In our area we have struggled with contractors working on fire extinguishers and fire protection equipment. Their role is the servicing requirements for fire extinguishers of wet-chemical suppression systems. Recently a contractor enters a business and states he is with the City (Name of the company is City Fire) and is there to test the fire suppression equipment. During the inspection he tags some extinguisher and then gives them an invoice. This scenerio has played out by the same person, same company, in many different areas.
As inspectors, authority, or officials we struggle with our role when these things happen. If our jurisdiction has licensing requirements then we can refuse future licenses. An odd example was a person posing as an inspector selling “required postings.” This person came through town, scammed many businesses and kept going south along I75. From our local standpoint we had to find out the scope of the scam and make sure our clients understand what went on. How can you help your community from preventing this scene or if it does happen what can you do:
- Educate your public as to their requirements with the maintenance of systems, extinguishers, or other service companies. I don’t expect a normal business to have copies of NFPA 25 or NFPA 10 (although you can provide a link on your department’s web-page to the free standards). An inspector must share the expectations of the service company and what they should produce or do at the time of inspection to the business owner.
- Build relationships up with our clients (citizens) so they can call and ask questions of inspectors at any time. I hand out a business card at every interaction or point them to our web-page. Make sure your inspectors know its okay to meet the business owner and contractor on site when there are questions.
- Build up your local peer network so you can communicate when scams are going on. We have a large network of local email addresses that we can send quick notes to each other on these types of items.
- File formal complaints with local or state regulatory agencies that are responsible for licensing of contractors. Make sure you are doing due process and investigate complaints, while providing complete documentation.
We rely on contractors to work with business owners and provide services to systems, so that, they are in working order at the time of a fire. If a bad egg is creating problems it may have adverse effects on our enforcement or the companies who are doing it right.
What is your experience with this situation?
What has worked in limiting this scenario?