A new software program is making it easier for firefighters to record information about buildings in their communities and Marlinton firefighter J.P. Duncan is spearheading an effort to update information on commercial structures in the town.
“We’re using a program called Emergency Reporting and it’s just a database to enter our stuff into, so it’s quickly accessible,” said Duncan. “We can type in an address, if we get toned to that address, and it will pull up that sheet with all the information we put in there. The software is still new to us, so we’re learning to use it. The previous pre-plans were done in a binder book, so we had to flip through pages to find them. Hopefully it will be more detailed and more accessible now.”
Duncan described the type of information being collected.
“It tells us where the electric comes into the structure; what hazards we saw inside; if the facility has a basement or not – which is big need-to-know information,” he said. “Propane tanks and other fuel tanks – they’re an important item for us to know about, too.”
The inspections are mandatory.
“The inspections are mandatory for our ISO rating,” said Duncan. “It’s mandatory that we do 20 percent of the businesses in our run area per year to keep our Class 5 ISO rating. We can get an order from the Fire Marshal if somebody won’t let us in, but I don’t really foresee that happening. It’s for the good of everybody.”
Duncan noted that the department’s exceptional Class 5 rating helps to lower town residents’ homeowner insurance rates.
The pre-plan inspections have nothing to do with building codes or permits. The sole purpose of the inspections is to provide information to firefighters in the event of a fire.
“We’re not trying to shut anybody down,” said Duncan. “We’re just trying to gain knowledge. Business owners should invite us in. There’s no ticketing involved or anything like that. There’s just recommendations at our level – that’s all we’re going to be doing.”
Firefighters will provide fire safety advice during the walk-throughs.
“We can make recommendations that will help business owners make their premises more safe,” said Duncan.
The new software does more than record pre-plans.
“It’s pretty user-friendly and we do a number of different things with it,” said Duncan. “We enter all of our runs into it; training records – our training hours go in there; truck maintenance records – it’s a great program.”
Approximately 150 businesses operate in the Marlinton Fire Department’s run area, so the department must inspect at least 30 businesses per year. Duncan and fellow firefighter Adam Irvine recently completed a pre-plan inspection at the Old Clark Inn. The firefighters started in the basement and worked their way up through the building, identifying potential hazards along the way. The inspection of the large building was completed in about 45 minutes.
Old Clark Inn proprietor Nelson Hernandez said the inspection was quick and easy.
“It was no problem at all,” he said. “The guys were very professional and gave some good advice.”
Marlinton area businesses can schedule a pre-plan inspection by calling the fire department at 304-799-4211. Otherwise, the department will notify businesses when they are due for an inspection.