In the first installment of our fire inspection series previous post we covered things that a business owner can do to maintain fire safety standards. But what if you don't want to do the survey and inspection, or aren't sure that you know what to look for? Where can you find reputable professional help?
There is no single national licensing agency for fire risk assessment inspectors, although various state and federal jurisdictions such as OSHA and FEMA have specific engineering and safety standards. Most fire safety inspector standards are based on language contained in the NFPA manuals, Section 1031, Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Inspector and Plan Examiner.
If you require a certified inspection, the personnel must pass testing to be qualified to offer their opinion. Typically, reputable inspectors have to meet minimum NFPA standards. You should always ask for proof of competency when retaining anyone to provide professional fire sprinkler system or premises inspection. Some national and regional business entities specialize in providing and vetting building safety compliance inspectors.
Third-party inspections are offered by some insurers to policyholders, usually as part of a comprehensive building risk assessment, and in some cases are even required as a condition of coverage. Be sure that you receive a full written report from the company. The hazards or shortcomings will be noted and in some cases suggestions or requirements for mitigation will be incorporated in the report.
There are also niche market risk assessment firms whose sole focus is risk management. While their services are often retained by insurers, they can also be hired by corporate management and can assess both commercial and residential properties. These assessments usually include a fire sprinkler and fire hazard section.
Local and state fire departments and their governing agencies are also a good source for performing comprehensive inspections, and they are qualified to perform inspections that include pressure and flow testing of the fire department connections. Some jurisdictions have even more stringent qualifying standards for their personnel that include having served as a fire fighter for various lengths of time. Check with your local fire department or state fire marshal's office for suggestions or services.
Vendors of fire safety supplies may also have suggestions for inspectors or agencies that can assist you. Other sources could be local business listings, chambers of commerce, online reviewing sites like Angie's List, and of course your local business peers. If searching online, a good search term includes keywords like building inspections, business risk management, and fire supplies as well as fire inspection or inspectors.
Cost for professional inspection services varies, but is generally deductible as a business expense. The knowledge that your fire sprinkler system and other fire control measures are adequate to protect your business is well worth the cost.