Determining Frequency of Inspections

Fire codes and standard do not directly address the frequency of existing building inspections. How often should existing buildings be inspected?  Should all buildings be inspected with the same frequency? What structure should be inspected more frequently or less frequently? What determines inspection frequency?

As a definitive guide for the establishment of fire prevention and inspection programs, NFPA 1730 answers these questions and provides guidance on how to determine the inspection frequency of existing buildings. The minimum frequency of inspections should be established based on occupancy risk, as follows:

High Risk Inspected Annually
Moderate Risk Inspected Biennially
Low Risk Inspected Triennially
Critical Infrastructure Inspected per AHJ

NFPA 1730 defines these risk categories.
  • High Risk.  Buildings having a history of frequent fires and a high potential for life or economic loss; or a building in which occupants must rely heavily on the building's fire protection features, or rely on staff assistance for evacuation.
  • Moderate Risk. Buildings having a moderate fire history and present only moderate potential for life or economic loss.
  • Low Risk. Buildings having little to no history of fire with minimal potential for life or economic loss.
  • Critical Infrastructure. Vital assets, systems, networks, or structures whose damage or destruction would have a debilitating effect on the community.
High risk occupancies may be buildings such as apartments, health care, detention, assembly, and educational facilities.  Moderate risk occupancies can be ambulatory health care, walk-in clinics, and industrial buildings.  Storage, mercantile, business, and office buildings could be considered low risk occupancies. Critical infrastructure facilities are buildings such as power plants, water treatment facilities, public safety buildings, and special structures unique to the community.

All the structures in the community will fall into one of these risk categories.  The occupancy risk classification of each structure will be determined based on the Community Risk Assessment (CRA). Ample time should be spent on ensuring that the CRA is conducted properly.  The community risk assessment sets the standard and drives the direction of the entire fire prevention organization.

Determining the amount of occupancies in each category, will reveal the amount of inspections that are required to be conducted annually.  From this the fire prevention organization can determine adequate staffing levels.

The simplified process for determining inspection frequency for existing occupancies should look like this:

Step 1. Conduct a CRA.
Step 2. Classify the occupancy risk of each structure.
Step 3. Determine the amount of inspections to be conducted annually.
Step 4. Determine the necessary staffing level needed to complete the inspections.