With the rampant fire code violations in the CNMI, there is a need to enforce strict inspection of the various facilities on the island, said Stanley C. Torres, Chief of the Fire & Rescue, Commonwealth Ports Authority.
But looking for violations is not the main task of fire inspectors. “Their most important job is to educate and sell fire safety to facility managers,” said Torres.
To effectively assist the public, firefighters must receive proper training in basic fire inspections first. Torres said they must help in educating the public on the requirements of the fire codes to ensure fire-safe facilities such as hotels, schools, restaurants, warehouses, offices and high hazard areas.
Fire codes enforce maintenance and operational requirements on the standards set by the Uniform Building Codes in connection with facilities for life safety and fire protection systems. Common fire code violations include blocked or locked fire exits, improper storage in warehouses, fire protection systems not in operation, smoking in hazard areas, fire extinguishers not in-service or absence of fire extinguishers, improper handling and transfer of highly flammable fuels and occupancy load violations of night clubs.
As part of the educational campaign, the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the Emergency Management Office have sponsored a training for firefighters on the basic knowledge of fire inspection.
“It simply teaches them that inspections in schools, hospitals, hotels and businesses are not the same. They would also know the procedure that must be followed in checking the facilities, from flammable materials to electrical wiring,” said Torres.
The National Fire Academy sent one of its highly qualified and experienced instructors, Bruce W. Hisley, program chair, Fire Prevention Technical Curriculum. to give a 40-hour course. Upon successful completion of the course, the firefighters will receive a “Certificate of Attendance” from the National Fire Academy.
Of the 40 students, 18 are from the ports authority, 20 from the Department of Public Safety and two guest firefighters from the Guam International Airport Authority.
Due to the enactment of the Commonwealth Fire Safety Code Act of 1998, otherwise known as Public Law 11-56, CNMI fire fighters now have the power to enforce fire codes within their jurisdictions.