(Appeared in the September 2017 issue of The Dispatcher)

With current issues between statutes and administrative codes, one must wonder “Are our municipal codes up-to-date and reflect what we can enforce?” The Fire Inspector course teaches that Inspectors can only enforce rules that are adopted by the community we serve. While the state adopts a fire prevention code (SPS 314), a municipality must also adopt the same code to enforce it. These fire prevention codes may be altered to address specific concerns within a community, though they cannot be less than those adopted by the State. This process must also look at assuring adoption of a specific code edition (NFPA 25, 2014 Edition). Be careful of the blanket statement of adopting the most current standard and when is it enforced such as: upon publishing; after proper training period; or on a specific date?

Begin by reviewing your municipal fire prevention code to see what areas need updating. This is particularly important when you may have outdated editions or references. There is no need to expand a code if it already adopts NFPA 1, 2012 edition. These model codes are comprehensive and need minor change. If you adopt newer standards, or reference the most recent standard, remember to reference this in paperwork (permits, procedures, instructions, or website) to remind contractors of this fact. Not many contractors have the staff to review every community’s municipal codes and the reminder helps them to design, install and maintain according to the referenced code.

Remember that fire codes that deal with design and construction are subject to the building codes (SPS 361-366) as a minimum/maximum requirement. Municipalities that submitted more restrictive fire protection requirements that were approved can enforce those provisions within their community. To see if your community has grandfathered provisions, visit Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services 2013 Act 270 Grandfathered Ordinances.

Once your office and the fire chief review the Grandfathered Ordinances, the next step is to submit it to your legal counsel for compliance with ordinance provisions. This is a key step because you cannot enforce what is not adopted, such as the installation of fire sprinklers. It is often confused that a referenced policy or form is enforceable. Since these can be changed without legislative approval it may cause you problems when trying to enforce.

This may also be an appropriate time to review policies and procedures to assure what you do is documented. This would include inspection frequency, training personnel on codes and standards, developing inspection sheets (test sheets for fire protection testing after installation), re-inspections for outstanding violations, and enforcement steps.

These actions will help keep you up with your paperwork and assist with inspection responsibilities. It will prevent issues in the future when moving from inspection to code enforcement. It will also prevent issues with exceeding your authority when enforcing the fire prevention code. For more information on how fire sprinklers save lives and property, please contact Marty King at [email protected] or visit www.nfsawi.org, www.nfsa.org and www.homefiresprinkler.org.