COUNTY OF ALBEMARLE
Proposed Annual Fire Inspections Program
Authorization to hire new fire inspector and adoption of amended Fire Rescue Fee Schedule to increase the annual fees to provide funding for the position
Tucker, Foley, Davis, Trank, Eggleston
LEGAL REVIEW: Yes
October 5, 2005
ACTION: X INFORMATION:
The continued urbanization of the planned development areas combined with a number of past commercial structural fires has prompted the fire prevention staff to reevaluate the department’s fire inspection program for commercial buildings. Based on the evaluation of the fire inspection program, staff proposes that the department move to a Target Hazard Program.
The current fire inspection process is based on minimum standards as defined by the State Fire Prevention Code. The state-mandated inspections only include businesses receiving state funding and/or are required to be inspected as outlined in State Fire Prevention Code (i.e. - daycare and assisted living facilities). On occasion, Fire Rescue prevention staff inspect businesses that fall outside of the state-mandated criteria if a request is made by the facility owner.
Fire prevention staff currently inspects only 180 out of 4,300 county businesses annually. Under the proposed Target Hazard program, staff identified that 1,744 out of 4,300 businesses would be considered a priority for fire prevention and life safety inspections. An example of the business that could be inspected under the Target Hazard program include movie theaters, night clubs, restaurants, banquet halls, and lodging facilities. These priority target occupancies will be subdivided into high, medium, and low hazard. Fire prevention staff will inspect these occupancies based on the hazard level.
The second phase of the program is to categorize the remaining businesses that are lower in priority. Career staffed stations would be used to help inspect these businesses over a one or two year schedule.
Goal 3.1: Make the county a safe and healthy community in which citizens feel secure to live, work and play.
Goal 4.1: Provide effective, responsive and courteous service to our customers
A majority of our current fire prevention inspector’s activities includes issuing a large number of open burn permits. Through a risk-analysis process, staff revised the open burning process and reduced the number of open burning permits by 30 percent. Through this efficiency process, fire prevention staff is able to inspect 180 businesses annually.
Inspecting 180 out of 4,300 businesses annually has little impact on fire prevention in the county. In the past 24 months, the county experienced nine fire fatalities. Four deaths were in private residences, two involved an automobile, two were at a lodging facility, and one was related to a business activity. Three of these deaths involved occupancies that would be included in the proposed Target Hazard Program.
The Target Hazard Program is a prioritized program based on a risk-analysis model. The program is designed by compiling information from previous fire inspections, County fire occurrences, and information from benchmark localities. Hanover, Henrico, James City, Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania Counties also enforce the State Fire Prevention Code and conduct fire prevention inspections. Prince William and Hanover have developed inspection programs that use a target hazard approach. In these localities, career staffed stations are also used to conducted low priority inspections.
Data collected over the past two years has shown that an average of 4.5 inspections can be conducted daily by one inspector. With the addition of one additional fire inspector, the Fire Prevention division would be able to inspect the majority of the 1, 744 business identified in the Target Hazard program.
In order to implement the program and provide funding to offset its operating costs, staff is proposing an increase in various fire inspection fees as outlined in Attachment B. As Attachment C indicates, the proposed increase in these fees will position our fees to be more in line with the majority of our benchmark localities.
The Fee Schedule is authorized by state law and the State Fire Prevention Code, and is established by resolution of the Board of Supervisors. The fee schedule has not been revised since 1997. Additionally, the State Fire Prevention Code, which the County Fire Protection Code is based upon, has been updated three times since the initial Board resolution in 1992. However, the County’s fire protection code reference and fee schedule has not been revised since 1997.
The proposed Board resolution (Attachment A) incorporates the latest language of the Virginia State Fire Prevention code in the County Fire Protection code. The resolution also contains the recommended changes to the fire prevention inspection fees to help fund the new program.
If the Board chooses to adopt the proposed fee schedule, the additional revenue generated (approximately $53,900) will offset the annual expenses associated with employing an additional Fire Inspector. The chart below compares the 4-year average revenue (FY01-04) with the estimated revenue generated by the proposed fee schedule:
Staff will be requesting year end or contingency funds to cover the position’s one-time startup costs if the proposal is approved. The startup costs are estimated at $45,000 (vehicle, uniforms, physical, etc.).
Staff recommends that the Board approve the establishment of an annual fire inspections program through authorization of a new fire inspector position and adoption of the attached Resolution amending the Fee Schedule to increase the fees as proposed.
A – Resolution with proposed fee schedule
B – Chart setting forth proposed fee changes
C – Chart setting forth permit fee
amounts in comparable counties
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