Since 2015, Thomasville Fire Rescue has provided annual fire inspections to all commercial properties within Thomasville’s city limits. The annual inspection period will begin for 2021 in late February and will run through December. According to TFR Fire Chief Tim Connell, these inspections are important and are making a notable difference in life safety.
“In 2014 we responded to nearly the same number of commercial fires as we did residential fires,” Connell said. “Since the implementation of the inspection program, we have seen a steady decline in commercial fires highlighted by zero reported commercial fires in 2019 and 2020.”
Connell said that the goal of the inspections is to educate and empower business owners to better understand how to maintain a safe environment. “The primary purpose of the inspections is to identify fire code concerns, eliminate life safety hazards (such as the use of extension cords) within businesses, ensure fire extinguishers are properly installed and inspected, and exits are properly maintained and are not blocked and/or locked.,” said Connell. “We want business owners to understand how applicable safety mandates apply to their property and/or business.”
“The majority of inspections take between 30 minutes to an hour to complete, with the majority of the time spent talking with and educating the business or property owners,” said Connell. “In most cases, business owners are allowed 30 days to fix minor violations that are identified; however, imminent threats to safety will need to be addressed in a more immediate time frame.” TFR will re-inspect properties with violations after the 30-day period.
Many violations, Connell explained, come from a lack of knowledge or understanding of the dangers that could be present. “Businesses do not intentionally violate fire codes,” Connell said. “We know that our business owners work extremely hard to do the right thing while protecting their employees, customers, and properties. These inspections allow us to build relationships with our property owners, and we want them to view us as a resource to help them understand fire safety laws.”
According to Connell, COVID-19 impacted the ability of TFR inspectors to perform inspections in 2020. “The pandemic caused many businesses to shut down for periods of time throughout 2020. Once re-opened, the combination of social distancing concerns and the COVID-19 policies in place to protect our firefighters affected our ability to perform inspections,” said Connell. “During the 2021 inspection cycle, we will be taking every precaution possible to safely perform the inspections so that our local businesses feel comfortable with any concerns they may have with social distancing measures.”
“A fire not only affects a business owner, but it also affects the hard-working employees that are dependent upon that income,” said Connell. “Fires can create a ripple effect of impact throughout the community. TFR is dedicated to protecting the community by providing advice, solutions, and education that protect our commercial districts.”
For additional information about commercial fire inspections, please visit Thomasville.org or call 229-227-4099.