Role of the Fire Prevention Bureau



  Introduction
 
  The historical development of Fire Prevention in the United States has been by-and- large “reactive,” not proactive.  “Reactive” - meaning thousands of people perished over the years as a result of fires, conflagrations, explosions, and building collapses.  Those deaths then resulted in the development of more stringent building codes, fire prevention codes, and fire safety education programs.  Over the past two hundred years fire inspections, code enforcement, fire investigation for cause and origin, and fire prevention education programs have been developed in an effort to quell the continuing unnecessary loss of life and substantially reduce the billions of dollars in property loss and business interruption. 

  Through fire code enforcement inspections and the investigation of fires to determine cause and origin, fire prevention continues to be an active participant in providing for the safety and welfare of the general public, and is just as critical an element within the Fire Service as fire suppression or emergency medical services.  Positive changes in fire prevention have resulted from the submission of code proposal revisions recommending changes for improving building construction techniques, fire safety practices, manufacturing processes, and materials testing by independent laboratories.

  Efforts by dedicated fire prevention personnel throughout this nation have resulted in manufacturers recalling items prone to causing injury or death due to fire.  Fire related civilian and career firefighter deaths have declined as a result of better fire prevention efforts and code enforcement
 





  New Commercial Construction/Plan Review

  With new construction, building alterations, building renovations, and building change of use, the process requires the property developer or owner to apply for building permits and submit building construction plans to the Building Department and Fire Prevention Bureau for review.  The Fire Prevention Bureau conducts on-site inspections to ensure compliance with the Fire and Building Codes for all new commercial building construction, alteration, or renovation.  This process includes witnessing numerous systems tests (Exit/Egress Lighting, Smoke Control Systems, Fire Alarm Systems, and Fire Suppression Systems).

  Other Fire Prevention Bureau responsibilities include conducting plan review and analysis for all new and existing commercial, industrial, and residential construction projects.  The plan review process requires thorough research and interpretation of the Ohio Building Code, Ohio Mechanical Code, Ohio Fire Code, and National Fire Protection Association Codes and Standards.  The Fire Prevention Bureau plan reviewers then submit written recommendations or required changes from the Fire Department to the developers, architects, contractors, and building officials regarding fire protection systems, fire suppression systems, general fire prevention, occupancy egress and life safety.  The Fire Prevention Bureau prepares many technical and inspection reports, and maintains files regarding new commercial construction projects.
 




  Fire Code Enforcement/Fire Inspections

  The Fire Department is mandated by law (Ohio Revised Code) to enforce the Ohio Fire Code, National Property Maintenance Code and the Ohio Building Code.  The Fire Prevention Bureau conducts Fire Inspections utilizing the International Fire Code, International Property Maintenance Code, Ohio Fire Code, National Property Maintenance Code, National Fire Protection Association Codes and Standards, and the Ohio Building Code, applying the various codes in a fair and equitable manner.

  On existing structures, the Fire and Building Code is enforced by the Fire Prevention Bureau personnel through fire code inspections to ensure that commercial buildings and properties are maintained to provide for the safety, health, and welfare of the general public. Generally, this requires conducting on-site inspections.

  Fire Officials often observe hazardous conditions that constitute a distinct hazard to life and property (Code Violations). The Fire Official brings these hazardous conditions to the attention of the responsible party (business or property owner) for correction or removal of the hazard.  Often the business or property owner is just unaware of the potential hazardous conditions around them.   Preferably, correction and removal of the hazardous conditions are obtained through the voluntary cooperation of the business or property owner, the results of which benefit the entire community.  Correction of these code violations prior to a catastrophic incident (fire/explosion) significantly reduces the potential for the property owner, employees or firefighters and other responding emergency personnel to be serious injured or killed.

  When serious building or fire code violations are observed, or when continued non-compliance with the Fire or Building Code by the property owner or tenant becomes an issue, Fire Code Officials are mandated by law (Ohio Revised Code) to take appropriate action as necessary to gain compliance with the various Codes.

  Sometimes Fire Prevention Officials must order the temporary closure of an operating business or property when it becomes necessary to eliminate the hazardous conditions.  Interaction with many other governmental agencies (Police Departments and Building Departments for the Villages of Groveport, Canal Winchester, and Obetz, the Franklin County Prosecutor’s Office, Franklin County Board of Health, Ohio EPA, etc.) is routine.

  The Fire Prevention Bureau also provides assistance and recommendations at various meetings regarding community development, disaster planning and other fire safety related issues.  This includes interaction with planning and zoning departments concerning residential sub-divisions, street access, utility improvements (fire protection water mains), commercial and industrial facilities, and other miscellaneous fire safety issues (Fireworks, Tents, Carnivals, Special Community Events, etc.).

  The Fire Prevention Bureau is responsible for conducting residential fire safety inspections (adoption, foster care, and daycare), commercial code enforcement inspections, and fire prevention education in approximately 1300 commercial, industrial, educational, and health care occupancies within our district.  Presently, commercial, industrial, educational and residential development within our district is rapidly expanding; a trend which should continue well into the next decade and beyond.
 




  Fire Investigations

  The Fire Prevention Bureau is responsible for the investigation of all fires occurring within the jurisdiction of the Madison Township Fire Department, for the purpose of determining the cause and origin.  As such, Fire Investigators routinely work with law enforcement, insurance industry investigators and other special investigation units during the course of conducting fire investigations.  Madison Township Fire Investigators utilize a state-of-the-art Fire Investigation/Crime Scene Investigation Unit in joint cooperation with the Madison Township Police Department.

  Our Fire Investigators all have previous or current law enforcement experience within the State of Ohio, and have investigated numerous serial arson cases, as well as many commercial, residential, vehicle and environmental fires.  Fire Investigators also conduct and assist law enforcement personnel with criminal investigations and the execution of search warrants involving fires.

  Fire Investigation personnel are responsible for the preparation of criminal or civil case files, and testifying in Municipal, Juvenile, Common Pleas and the Environmental Courts as necessary.  Madison Township Fire Investigators have given sworn depositions, grand jury testimony, and fire investigation expert testimony in both criminal and civil cases.  One Fire Investigator has completed training and examinations to become a National Association of Fire Investigators (NAFI) Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator (CFEI), Certified Fire Investigation Instructor (CFII), and Certified Vehicle Fire Investigator (CVFI).
 




  Public Fire Safety Education

  Fire Prevention education is conducted annually for both staff and students in all of our public and private schools, kindergarten through grade 6.  In addition, we also provide commercial companies with fire extinguisher training classes, CPR classes, tornado safety, and emergency/disaster planning instruction.  The Fire Prevention Bureau provides residential home inspections when requested by the property owner.   The Fire Prevention bureau also provides training and education in home fire safety through the use of a full-scale fire safety house built by the Madison Township firefighters with donated materials from many different community groups.  In addition, Fire Prevention Bureau and Fire Operations personnel also provide educational opportunities to children who have a history of improper fire-setting behavior through the Fire Department’s Juvenile Fire-setter Program.