Fire Inspection Services

Preparation is Important to Passing Your Fire Inspection

Preparing for the annual inspection is key to developing a good working relationship with the fire inspector and gaining positive results. Using a general checklist can help you prepare for the inspection.

The inspection from the fire inspector may be unscheduled, depending on occupancy type. If the fire inspector arrives unannounced, and it's inconvenient for you - or you're unprepared - it's acceptable to ask that the fire inspector reschedule the inspection.

Meet with the inspector prior to beginning the actual inspection and ask what types of items the inspector will be looking for. Give the fire inspector copies of all of your system or equipment inspection, testing, and maintenance (ITM) reports. Review these reports with the inspector prior to his/her walk-through, and let the inspector know that any issues noted previously have been corrected. Make sure a responsible person is available to accompany the fire inspector with keys to all areas, and take notes (even though the inspector will likely give you a report when the inspection has been completed). These notes may give you additional insight into the inspector's thought process, and may provide valuable information for future inspections.

Maintaining fire-protection features is critically important for fire and life safety within buildings. Fire-protection systems' ITM and results reports are required by all the national codes and standards, and likely by your insurance carrier.

Fire-protection and fire-alarm systems have become much more complex and far more technical in the past decade. When hiring a contractor to perform ITM for your building, make sure he/she is reputable and takes the time to explain any items that require your attention. As with most other things, you get what you pay for. Price is important, but make sure the fire-sprinkler or fire-alarm company is going to provide you with a quality inspection and complete report. Review the report and make corrections prior to your scheduled fire inspection (make sure you get a corrected report once the items have been repaired).

The following issues are either common reasons for noncompliance, or may require outsourcing to others for completion:

  • Maintaining the means of egress is critical to providing proper life safety in your building.
  • Making sure all exit doors are always accessible and open properly is important.
  • Make sure that fire-rated areas, such as stairways and corridors, have features like fire doors, self-closing devices, releasing mechanisms, egress lighting, and latches that have been installed properly and are operating.
  • No combustible materials can be stored in any portion of the means of egress, and no storage can reduce the required width or block exits.

These are items that fire inspectors will check. If the fire inspector finds problems, he/she will spend more time checking additional equipment. It's better to make sure that any equipment the fire inspector checks has been properly checked and maintained. There are companies that will perform testing and maintenance on many of these items in one visit, such as emergency lighting, exit signs, fire extinguishers, single-station smoke alarms, etc. Make sure all your heat-producing appliances are properly maintained by authorized personnel, including all manufacturing equipment, furnaces, and hot water heaters.

  • Storage of combustible materials must be maintained in an orderly fashion, away from flame-producing appliances, and at least 18-inches below the fire sprinklers.
  • Any combustible or flammable liquids must be in approved containers and storage cabinets. There are specific limits on the amount of combustible and flammable liquids by type of occupancy, as well as specific storage arrangements.

There are also items that need to be addressed to help emergency-response personnel do their jobs better.

  • Make sure the building address is clearly visible from the street, and that access to the building is not restricted.
  • National codes now require that buildings allow fire departments safe and immediate access. The most common means of doing this is with fire department lockboxes. These are special fire department master-keyed lockboxes, mounted to the exterior of the building. The building owner provides building keys that the fire department puts into these lockboxes for future use. The lockbox should be readily accessible to the fire department. If you've changed locks in your building and have a fire department lockbox, make sure you have extra keys available at the time of inspection for the fire department to replace the current keys in the lockbox.
  • Additionally, the fire department connection (FDC) that allows the fire department to supply water to a sprinkler or standpipe system must be clearly visible and readily accessible.
  • All fire hydrants should also be clearly visible and accessible.
  • Electrical-related issues, such as making sure all cover plates are installed on all electrical receptacles, should also be addressed.
  • It's required that circuits be properly labeled on all electrical panels, and that clear access of 30 inches must be maintained in front of all electrical panels.
  • Extension cords are not allowed except where used for temporary power
  • All extension cords must be heavy duty, in good condition, and for small appliances.
  • All extension cords are required to be grounded, and if multiple items need to be plugged in, power strips with built-in circuit breakers are to be used, and must be plugged directly into a permanent receptacle.

The information in this page has been prepared by Keith S. Frangiamore, a certified fire protection specialist and vice president of operations at Elgin, IL-based Fire Safety Consultants Inc. (Fire Safety FSCI). The information contained in this page is general, and several other specific requirements may apply, depending on the type of occupancy.