By Jeff Gallatin
Municipal officials are considering taking a business-like approach to fire inspections for the city.
Administration officials are reviewing information about implementing a self-inspection program for city businesses while having the state fire marshal’s office conduct them in city school buildings. Mayor Debbie Sutherland said another possibility is having SAFEbuilt (the Colorado-based firm recently hired by the city to handle building department responsibilities) handle inspections previously done by the fire inspector as well.
The moves have become necessary since the fire inspector position in the fire department apparently will remain vacant indefinitely, officials said. The position first went vacant last year to help the city deal with state budget cuts to cities and other decreased municipal revenues.
Mayor Debbie Sutherland said the administration is looking for the best alternative in continued tight budget situations.
“Since it’s become apparent that council isn’t going to fund a fire inspector’s position for an indefinite period of time, we have to find the best possible alternative to make sure this covered,” she said.
She said fire Chief Chris Lyons found the information about the self-inspection programs.
“After we discussed it, I told him to look into it further,” she said. “It’s something that has worked under some circumstances. In our case we only have about 40 above-ground businesses in the city. So, we don’t have the large number of inspections that some other cities might have.”
Lyons said if the city formally decides to implement the program, it would involve giving businesses and agencies being inspected a list of items to check.
“It would involve basic safety and precautions which can readily seen by businesses,” he said. “They’re essentially simple things such as are the fire extinguishers on the site charged and ready in case there’s a problem. Making sure the emergency exits are not blocked or obstructed by furniture or other items in case people have to leave in case of an emergency.”
Once the list is checked, Lyons said the businesses will have to return the inspection information to the city.
“It’s something that can be used in conjunction with the walk-through information that we keep for all the businesses and buildings in the community,” he said. “That information stems from information we keep in our records for each building, such as where the exits are, access to water and other safety-related items which we can check when we got to the scene of a fire or incident.”
During the March 25 City Council meeting, council President Paul Koomar asked Lyons how the department was proceeding in putting together such a self-inspection program.
Both Sutherland and Lyons indicated that the department was working on getting a program ready for possible use in the second quarter of 2013.
“It’s something we can review, and if we don’t like it, we can seek other options,” Sutherland said.
She said one such option was having SAFEbuilt, the firm which the city recently approved taking over building department functions in Bay Village, handle the inspections previously done by the fire inspector.
“They have the capability to take on those type of responsibilities,” she said.”They have former fire inspectors on staff, who could be brought in to take on those type of responsibilities, just as they have professionals who have the building work. We did get information from them about possible fire inspections. So, that’s something we can consider.”
SAFEbuilt is scheduled to take over formal control of the building department May 1.