Fire Code Changes Proposed at Council Lunch

The Springfield Fire Department informed members of city council during today’s council lunch that they will be bringing proposed changes to the city’s fire code.

The changes are being proposed from changes in the 2018 International Fire Code. One of the biggest changes is requiring building owners and managers to go through a third-party for required inspection, testing or maintenance on their fire protection systems.

The fire department is wanting to contract with a company named Brycer on “The Compliance Engine” for inspections of fire protection systems. TCE is an internet based tool for fire departments to track code compliance and reduce false alarms.

Third-party inspectors would file reports in the cloud-based system which would then go directly to the fire department.

Chief Pennington told council that SFD staff routinely find fire protection systems are outside their required schedule of annual testing. The proposed system promises 90% compliance within two years.

SFD reports just under 1,200 sprinkler systems in the city. They do not currently have an assessment of the number of standpipe, alarm, fire pumps and private fire hydrants but TCE will help in the creation of that database.

Chief Pennington said in 2018 the department responded to 437 alarm or extinguishing system malfunctions or false alarms. The SFD feels requiring consistent testing and maintenance under TCE will help eliminate most of those calls.

The fire department would only be involved in the inspections process under the new system if the building owner or manager refused to cooperate with the third-party system.

The chief said the new system would increase staffing issues but when they talked to departments in other cities using the system the increase was managed easily by those departments.

The bill to make the code changes would be presented to city council in February or March, which would allow the implementation of the system in March or April 2019.

Fire department responding to a July 7, 2018 fire at McDonald’s near Campbell & Sunshine caused by a cigarette in flammable material next to the building. (Photo courtesy Chief David Pennington)

Another code change would be related to combustible materials next to commercial buildings. Over 100 fires in the last 10 years have taken place at commercial facilities because of flammable materials located next to the buildings. The code change would not impact one and two family dwellings or residential occupancies with 6 or less dwelling units.

The policy would require non-flammable materials around the building’s gas main as well as the main structure.

Chief Pennington presented the code changes as part of a number of items that included their 2018 Community Engagement Report.

The chief highlighted in the 2018 report the installation of over 2,200 smoke alarms since April 2017, tested almost 4,200 smoke alarms and visited over 14,000 homes in the city.

The majority of the neighborhoods who have been visited by fire officials under the “Project Red Zone” program are in the northwest parts of the city.

The department also taught fire safety to over 10,000 elementary school students during October’s “Fire Prevention Month” programs. The firefighters visited 39 public and private elementary schools. (An additional 16 preschools in the area were also visited during the month by fire officials.)

The department is also going to be revising their agreement with OTC for Fire Science Technology training because of the growth of the program. The joint venture between OTC and the fire department started in 2002 and was renewed in 2012.