Wait! If youre here, then whos protecting us out there?
The use of the word plan sometimes leads to overemphasis on the planning of action.
Strong efforts should be made to accumulate the necessary information on which sound judgments can be based at the time of the emergency, particularly if the emergency force is well trained.
If the emergency force is less well trained, then more detailed planning against specific problems is necessary.
If the plan is too specific, there is the potential problem that failure to follow the plan, for whatever reason, may be taken as evidence of negligence or incompetence.
“Undress the building when analyzing how and where the fire will spread in a building.”
Perhaps unbelievably, at some locations the concept of preplanning is sadly lacking or even missing.
At one government facility, there are 20–30 places where the fire department was instructed to take no action until approval was obtained from a department head or representative.
Although this rule can be enforced against the fire department, it has no effect whatsoever on the fire.
The fire does not recognize any authority.
The fire chief is not in charge of the fire, but rather of the fire department’s effort to contain the fire. The fire sets its own agenda.
Consider separating prefire planning and the inspection function.
An inspection is essentially a policing function. In an inspection, the property should be examined to see whether it complies with standards.
If it does not comply, penalties may result.
The inspector, therefore, is principally a police officer.
As Gilbert and Sullivan told us, “A policeman’s lot is not a happy one.”
The reason is simple: you can’t win with a police officer; the best you can do is come out even.
It may not be wise to just walk into a facility and announce that you are there to develop a prefire plan.
Your visit may happen to coincide with the worst possible day of the year for the building’s management.
Instead of showing up unannounced for prefire planning, we suggest that the department send a letter from the fire chief indicating the mayor’s (or other city/town manager’s) appreciation of the valuable contribution the facility is making to the economic life of the community.
According to the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, a large percentage of businesses that suffer a serious fire or other major disaster never reopen, so it is in everyone’s interest that such a fire not happen. Any pertinent local experience should be cited in the letter.
The letter can continue:The mayor has directed the fire chief to make every effort to keep local businesses as safe as possible in an attempt to minimize the effects of a fire.
In order for the fire department to operate most effectively on a fire at your facility, there are a number of things that the fire department should know and record ahead of time.
Because such surveys require mutual cooperation, they are best done by appointment. Please call the fire chief to arrange a mutually agreeable appointment time.
Wow! A business owner may never have received such a letter in his or her life from any government agency.
Usually official letters begin with much more forceful language: “You are hereby directed to…”
Imagine the talk at the country club, the business association, or the Rotary club. Although such enthusiasm may be a little overstated, this type of letter may produce cooperation that may be “contagious.”