County Executive Isiah Leggett announced today that collaborative efforts by the Department of Fire & Rescue Services (DFRS) and the Department of Permitting Services (DPS), working closely with the business community, have improved the fire inspection process – helping County businesses better understand their role in fire safety, and saving them significant time and costs.
“We could not have done this without the help of our business community,” said Leggett. “I’d like to recognize Ginanne Italiano of the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce, Jane Redicker of the Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce and Shaun Pharr of The Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, DC -- along with their respective organizations -- for their valuable guidance in helping us to make improvements and streamline our process.”
Efforts to improve the fire inspection program began with the creation of a Fire Safety Working Group that included County staff and business representatives. The group implemented a fire protection agreement, clarified various existing building code definitions, and developed a brochure, “Your Guide to Fire Code Compliance” that helps businesses better understand the fire code inspection process and their rights. The fire inspection program for new construction was transferred from DFRS to DPS in fiscal year 2012, where it is now more conveniently located with other building construction and land development permits, plan reviews and inspections processes that are also being improved.
In the past two years, more than 2,600 fire inspections have been completed, and County businesses have saved, in aggregate, approximately $1 million as a result of the streamlining. New construction fire inspections that once required as much as a six-week time frame are now completed in one day with only 24 hours notice, enabling businesses to open their doors faster and at less expense.
Overall streamlining of the County’s permit, plan review and inspection processes are expected to cut approximately one year from development and construction projects. This translates into major cost savings – including a reduction in engineering fees, carrying costs for construction loans and legal fees -- and a quicker return on investments.
“We are substantially changing the way we do business in Montgomery County,” said Leggett. “A streamlined process is good for everyone. This improves customer service and will add more investment, more jobs and more properties to the County’s tax base sooner, not later.
“These collaborative efforts demonstrate how much can be accomplished when agencies are willing to work together, transfer responsibilities so that they make more sense, and clarify processes to better serve the public,” Leggett added.
“This effort shows that when business and government come together and focus on solving problems, everyone wins,” said Jane Redicker, Greater Silver Spring Chamber of Commerce. “We thank Chief Bowers, especially, for his leadership in continuing to make public safety a priority, while making the fire code inspection process more understandable, less cumbersome, and more customer-friendly for business owners.”
“It was through Richie Bowers’ leadership and the hard work of Hadi Mansouri, Tina Benjamin and the staffs of their departments that the business community can now have a more streamlined and customer-friendly process for the inspections and future safety of the hundreds/thousands of existing buildings throughout the County,” said Ginanne Italiano, Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce.
“AOBA was pleased to participate in the Fire Safety Working Group that was established by County Executive Ike Leggett and given the mandate of ‘developing ways in which the business community, DPS and the Fire Marshal’s office can work together collaboratively so that code enforcement is efficient and consistent.’ The Group met for well over a year and addressed a multitude of issues. The guidance documents and informational brochure that resulted provide needed clarity regarding how and when the County’s building and fire codes are to be applied to existing commercial, multifamily and retail spaces,” said Shaun Pharr, Apartment and Office Building Association of Metropolitan Washington, DC.
The Department of Permitting Services is located at 255 Rockville Pike, 2nd Floor, Rockville, MD. 20850, and hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The department’s website is located at http://permittingservices.montgomerycountymd.gov/DPS/general/Home.aspx. For more information about fire inspections for current businesses and building owners, go to http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/firtmpl.asp?url=/content/firerescue/crrs/firecode/business.asp.
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