FIRE PREVENTION BUREAU VS
The Fire Prevention Bureau and the Fire Department are two separate divisions which share the common goal of “Fire Safety”. They have different responsibilities but often share resources & personnel. Both report to the Borough Administrator and neither is subordinate to the other. They work in tandem for the common good of the community.
Fire Prevention – The Bureau is responsible for the enforcement of the NJ State Fire Safety Code and working with business & property owners to ensure their occupancies are safe for both the public and first responders. The Bureau is managed by the Fire Official and staffed by Fire Inspectors, all of which are part time employees of the Borough of Metuchen.
Fire Department – The FD is responsible for providing Fire & Rescue Services to everyone living, working or passing through the Borough of Metuchen. The FD is managed by the Fire Chief, his staff of officers and approximately fifth (50) firefighters, all of which are volunteers.
AREAS OF RESPONSIBILITY
The Bureau is responsible for conducting fire safety and code compliance inspections of commercial properties, schools, public buildings and certain residential rental properties in accordance with NJ State Fire Safety Code. One & two family, owner occupied homes “do not” fall into this category and are not required to be inspected.
RESIDENTIAL RENTAL REGISTRATION
Any property owner renting to tenants must register annually with the Borough of Metuchen. This includes single family homes when the entire residence is rented. One & two family homes which are occupied by the owner and where some portion of the home may be rented to “others” does not require registration.
FIRE SAFETY INSPECTION PROCESS
Following is a simplified overview of the Fire Safety Inspection process .
Fire inspections are intentionally not scheduled in advance. The purpose of the inspection is to ensure code compliance and safety standards are being practiced throughout the year, not just when an inspection is scheduled. When possible a general notification such as “ you are scheduled to receive your annual fire safety inspection sometime within the month of August ” may be provided as a courtesy.
Fire inspections are not intended to interfere with daily operations but must be scheduled during business hours so that actual conditions may be observed. They are intended to be as brief and to the point as possible so the customer can get back to business.
The most common problems found during fire safety inspections are; non functioning or missing exit signs, non functioning or missing emergency lighting, missing or outdated fire extinguishers, materials stored near heating appliances (water heater, furnace), the inappropriate use of extension cords, blocked or obstructed exits or passage ways, blocked or obstructed electrical panels, overloaded electrical outlets, candles, the use of residential appliances (coffee pots, microwave or toaster ovens) and inappropriate storage (too much, stacked too high) of combustible materials.
Each inspection usually comprises of two (2) visits to the customer. The first visit is the initial inspection where problems or issues are identified and documented. The customer is also informed of the steps needed to be taken to correct the conditions. A second visit is required to ensure all issues have been addressed.
In cases where there is either an inability to correct issues or there is a refusal on the part of the customer to cooperate, penalties may be imposed for subsequent visits or for failure to comply with the State Code.
People should not look at a Fire Safety Inspection as an intrusion or as an attempt to make their lives more difficult (or costly). These inspections are intended to promote and educate the public on fire safety & to identify potential risks to residents, businesses, employees, customers, the general public and first responders.
A burglar may break into your residence or business and steal money, belongings or merchandise but they seldom take more than they can carry. A fire destroys everything it touches and can reach out to affect those around you as well. In worst case scenarios it can also take the lives of those who live or work there and sometimes the lives of the firefighters attempting to save them.
Consider for a moment a building with two stores on the ground floor and two apartments on the second. If each business employs five to ten people and each apartment is occupied by two people, there are potentially twenty (20) persons whose lives and livelihood depend on that building. A fire starting in any part of this same building could irreparably affect every other part and everyone associated with it.
CONSTRUCTION vs. MAINTENANCE
The inspection of all new construction or renovations is the responsibility of the Building Department. The Construction Official, Plumbing Subcode, Electrical Subcode and Fire Subcode Inspectors are the individuals tasked with reviewing plans and conducting ongoing construction inspections. Once construction is completed and the structure is determined to be in compliance with all construction codes, the Building Department issues a “Certificates of Occupancy” or “C of O” to the owner.
Once a C of O is issued for a structure, it becomes the responsibility of the Fire Official and the Fire Prevention Bureau to conduct annual inspections. This is the “maintenance” portion of the process.
“An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”