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License to Drive

license to drive the codeSo you start a new business and it is very successful or maybe you are a doctor and have a successful practice.  When did they ever teach you about the fire code or the requirements found in the building code that affect your office, plant, or warehouse?  That wasn’t included in the MBA, PhD, or even the building management courses?

 tickets are badSometimes as inspectors we have to interact with the owner or occupant of the building who’s background is not in construction.  That means our terminology, requirements, and resources may not work well.   It was explained to me (as a little inspector) that people learn about the fire code the same way they learn about the motor vehicle code (how do you know what speeding is).  By a police officer typically telling them they broke the law with a ticket. 

This is similar in the administration of building and fire codes.  Contractors, owners, design professionals are not well versed in the code.  They learn as communities enforce the code and “catch” them doing work in violation of the code.  As it relates to code enforcement of our adopted codes it is an option for many of us to issue tickets (although it is a last resort).  Our attempts are typically through education of the owner on what the hazards are as a building owner or occupant.  That means one way to gain compliance is through education of the public.  Studies have shown that adults retain and learn information better through self realization.

 I have seen inspectors many times ask the occupant how do you get out of this space if locks on doors are badthere was a fire?  This question is compounded because there was a pad lock on a marked exit.  The occupant responded with hold on one minute and I will go and get the key.  The bright light came on and the lock was never seen again.  This is one method in attempting to gain compliance.  As an inspector we must look for ways to motivate people and look to gain compliance in many different ways.  The best way is to have the occupant become our eyes and ears on code issues and fix them as they come up (accomplished typically be education).

Video from Plano Texas on building inspection

{ 4 comments… add one }

  • Phil McCormack January 9, 2008, 10:54 am

    I believe that education is the best tool we have to gain compliance. Making building owners feel like a customer and ensuring them that the safety of the building as well as the occupants are in everyones best interest. I like to use the term informed compliance when educating the public on code requirements and why they exist.

  • Lt. Dale Fahrney January 9, 2008, 12:34 pm

    I’ve always believed we need to educate the public in what we do, I’ve always worked like this with our customers.

    (1)First identify the fire code violation.

    (2)Then educate the customer why it is a problem.

    (3)Assist the customer in fixing the violation if you can and then, give them any special knowledge that you may have.

    (4) provide any resourses that you may know of to help them come into compliance.

    ie: You have an extension cord here being used in place of permenant wiring. This is a violaton of our adopted fire code.

    You may use a computer plug strip in this situation as long as it is UL rated and has a circuit breaker in it and you may purchase those at many local home centers or business supply centers.

    Do you have any questions on this issue. Then we move on.

    This approach has been very successful.

    Dale Fahrney

  • Arsnman4 January 9, 2008, 4:59 pm

    I would like to meet “Jane Quincy”……. sorry just the fireman in me. Seriously, glad to see collegues are doing the right thing and practicing good customer service dealing with situations like these.

  • Ed Schrader March 18, 2008, 10:09 am

    Code officials “carry a big stick”. As a fire inspector, I’ve overruled professional engineers with all their calculations, studies and opinions by simply educating them to what works best for our firefighters and medics when it comes to serving the public and keeping everyone safe. Common sense and solid education and reasoning have blown away their efforts to cut costs, eliminate “back-up systems” and minimize safety features in the name of asthetics and unique features of their “product”.

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