Safety inspection program can help saves lives

Published on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 by Jim Bleecker, Fire Marshal, NWFR

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In January 2008, North Whatcom Fire and Rescue (NWFR) implemented its new life safety inspection program. 
This program consists of the professional inspection of businesses by trained fire district personnel for hazards that may lead to fire or otherwise pose a threat to the business, employees and patrons.

For the business, the inspection provides a thorough and professional inspection to aid in mitigating potential hazards. For the fire district, the inspection provides the benefit of minimizing fire hazards as well as an opportunity to observe the physical layout of the business and create a pre-incident fire plan.

From January through May 2009, NWFR crews completed 69 inspections of Blaine businesses. 189 inspections were completed in 2008. From January through May 2008 there were 388 code violations recorded.
This year during the same time period, that number is down to 307, a 20 percent decrease. 

I am very pleased by the initial analysis of the 2009 data:
• 49 businesses, or 71 percent, have had fewer code violations than 2008.
• 4 businesses, or 6 percent, have stayed the same in the number of violations. 
• 16 businesses, or 23 percent, have had an increase in violations.  On a positive note, the majority of these 16 businesses showed an increase of only one or two violations.

I am very impressed that 71 percent of businesses have made fire safety a priority as evidenced by the decrease in violations. We as a fire district are committed to working with the other 23 percent to assist them in becoming code compliant.

I want to praise the local business community for their efforts to make their work place a safe environment for not only their customers but for their employees as well.

I am pleased with the efforts that the majority of businesses have put forth towards the goal of 100 percent code compliancy.

We live and work in a small, older city that includes an infrastructure of core downtown buildings that, prior to 2008, have had little attention in regards to fire safety.

We are fortunate to have a full-time, staffed fire station within the city limits which allows on-duty crews to perform initial fire inspections. 

As the fire marshal, I personally perform all re-inspections until code compliancy is met. For most businesses this is only one visit, but others may require multiple re-inspections.

Regardless, our goal is to correct all code violations and to work with all businesses to make that a reality.
All businesses are currently being inspected annually in an attempt to have two complete sets of inspections recorded before the fire district petitions the Washington State Survey and Rating Bureau for a reduction in the Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating.

Currently, the city of Blaine has an ISO rating of six. 

If the ISO rating were to be lowered to four, the residents and businesses in Blaine should see a substantial savings on insurance. Beginning in 2010, it is our goal to begin inspecting businesses every other year.

Business owners are encouraged to prepare for their inspection by completing the Fire Safety Self-Inspection checklist. This checklist, as well as other information about the fire district, is available from the district website at www.nwfrs.net or call 318-9933.