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Fire Safety Audits for your Industrial Property

by Becca Jones

Your palms are sweating, you’re biting your nails, what’s that? It’s time for your building’s routine fire safety inspection! Geez, it’s like you’re taking an exam back in high school! But it doesn’t have to be such a stress.

At VFS Fire & Security Services, we are experts in fire protection no matter what environment your facility is housed. Whether your fire inspection is for a health care center, school, oil and gas facility, or even a vessel, we’ve got you covered. But first, let’s talk about fire safety inspections, why they’re important, and what to expect during yours.

What is a Fire Safety Inspection?

A fire safety inspection is a necessary examination of a building or structure and its relevant fire safety documents. A fire safety inspection measures how well your building—whether it be a business, school, health care center, and so on—is managed in regards to fire safety. Legally, buildings must comply with a set of building codes and ordinances to keep their occupants safe. A fire safety inspection ensures you are doing so and calculates the potential risk factor in a given facility. 

Fire Safety InspectionsWhy?

Fire can be an extremely detrimental force not only to people but also to a business or organization. Whether small or large, the damage from fire to a building is often irrevocable without a large financial cost.

Fire safety inspections are often pre-arranged and are preventive at heart. They help building owners and managers to identify potential fire hazards and to make the necessary changes. For those who choose not to comply with fire safety inspections and guidelines, the punishment is substantial.

Although this routine inspection might feel like a hassle in your tight schedule, there’s no such thing as being too safe.

What to Expect

Each fire safety inspection will vary, of course, depending on your organization and building. In all inspections, however, you will be asked to provide all relevant fire safety documents. This might include:

  • Evacuation Protocol
  • Fire Risk Assessment
  • Fire Drill and Staff Fire Training Records
  • Proof that Preventative Fire Systems have been tested (fire detection, alarms, sprinklers, fire extinguishers, emergency lighting, ventilation, firefighting equipment, electrical wiring, and so on)
  • List of potentially dangerous substances in building or on grounds
  • Fire Safety Maintenance Checklist

During your fire safety inspection, you can anticipate a walk-through inspection with your examiner, and for said examiner to speak with others on the premise to validate the fire safety information that you’ve provided.

Here, we’ve compiled a brief summary of what to expect within different facilities: health care, education, oil and gas, and marine.

Health Care

Fire safety inspections for health care are especially important considering a large number of people in health care facilities at any given time. This considered you should be familiar with the inspection processes—yay! Here’s a rundown of what you can expect:

During your visual inspection, the examiner will take occupancy limits and clear exit paths into special account. That means no unruly electrical wiring and definitely no using the sprinkler heads as coat racks! Hazardous materials, chemicals, and extinguishers are to be stored properly and in correct locations.

Considering the number of patients in a building, your examiner will pay special attention to your evacuation plan, policies, and maps posted. Additionally, your examiner will need proof of your fire drills, which are to be documented and executed annually if not quarterly in your building.

Lastly, the inspection will cover disaster protocols and preparation. This includes effective parking measures (i.e. can make clear, unobstructed use of fire hydrants and lanes) and questioning employees about the health care center’s fire safety measures. To ace your inspection, ensure all employees are undergoing periodic fire training and drills.

Education

There’s nothing scarier than the thought of our children being unsafe! Fire safety is extremely important in schools, especially considering the wide variety of ages and abilities in a school. Requirements for educational fire protection, in most states, are based on NFPA codes. Here are some pointers of what to expect in an educational fire safety inspection:

Educational facilities hold strict requirements on space. According to the NFPA, your examiner will ensure that there are at least 20 square feet per person. Space requirements influence how and where students can be in a building and are important in considering where certain aged children need to be in regard to floors.

Schools additionally are required to have proper fire detection systems, fire sprinkler systems, and extinguishers. Routine fire drills are a regular and necessary part of educational fire safety, and all schools must have an approved emergency action plan (EAP).

And of course, examiners pay special attention to exits, flammability and amount of decor and artwork, flammable materials, and areas of assembly.

Oil and Gas

Considering the high number of petrochemicals at an oil and gas facility—not to mention their high level of combustion—the biggest danger here is fire. Oil and gas facilities are extremely high risk, so here are some tips to successfully prepare for your fire safety adult:

We already know that properly working fire detection systems and alarms are a legal essential but have you considered installing a mass notification system? This way, a message or call can be sent out to your employees, notifying them of a potential fire or dangerous system.

Similarly, installing a gas monitoring system is a great step. Gases are often, at oil and gas facilities, highly flammable and the reason for combustion. A gas monitoring system can work to reduce fire by tracking dangerous gas levels.

During your fire safety inspection, an examiner will be looking to ensure not only that your facility goes through routine inspections and drills but also that your fire protection systems offer sufficient coverage and protection from the combustibles and chemicals that are stored within your facility. A fire brings enough chaos of its own so it is essential that your employees are informed on what to do in case of an emergency.

Additionally, implementing on-site emergency equipment is a wise choice, as often, emergency services get there after the damage has already been done. If, however, you make this choice, ensure that your employees have been properly trained on how and when to use said equipment.

Marine

We know, we can’t believe it either… fire on water! But it’s more common than you’d think. There are a lot of boxes to be checked when it comes to keeping your maritime operations safe. Let’s get you thinking about the current safety of your marine operations with a checklist.

For starters, there is a long, varying list of certificates and documents that are to be carried on board at all times. This might include a Cargo Ship Safety Equipment or Passenger Ship Safety Certificate, servicing records including proof of fire extinguisher servicing and pressure tests, a damage control manual, records of testing, drills, and maintenance, and a variety of training manuals.

Of course, let’s not forget safety equipment that must be carried and inspected during your inspection.

  • Sprinkler Systems
  • Ventilators and Fire Dampers
  • Proper fire detection and fire alarms
  • Properly installed extinguishing systems
  • Personal Equipment, including fire fighting protective wear, SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus), and EEBDs (emergency escape breathing devices)
  • Properly functioning gas and CO2 systems

Additionally, pathways must be always free of obstruction and clearly marked in the case of evacuation. Doors must always only be held open by approved methods.

Approximately 90% of marine fires start in the engine room, so be sure that this will be a big check zone during your inspection, including your engine room’s fire pumps, emergency shutdowns and valves, high-pressure fuel lines, and main zones

Lastly, ensure your crew is familiar with the use of these fire protection systems and able to abandon ship if necessary. Fire drills should be routinely performed. Preparation is key for tip-top marine fire safety! As for deck safety, structures in place might include a variety of paint lockers, ventilators, and international shore connections.

Emergency equipment, including emergency generators, batteries, pumps, and tankers, however, must be properly maintained, inspected, and ready to be used at any given moment. Now go ace that inspection!

What Happens Next?

Well, this depends on how well your inspection went and how your structure scored! With VFS by your side, we promise you’ll get a gold star!

You should receive a report after your inspection is conducted, which contains any findings from your walk-through and action steps for you to take. These action steps will address any ways in which your building might be deemed unsafe and identify a solution. Typically, minor breaches in fire safety law are informal and the examiner will set a deadline as to when the issue needs to be fixed. However, there can be more serious deficiencies that could result in fines or possibly disruptions to your facility. At VFS Fire & Security Services, we know that there is nothing more important than keeping people safe—and we have the expertise and the tools to do so. Don’t get caught up in a fine, serving time in prison, or worst of all, putting individuals in danger. Contact us today to see how we can help make your fire safety inspections a breeze!

Becca Jones
About Becca Jones
Fire Safety Audits for your Industrial Property
Fire Safety Inspections for your Facilities: Your Complete Guide