MCFRS News Release

For Immediate Release: Saturday, March 17, 2007

ESCAPE - Fire and Life Safety Inspections Save Lives

Fire Inspectors assigned to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Fire Code Enforcement Section have been inspecting public assembly and retail occupancies throughout Montgomery County, Maryland. Several significant recent events across the United States illustrate some of the potential dangers associated with over crowding, flammable and combustible decorative interiors, as well as blocked exits. Montgomery County Fire Inspectors typically conduct special enforcement efforts during the holidays and at other special seasonal events. These special enforcement efforts are conducted primarily by the Code Enforcement Night Team (CENT).

The Fire Code Enforcement Section is comprised of several dozen uniformed Fire Inspectors and a couple civilian Fire Inspectors. Fire Code inspections performed by the Community Risk Reduction Division and local fire departments insure compliance with applicable State and County fire and life safety codes. The division inspects all new businesses and multi-family dwellings, and Family Day Care Centers.

Penalties for most public assembly violations may include closing a bar, restaurant, store or business until a problem is resolved, a civil fine (usually $500) or a criminal citation. A Fire Lane violation is $250.

This weekend Inspectors assigned to the CENT will inspected many public assembly occupancies, such as restaurants, nightclubs and bars. The most common issues of concern are kitchen fire extinguishing systems needing service or upgrade, fire alarm systems needing maintenance, emergency lighting needing service or maintenance and fire sprinkler systems overdue for service, blocked exits and storage. Many potential life safety hazards may develop during this busy 'party' and festive atmosphere in many restaurants and bars.

In the past there have been a few instances of over crowding, a moderate number of locked or blocked exits and inappropriate storage in some cases blocking isles. Several electrical problems and exit marking were also detected.

Fire Inspectors follow the "ESCAPE" guide:

E - Exits, unlocked, not blocked and proper signage;

S - Storage, clean, orderly and not excessive;

C - Capacity, does not exceed number on use and occupancy certificate, posted in a conspicuous location;

A - Access/Aisles, keep aisles free and clear at all times, provide 6-inch high address numbers that are easily visible from the street;

P - Protection, smoke detection, fire alarm and automatic sprinkler systems are in proper working order and tested regularly;

E - Emergency Lighting, working properly and tested every 30 days. Prior to and during the inspection, occupants/operators are provided with information concerning the focus of each inspection.