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Business Inspections

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Business Inspections

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Tired of sitting around the fire station? Got all of the hydrants serviced and logged? Let’s do some business inspections.

What is a business inspection? Quite simply it is inspecting the businesses in you “first in area”. Or in other words, the area your station covers initially on all types of calls.

Surely you have some businesses… 7-Eleven? Circle K? Home Depot? Do you get the idea? And why do you need to know about them? A 7-Eleven is just a Mini-Mart right? Sure and what do they carry? They have a fountain drink dispenser right? All that is, is syrup, lines, and SEVERAL BOTTLES OF COMPRESSED CO2. Oh sure, you can use CO2 to put out fires, but what happens to a compressed gas cylinder when heat is applied to it? You are correct. A real big, bad explosion, with freezing gas going all over that will severely burn you. Do they carry alcohol products, especially whiskey and such? Ask the HAZ-MAT crew how toxic that is on burning or explosion. What about all of the plastic containers? They burn like petroleum. Funny thing, I guess that’s what they are made from………..Hummmmmmmmm. These are just a couple of things to think about, in your smallest business. What about Home Depot with their propane, paint, paint thinners, lumber, and thousands of other things.

Now you know why, lets do “how.” The first thing is to approach the store owner, or manager, and ask permission to do a fire inspection. If they should ask why, tell them that is for their benefit, as you need to familiarize yourselves with all of their building. Accidents and fires rarely occur at convenient times, and usually in the most out of the way locations. At 2 AM, it is difficult at best to find your way through a smoky building, but even more difficult and hazardous if you are totally unfamiliar with the building. After you get permission, you fill out an information card with all of the pertinent information. Owner and managers names, home addresses and ALL contact phone numbers. If they question addresses, tell them that in some cases there may not be any other way to contact them, except to send someone to physically contact them. Of course if they would rather not be bothered……. Also get the name, location, and phone number of any alarm company that they may subscribe to. Fire or burglar. They may be the first ones to contact the Fire Alarm Office, and it’s nice to have something on file to verify the exact address of the business and all of the hazards and such associated with it, and also to verify the call is legitimate. Plus, after you are on scene, you may want to check with them to find fire zone locations and any other information they may have. They can also tell you if a responsible person is en route to your location.

A sketch or full scale drawing with all walls, rooms, fire escapes, and hazards, CO2 cylinders, alcohol storage, propane storage, and any other important information can be helpful also.

Be sure all fire escapes are clear and operational. All too often, they are used for storage for boxes, mops and mop buckets, and anything else they have no particular place for. Make sure they are not manually dead-locked, with slide bolts, crossbars, locks, or something similar. Small businesses will complain about loss, or security, but there are many types of fire exit hardware that is secure, safe, and legal. Familiarize yourselves with several different types, and especially what you local codes require… that way you can give the managers or owners an idea of what is available.

Make sure a fire exit plan is clearly posted, and all exits are clearly marked, with appropriate signs, according to local codes.

Make sure all isles are clear for egress.

Make sure all storage is safe, and if fire sprinklers are required, the storage is clear of the sprinkler heads and kept at the required levels and distances. Also, it is important to watch for heavier things that are stored on top of cardboard boxes that may collapse under the weight and especially when there is a possibility of water damage from sprinklers.

Inspections should be done no less than annually and some semi-annually.

It’s really hard to cover all areas of inspections, but hopefully I have given you a basic start. There are many books available to help.

Take care and stay cool. IT’S SUMMER!!!

Captain Jep

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