The event of a fire can turn a building from a place of shelter, protecting humans from danger, into a danger in and of itself. Luckily, there have been many advancements made in design, building and maintenance practices that aim to improve safety in the event of a fire. Examples of these are fire sprinklers, fire dampers in stairwells, and flame-resistant building materials. However, while building materials are a way to incorporate fire safety into the design phase of a new construction, there are many safety mechanisms that come later and will require ongoing upkeep to ensure their safety.
Due to the highly dangerous nature of a potential fire emergency, liability surrounding malfunctioning fire safety mechanisms is high. This is why it is so important to contract a certified technician to both perform and thoroughly document fire inspections, verification, and monitoring. Records of regular upkeep by the proper personnel will protect against liability, but, more importantly, will reduce the likelihood of a malfunction altogether.
Beyond just fire-defensive mechanisms, there are also measures that can be taken to increase safety around flammable materials in order to combat fires before they even start. Examples of this include safe storage and signage around flammable materials such as compressed gases. Fire safety includes both offensive and defensive strategies, and proper inspections will take all factors into account. Businesses and industrial buildings with especially high fire risk, like gas stations and chemical factories, have their own, more rigorous set of inspection, verification and monitoring protocols.
Fire inspections, verification and monitoring can come from several different sources, as the category is broad. In many municipalities, fire safety inspections are conducted by the office of the Fire Marshall or the deputy Fire Marshall. Such inspections can be triggered by a change in ownership of the building, a tenant or owner request, or the requirements of a permit that has been requested, such as an event permit. However, the inspection of hazardous flammable materials and their storage case compliance can be conducted by the Environmental Health and Safety department on an academic campus, or various other public or private monitoring bureaus.
Fire inspections do not deal exclusively with the built-in safety features of a building like sprinklers and fire dampers. They can also cover inspecting the number and functionality of appliances like smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, and even the usage of the space such as keeping hallways clear so that emergency egress is possible. A Fire Marshall inspection can deliver remedy mandates regarding the arrangement of furniture, both for promoting a clear path to all emergency exits, but also to ensure a clear line of sight from the main entrance of rooms to all corners of rooms. This allows emergency workers to instantly visually assess if there are occupants in a room, in order to be able to assist them to evacuation.
Fire is a risk that many would prefer to avoid contemplating, but a responsible building manager should always ensure that all the proper precautions have been taken. A wise course of action is to consult one’s regional mandates for fire safety, and to inspect regularly to insure compliance and reduce liability.