We are in the process of trying to convince our city council to pass an ordinance requiring rental property owners to have their properties inspected by the FD. So far we aren't having much success. I am asking FFN members for their input. Specifically what I'm looking for is a statement that will grab their attention as to why the city and its residents will benefit from such an ordinance.

Any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated!

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Why don't you start by finding some of the numerous reports where fire fghters have been killed by illegal construction that has taken place creating voids and mazes. Follow this up by the number of drug labs that often exist in these rental properties. This may grab their attention if they can't see the importance of inspecting these properties inorder  to insure the properties are safe for the renters and that they meet code.

Depends on the definition of a rental property. We do inspect apartment complexes with a common hallway, etc but if it is say a converted house into rental units with seperate outside access to each unit, we may do a walk around outside the building. (We only have a couple such complexes). However, duplexes, rental homes, mobile homes, etc, etc are not inspected.

 

So basically the only buildings getting inspected are those with common areas, anything else is deemed private property and the FD has no right to go through someone's home, even if it is a rental.

I think in order to tie in the ability to incorporate rental properties into your engine company inspection program, you have to focus on occupancy type, identify that they are rental properties which mean that their are landlords and tenants. Without the fire code to back up requirements, based on lessons learned from many fires, some resulting in fatalities to both the citizens and to the responding firefighters.

While these occupancy types are not a revenue making tax base, they do have the potential for significant life loss and economical impact from those affected. This could include firefighters who are injured or killed as a result of non-compliant code issues focusing on multi-residential structures. The public looks to and depends on the fire department to keep them safe from the kinds of things that can start small and end up being out of control. If your building codes can be enforced in conjunction with the fire codes, your ahead of the game.

All we are talking about here is doing some very basic inspection, focusing on:

  1. Ensuring people have a safe means of egress. We promise to save the foundation... Insurance covers the structures, not the people...
  2. Ensure that storage areas are safe in regard to how they store, use or handle flammable/combustible liquids, pool chemicals or any hazardous materials. This includes providing separation for incompatible materials by having separation accomplished by 20-foot minimum distance, partition walls a minimum of 18-inches above the material(s) or an approved flammable or corrosive storage cabinet.
  3. Ensure that addresses are clearly displayed on the outside of the structure(s) and that you have accurate pre-plans in the case of emergency. You can require the owners to provide a map or you can do it yourself. Either way, you need to have the map argument to help justify another reason for doing the inspections... response time. It's really nice to preplan large structures that have the potential for life loss. 
  4. Housekeeping and health department related things are key as well. Use other agencies to do the re-inspections, and a fire inspector, not the engine company. Your job is no different than a first responder. You are looking for the basics, all designed to make sure people get out.
  5. If weed abatement or collection of trash is an issue, then you have your fire load adjacent to a building that again, can cause the community grief. It's funny how when people know that the fire department is heading down the street doing fire inspections how clean things seem to get the more you do...
  6. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Again, this philosophy will ensure that there are also working pull stations, emergency lighting, illuminated exit signs, smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. They are required to be in place, and working. We are the ones who make sure the rules are followed to protect those who silently expect us to do so, even if we are not there. Ahhh, Fire Prevention... that's what it's all about.
  7. And if all else fails, the types of occupancy types your are referring to are "Target Hazards". Any occupancy with the potential for high life loss or injury sure fits the definition. How else would you prepare for a tornado and USAR, evacuation, etc. 
  8. Iowa Fire Code, at least the code adoption part as of 2010 can be seen by clicking this link. You can tell from the code revisions that the things I have empathized with above are stressed.

Why? Because people do really stupid things, without even having a clue what they did was wrong...

One key point here is that the fire inspections do not include the inside of someone's home. It's just for things that impact everyone as a whole. Through awareness, public education and meeting and greeting folks in person, you can help out with folks developing escape plans, having their own fire extinguishers, working smoke / CO detectors and most importantly having an Escape Plan. You never know how people store things inside their homes...

I went to a conference put on by Gordon Graham, who is a well known lecture circuit guy out here on the West coast. He shared once a story about moving into a new condominium rental project and being awoke not just once, but three times with the same sound of a fire truck's reverse beeping alarm going off. On the third day, he finally went outside and asked the firefighters what's up? They explained that they are doing complex familiarization to get to know the layout in case of an emergency. They were also checking for exit pathway obstructions, locked exits, fire extinguishers... the usual fire inspection stuff.

A month later, one of the families, friends of the Gordon's living in the complex had an infant stop breathing and called 9-1-1. There was a fire engine on scene less than 3-minutes later... Again, Gordon talked to the fire department after the ambulance left and thanked them for their fast response time. The fire department paramedics saved his friends baby that morning at 04:30 AM. The Captain smiled and asked him if he remembered a couple of weeks ago when he had asked them what they were doing. Gordon smiled and again thanked them for their professionalism and vigilance for the community.

This is why you need to do what you want to do brother.

In the interest of fire, life and environmental safety,

CBz

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