire strategy should include components that are designed to determine the adequacy and maintenance of the fire protection systems.

The best way to ensure success when fighting a building fire, saving lives, and preserving property is to preplan fire fighting procedures.  Fire protection programs should provide a clear layout of the building, its systems, related hazards, and special procedures or requirements.

Fire prevention bureaus should work closely with the public and establish a good relationship with the building owners and facility managers within their jurisdiction.  If a client is seeking the services of a fire protection or life safety consultant, a major part of the proposal should include a clear plan that outlines how cooperation between owners, occupants, and fire departments will be achieved.

With the myriad codes, standards, and regulations that abound, a fire prevention program should educate, interpret, and enforce these requirements.  With the constant submission of new code change proposals, and the creation of new products and fire protection methods a skilled fire strategist will be knowledgeable enough to assure compliance with fire protection and life safety codes, standards, and regulations is met and maintained.

Does your fire inspection or life safety program address all of these objectives?  What area needs more work?  What are some resources that you need to meet these objectives more efficiently? 

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