The Fire Safety Management (FSM) Division of the Lakeland Fire Department is headed by Fire Marshal Frank Bass. This division of LFD is crucial because it applies tried and true methods for fire prevention that in turn prevent serious loss of life and property. Best summed by founding father and pioneer in American Firefighting Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce ofprevention is worth a pound of cure”. The division is responsible for:
1) Plans Review
2) Fire Code Enforcement
3) Fire Investigation
Fire Marshal Frank Bass is the authority having jurisdiction on fire code and enforcement matters inside the city limits of Lakeland. With the Fire Marshal’s oversight, the division is responsible for ensuring the fair and equitable enforcement ofstatutes, laws, codes, and local fire ordinances. All commercial occupancies and residential occupancies of three units ormore fall under the authority of FSM. The authority of FSM is to conduct plans review, code enforcement, fire investigation,and to adopt local fire ordinances are derived through Florida State Statutes.The Fire Marshal operates the FSM Division with a staff of four, full-time Fire Safety Inspectors, a Fire Investigator/Inspectorand an Account Clerk. Fire safety inspectors are trained firefighters, fire inspectors, and sworn law enforcement officers.
Commercial building/facility inspections are conducted for several reasons, some of which are:
• To ensure that the required maintenance for fire protection and life safety systems are conducted in a timely manner and are conducted by licensed professionals when required. These systems provide early warning notification and fire protection to both occupants and responding fire crews during an emergency.
• To ensure that activities conducted inside the building are in accordance with the designated occupancy classification of the facility and to discover and ensure the mitigation of any noted fire hazards in a timely manner.
• To ensure that means of egress are accessible and meets code for orderly evacuation during an emergency event.
A properly conducted fire safety inspection can alert the occupant/owner to any hazards which could possibly lead to afire. The possible results of a fire in a commercial facility are many and may include injuries, the loss of life, the temporaryor permanent loss of company profits, temporary or permanent job loss which affect an entire community as well as theneighborhood blight that may result from a building being shuttered.The interaction of FSM with other city departments is an integral part of the customer service that Lakeland Fire Department is committed to.
The initial step to ensuring that a building will be safe for occupation is to make sure that all fire code requirements have been applied which address fire department access, water supplies, and building life safety features such as fire suppression systems, means of egress, fire alarm systems, and building materials/assemblies which meet industry standards for their applied use.The types of plans reviewed include concept review plans, site plans, construction plans, sprinkler system plans, fire suppression systems plans, fire alarm system plans,underground fire line plans, above and underground tank plans, specialty plans and plan revisions.The review of a set of plans may take anywhere from minutes to several days or more depending on the size and complexity of the project. The FSM division reviews plans that apply to any structure affected by fire safety codes.
A FSM Investigator is contacted any time a fire event occurs on commercial property, city owned property, a house of worship,a serious injury or fire death, any illegally set fire, any fire where a fire suppression system discharged or did not operate as designed, and any fire where the cause cannot be determined by responding fire units. Fire scene investigations are conducted in order to determine the events leading up to and the origin and cause of a fire. Fire cause determination may reveal consumer product defects, careless behavior (unattended cooking, carelessly discarded smoking materials, etc.), an intentionally set fire,or the failure of a system inherent to the structure or facility (electrical, heating, air conditioning, manufacturing process, etc.).The low number of fires in commercial facilities in Lakeland is especially an area of pride for the members of FSM and one that we believe to be in large part due to a diligent inspection program in co-operation with facility managers/tenants. This year FSM was called out to investigate five commercial fires, two were the result of equipment failures, two were in apartment buildings, and the other was in a vacant apartment. A high note this year is that there were no fires that resulted in death.