Privatized Fire Prevention Typically Means No Prevention…
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Across the country, this pattern has been repeated; Towns use Fire Inspection, Plan Review and Investigation as Trojan horses to save money. When privatization fails or becomes even more expensive than the service previously provided by the Departments, it is eliminated completely. In Anchorage, Fire Inspectors conducted over 5,000 inspections last year, including new construction, restaurants, theaters and bars, banquet halls, day cares, business inspections, residential inspections, Community Right to Know and much more. The law already allows private contractors to check sprinkler, alarm and hood systems. Fire Prevention staff monitor those inspections and verify that the required corrections are made. This is but one of the critical regulatory responsibilities that Fire Prevention staff have. A dedicated, trained and independent Fire Prevention inspection and plan review staff is critical for the safety of the over 60,000 public buildings in the Anchorage area. Fire Inspectors are beholden to no one and have no financial interest in the inspection process and this is a sacrosanct responsibility. Allowing the private sector to conduct fire inspections and plan reviews pushes us closer and closer to disasters like the recent night club fire in Brazil, where 237 people died horribly. Those kinds of tragedies just don’t happen here. Anchorage Fire Department Fire Inspectors regularly check these types of nightclubs and require corrections for blocked exits, improperly functioning sprinkler and alarm systems and much more. We conduct regular night time bar checks to verify that the clubs are operating safely. The private sector is driven by profit motives; public safety dollars should not be spent on company profits especially in an area where private inspectors and plan reviewers could be subject to profit motives that endanger the public.
When a citizen walks into a public building, they usually do not give a second thought to the safety of that building – the sprinkler system, exits doors etc. One of the main reasons that they can enjoy their experience and not focus on a potentially deadly situation like the one in Brazil is because of the highly trained and dedicated fire department inspectors and plan reviewers that are working tirelessly to ensure that safety. All of the inspectors and plan reviewers at Fire Prevention are certified International Code Committee Fire Plan Reviewers. Some have additional certifications and training including Fire Inspector, Building Inspector, Journeyman Carpenter, State certified Arson Investigators and a registered Civil Engineer. Those years of experience and technical expertise simply cannot be replaced by a low bid inspection service with no dedication to the citizens of Anchorage and with company profit as their primary motivation.