Passing a fire inspection is a hurdle that property managers and facility maintenance professionals face on a regular basis. Many municipalities require a fire inspection to be performed by local fire department officials at least once a year in multifamily properties, hotels and other facilities that are open to the public. While specific fire inspection requirements differ from one municipality to the next, and from one type of facility to another, the causes for failing an inspection are similar. Fortunately, the National Fire Protection Association, or NFPA, maintains an outline of fire codes and standards. For specific questions, facility owners and operators should consult the NFPA 72, which is available for purchase from the NFPA. Additionally, you can learn about common fire hazards in facilities to better help your facility pass a fire inspection.
1. Failing to maintain fire systems.
Smoke detectors, sprinklers and carbon monoxide detectors should be regularly inspected and maintained by a professional to ensure they are in working condition. Check with your local fire department to determine how frequently you need to have your fire system serviced.
Bonus tip: Municipal fire inspectors often require documentation of fire system maintenance. Save all of your facility’s service records to prove that the fire system is regularly maintained.
2. Inadequate signage and markings.
Safety signage and markings are critical for ensuring building occupants and fire department officials know where to go and what to do in the event of a fire.
- Mark your facility with building numbers that are large enough to be seen from the street. Check with your local fire department to find out if your municipality requires building numbers to be a minimum height.
- Check emergency exit signs and egress lighting to make sure they are operational. Emergency exit signage and egress lighting is required. Additionally, testing of exit lighting must be performed to NFPA standards and records of testing must be maintained and be available to inspectors.
- Fire protection equipment, like fire extinguishers, need to be clearly marked and easily accessible. Hang signage to indicate the location of fire protection rooms and electrical control panels.
Bonus tip: Having fire extinguishers in your facility that are past their expiration date could be a reason for failing a fire safety inspection. Check to be sure all fire extinguishers have been serviced or replaced within the past year.
3. Blocked egress and building accessibility.
Emergency exits, doorways, hallways and stairwells must be kept free from blockages. Exit doors should lock from the outside only. In high-rise multifamily buildings, regularly inspect fire escapes to make sure they are working properly and are kept clear from any obstructions. Additionally, emergency exit maps must be posted in accordance with local fire safety requirements.
Bonus tip: Strictly enforce towing in fire lanes and in front of fire hydrants to prevent vehicles from blocking fire department officials in the event of an emergency.
4. Improper storage and waste disposal.
Allow building occupants to store items in designated areas only. Hallways and stairways should not be used as storage areas. Provide adequate trash and recycling containers for building occupants to dispose of waste materials, and have them emptied on a regular basis. Keep trash and recycling containers stored a safe distance from the building, and invest in separate receptacles for cigarette butt disposal.
5. Electrical hazards.
Regularly inspect your building’s electrical components for signs of wear and deterioration. Check electrical outlets and switches to make sure that cover plates are properly secured. Hiring a certified electrician to perform electrical maintenance will ensure that your building meets the electrical system codes for your municipality.
Bonus tip: Decorative holiday lighting often requires the use of extension cords, which are a potential fire hazard if used improperly. Allow a designated time frame for holiday lights to be displayed, and require that they be taken down after a certain date to keep extension cord use to a minimum.
Want to see more tips and tricks to help your business or profession? Search a wide variety of topics and ideas in the Ideas and Learning Center, and check out Safety Matters to help you put safety first in your facility.