City audit suggests fire inspection improvements

Audit of Kansas City fire department fire inspections.A new city audit released today says some facilities such as restaurants, churches and structures that use flammable or combustible materials are not being visited by fire inspectors every year.

The report by the city auditor’s office says the goal of the fire department is to inspect commercial and multi-family structures annually to enforce the city’s fire code and ensure the safety of occupants.But in 2013, about 20 percent of the annual inspections were completed late and in 2012, about 13 percent were late.

The report suggests that some structures should be given higher priority in the inspection process because they require permits. “It may be more practical to prioritize inspections so that higher risk structures are inspected every year and lower risk structures are inspected less frequently,” the report said.

“We estimate the Fire Prevention Division missed inspecting 171 structures that would have required permits in 2012. Although this is a small number of the division’s inspections resulting in permits (about three percent), these structures are at a higher risk for fire because of the materials used and/or activities that take place within them.,” the report said.

It also found that the Fire Prevention Division missed out on collecting $21,000 in permit revenue.

The auditors recommend that the Fire Prevention Division prioritize yearly inspections to ensure reaching facilities with the greatest risk of fire or life loss annually.

In his response, Fire Chief Paul Berardi said the department agrees with the principle of the recommendation, but noted a number of schools, daycare centers and special needs congregate housing do not require permits from the city, but get their permits from other governmental sources.

“Often these settings are permitted by state or federal authorities, with the Fire Department verifying that these permits are present and valid as part of its inspection process. To place such occupancies on a less frequent or lower priority inspection schedule would be detrimental to the Fire Prevention Division’s central mission of risk management and public safety.”

The chief said the department is reexamining it method of prioritizing inspections.

See the entire audit

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