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Violation Notice

So I have my adopted code, gone to training, and now I am ready to start enforcing the code.  Things go well for a couple weeks as I struggle through the administration and enforcement of the code.  I find that I spend a lot of time looking through the code book to make sure I am prepared at time of inspection.  Its 3:00 in the afternoon and I go into my last business inspection for the day, where the contractor wants to argue everything police ticketincluding the key box.  I keep my cool although I really want rip this guys head off.   What do I do?  If I was a police officer, and I had pulled this person over for speeding, I am certain that the first time a violation is found a ticket is written (or maybe a warning if you are nice).

 One key aspect for inspectors is the ability to read people and provide different techniques as it relates to enforcement.  I may try to be a diplomat and sell code enforcement.  I could also try to be an authoritarian and demand that our way is met.  The ability to utilize different techniques to reach code compliance is critical.  Regardless of the methods utilized to persuade or gain compliance is critical, although proper documentation and violation notices are just as important. 

In the above scenario, this person will most likely fight you along the way.  Most adopted codes require some form of violation notice be left with the permit holder.  This can be accomplished through green, red, or orange stickers left at the construction site or other forms of documentation.  Now a days many are utilizing electronic devices (tablets) to itemize code violations and print, fax, or email a report to the permit holder.  Then many of us still use paper and multi-use forms which can easily be duplicated in the field (a copy left with the permit holder, a copy to the file, and maybe a copy to other departments).

Clear common language (to the permit holder) documentation is necessary to provide clear language once the inspector has left the site.  In addition this written communication serves as a notice that the person is in violation of the code.  There are times where we must make a case of when the permit holder was made aware of the violation and these complete reports are crucial.

Okay, I issue my red sticker, give a violation notice and perform a follow up inspection 2 weeks later.  The issues have not been resolved and now a second notice is given.  What happens after this is usually based on policies outlined by the AHJ.  This could include financial penalties under your ordinance or even a written ticket.  The process should be made clear to the permit holder without using terminology as to what the next steps are. 

permitLets go back to the example of the permit holder who wants to fight everything; what is a violation worth a ticket?  Are there code requirements which deserve faster follow up, or a more severe penalty?  Most of us would say yes, but isn’t a violation still a violation?  The difference between a good inspector and a great one, is the ability to gain code compliance by utilizing different methods of persuasion, and utilizing the violation system to gain compliance when necessary.  Make sure the penalty matches the crime, so is the issuance of a ticket, with a court appearance necessary when the open violation is improper use of an extension cord?   

{ 3 comments… add one }

  • Lt Greg Sargis June 26, 2008, 2:14 pm

    I dont know about your town or city but in Hartford Ct most business owners are held accountable via abatement orders.

    But, that’s about to change in the State of Connecticut.

    Thanks to the newly adopted PA 08-65. Fire Inspectors are now able to issue a monetary citation for code violations. This process , in my opinion is much needed. It enables us to have a stronger presence when dealing with permitees of nightclubs.

    How about the nightclub manager that actually has to check his club on a daily basis before he allows hundreds of occupants to enter the business.

    Are the means of egress unlocked?? are they clear of empty cases of beer bottles? Is the Occupancy level below the legal amount allowed by the AHJ?

    I believe that the Inspectors will always use better judgement and common sense when dealing with the public and citations.

    However Inspectors should take a no nonsense 100% approach when dealing with establishments that have the responsibility of the publics safety when conducting business.

    If the owner of a nightclub starts to get letters notifying them that the bar manager is not doing his job to protect the nightclubs patrons they might do something.

    But if the permitee is notified that the establishment is routinely violating state fire codes and that the liqour permit could be in jeopardy because of it , you might just see a much safer nightclub environment.

    Damaged Extension cords are no problem for me I just disconnect them and cut off the ends with the owner present. No worries …

    In the end its about the money. All business owners are fully aware of the State Fire Code requirements and some are willing to risk lives to make a few more bucks.

    So go forth and write violations as needed , we have plenty of tragic history to back it up without feeling uneasy .

    PS – a local nightclub in my city recently placed an ad in Hartfords magazines 5th anniversary issue stating…
    ” we have more Hotties and Bodies than we can count”…

    Guess what , were counting and they better be alive.

  • Paul Piccirilli July 1, 2008, 3:40 pm

    I agree. It is always a shame when inspectors utilize intimidation, coersion or threats to achieve a result. The most important part of our job is sales.

    If we can achieve compliance by selling the customer on why it is in THEIR best interest to comply, then we really have accomplished something. The people we serve should be reminded frequently that we are not here for ourselves, we are here from them and the people that occupy their facility, including our firefighters (shoudl they ever gave a fire).

    Writing citations forces compliance, but the delay of a court date also allows the violstion to remain until it is adjudicated, so what have we accomplished? I say we sell fire safety and fire prevention and leave the citations as a very last resort.

  • Paul Piccirilli July 1, 2008, 3:41 pm

    Sorry for the misspelled words, I am not really that stupid.

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